Spain, Portugal and Italy have vetoed a point of business in the Employment and Social Protection work programme because the documents for debate in the ministerial council were only provided in German, French and English.
The EU has 20 official working languages, with democratic pressures increasing from some regions to add more.
The incident comes in the wake of several weeks of argument over the European Commission’s attempt to limit simultaneous translation in the daily press briefings to the same three languages.
The senior Commission spokeswoman Francoise Bail is said to be seeking a solution to the conflict.
The Commission expects the annual cost of written translation and oral interpretation in the institutions to grow to more than one billion euros in the next few years, once the EU’s expansion is fully digested.