For Catalans, Basques and Galicians, joining the European Union will not be easy

The Catalan flag is displayed in Barcelona during Catalan National Day on September 11. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Spain’s proposal to add new official languages ​​has been delayed, a problem for Prime Minister Sánchez

On Tuesday, the European Union Council postponed discussion of a proposal submitted by the Spanish government to make Catalan, Galician and Basque official languages ​​of the Union. During a meeting of European Affairs Ministers of all member states, the proposal was postponed for future discussions (according to some newspapers, such as the newspaper Financial TimesIt was justcontempt») Due to the doubts of many governments.

This is a problem for Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, because the official acceptance of the Catalan, Galician and Basque languages ​​in both Spanish and European institutions is one of the conditions set by Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont and his Junts per Catalunya (known simply as the Junts) party, to allow the next Spanish government to be formed with his votes. The Spanish Parliament, on Tuesday, approved for the first time the use of minority languages ​​in the chamber, amid great controversy from the right, but the possibility of doing the same thing in European institutions still seems far-fetched.

After elections last July, in which the center-left and center-right coalition achieved a virtual tie, Gantz emerged as the decisive party in determining which of the two would form the new government (Sánchez’s government currently holds power by proxy). capacity). Puigdemont – who remains in exile in Belgium after fleeing the country following the 2017 independence referendum – began negotiations with Sanchez’s coalition, but imposed some conditions, including recognition of Catalan and other minority languages.

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In Spain, the only official language in the entire country is Castilian (that is, what we all know as Spanish), but the Constitution stipulates that there are so-called co-official languages, because they are considered official only in the regions in Spain. Which they speak with Castilian. Catalan is the lingua franca of Catalonia, Basque in the Basque Country, Galician in Galicia, and Aranese in Val d’Aran.

Within Spain, the government quickly implemented the necessary measures to meet Puigdemont’s demands.

Members of Congress belonging to linguistic minorities (the lower house of the Spanish Parliament) were able on Tuesday, for the first time, to speak the language of their choice during the legislative session. The first to do so was socialist MP José Ramón Gómez Bestero, who said in Galician: “It is a double honor to inaugurate the simultaneous interpretation system in my language.” Since Tuesday in the Spanish Congress, as is already happening in the European Parliament, a simultaneous translation service has been activated for MPs who wish to speak languages ​​other than Castilian.

To allow the use of Galician and other languages ​​in Congress, no changes to the bylaws were needed because there were no rules prohibiting the use of languages ​​other than Castilian. However, the government has already announced that it intends to amend the regulations to explicitly add co-official languages ​​among those that can be used in classrooms.

As soon as Gomes Bestero began speaking in Galician, deputies from Vox, the far-right nationalist party nostalgic for Franco, stood up and left the hall in protest. Deputies from the center-right People’s Party also protested, but remained in their position. Among others, Alberto Núñez Viejo, leader of the People’s Party, is originally from Galicia and until recently was the president of the region.

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Things are more complicated in the European Union, where adding new official languages ​​involves a rather complex process, which has so far only taken place when a new member state has joined the Union, with very few exceptions.

On Tuesday, during the European Affairs Ministers’ meeting in Brussels, the Spanish government presented a proposal to add Catalan, Basque and Galician to the list of official languages, but most ministers actually rejected the request, demanding more time and more. Consultations. Swedish European Affairs Minister Jessica Roswall, speaking before the meeting, said the proposal did not provide enough detail on “legal and financial issues”. [e] What consequences will there be for other minority languages?” The European Union has more than 60 regional languages, but the official languages ​​of the European institutions number 24.

according to Financial Times More than a dozen countries have expressed doubts. This is a problem because every decision about official languages ​​must be made by consensus.

However, José Manuel Albarez, Spain’s foreign minister, described the meeting as a moderate success because no country explicitly vetoed the proposal. “The end is clear: Catalan, Basque and Galician languages ​​will become part of the European linguistic system,” he added. To make things easier, the Minister announced that the Spanish government would for the time being try to give priority to the Catalan language, because it is the most widely used language (and also because the decisive votes are in favor of Catalan, but Albarès did not say that the government is that Catalan). The idea is that trying to add just one official language instead of three at once should be easier. It is not clear whether this choice by the government will upset the Basque parties, which should also become part of Sánchez’s ruling coalition.

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Puigdemont said on Tuesday that the fact that no member state had vetoed Catalan and other minority languages ​​was a good sign, but “it is not enough, and the Spanish state knows it.”

Currently, the European Union includes among its official languages ​​only those that are already the official language of a member state. Until now, it has only been added when a new country joined the union: when Romania joined, for example, Romanian became the official language. In the history of the European Union there is only one case in which a member state’s request to add a new official language was actually accepted: with Gaelic (i.e. Irish), which was included among the official languages ​​in 2007, although the translation of legal documents had not yet begun. Except last year.

However, the Irish constitution considers Gaelic to be the “first official language” of the country, unlike what happens with Catalan and others, which in the Spanish system are only co-official languages.

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