The Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, has sent a letter to the presidency of the Council of the EU on Thursday asking him to incorporate Catalan, Galician and Basque into the Union’s linguistic system; that is, that it endows them with the category of official and working languages. The letter requests that “the modification procedures provided for in the Council” begin and that the matter be included in the agenda of the next meeting of the General Affairs Council (CAG), on September 19 in Brussels. It is not the first time that Spain has taken a step in this direction: the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero already tried something similar, in 2004, which was finally left halfway: the European partners were only open to accepting the “limited use” of the co-official languages in the institutions.
Junts per Catalunya had requested as an essential condition that the Government immediately formulate the request to vote in favor of the socialist Francina Armengol as president of Congress. The former president Carles Puigdemont has pointed out on social networks that the Executive has already taken the step and that it is not just a promise. “The Kingdom of Spain, which currently presides over the European Union, has asked this institution to include Catalan, Basque and Galician in the list of official languages that appear in the regulations. It is a fact, not a promise, that was never wanted to be given ”, he assured.
At the end of the constitutive session of Congress, Minister Albares has confirmed the sending of the letter, which he has registered in the agreement with Junts for the election of the Board of the Lower House. Community sources have confirmed to EL PAÍS in Brussels that the Council has received the letter from the head of Spanish diplomacy, which they are going to “examine”, they have added, without giving further details.
The minister explained that the letter is addressed to the Presidency of the Council of the EU, which Spain currently holds, which, he assured, “does not represent any anomaly”, according to the legal services, although a copy has also been sent to the General Secretariat of the Council. He then played down the significance of the decision, assuring that “those three languages were already used by administrative agreements in practically all the European institutions”, to the point that there was a “right of petition ” in these languages in organizations such as the Committee of the Regions, he stressed. Asked why the Spanish Government has not claimed it before. He has recognized that the decision has been made “as part of the agreement reached with Junts and it has been sent on the day it was considered appropriate that it had to be sent, which is the day the legislature starts.”
The regulation whose modification has been proposed by Spain regulates the official and working languages of the Union and also affects communications between States and individuals with the European institutions, as well as the publication of directives and regulations of a general nature and the Official Journal of the European Communities. It does not affect, on the other hand, the Court of Justice of the EU or the European Parliament, which have their own regulations. The inclusion of Catalan, Galician and Basque must be approved unanimously and diplomatic sources have not wanted to rule on the possibility that any Member State may object. The Government has not included Valencian, although the Statute of the Valencian Community recognizes it as an official language.
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Puigdemont also recalled that all changes to the regulations on the use of languages are approved unanimously and has invited Pedro Sánchez to fulfill the message he gave to his deputies when he said that Spain is heard in Europe. “Now that he is the president of the Council of the EU and this is the institution with the power to modify the regulation, he has a magnificent opportunity to demonstrate it”, he pointed out. ERC has also included in its principle of agreement with the PSOE the use of Catalan in the European institutions.
This has been a historical claim of the nationalist and pro-independence parties that had never quite come together. The coalition government already committed itself in July of last year, in the framework of the third meeting of the dialogue table with the Government of Pere Aragonès, to promote the use of Catalan in the European institutions, although it never made the official request . In fact, Marta Rovira, general secretary of ERC, denied this Tuesday that it was a gesture by the socialists towards the independence movement and recalled the breach. “What gesture? If you already assumed it and sealed the agreements at the negotiating table on July 7, 2022 ″, she stated.
Currently, the EU has 24 official languages: German, Bulgarian, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Estonian, Finnish, French, Greek, Hungarian, English, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Swedish.
The first four official languages —German, French, Italian and Dutch— were adopted in 1958, with the founding of the European Economic Community, the germ of the current EU. The other most common language in European corridors, English, was not official until 1973, when the United Kingdom entered the block (from which it left in 2020). The reason is that, normally, the official language of a country becomes that of the EU when that State enters the community club, as happened with Spanish in 1986 (like Portuguese). Croatia was the last country to formally join the EU, in 2013, and its language, Croatian, has also been the last to be added as an official language.
Despite Brexit, English has continued to be the official and working language (the one used in daily professional exchanges), because it is also one of the official languages of two other Member States, Malta and Ireland.
This last country is the main reference for Spain regarding the process that it now wishes to initiate. And it also shows that it is a potentially long road: since Ireland formally requested, in 2005, the inclusion of Gaelic as an official language of the EU, until this language has acquired “full status” as such, in 2022, they passed 17 years. In 2007, that is, two years after the Irish request, Gaelic became an official language of the EU but, at the very request of Dublin, a “derogation” was granted until December 31, 2021, because it did not there were insufficient translation staff, making it impossible to translate all the material into Irish.
The measure appears in the principle of the agreement signed between the PSOE and Junts to agree on the congress table, which also incorporates the use of Catalan and the other official languages in Congress and the promotion of the investigation commissions on the attack of 17- A and the Pegasus spy case. Puigdemont has separated this agreement from a possible investiture by Sánchez. “If future agreements arrive, it will be because compliance can be verified, as has been the case,” he pointed out.
Òmnium Cultural has spread a message emphasizing that Catalonia is part of a State where, it has said, “it is valued as an exception to ensure a fundamental right such as being able to speak Catalan everywhere and with courts that continue to hand down sentences against our language in the schools. From civil society we will continue working on all fronts to defend Catalan”, added the entity.
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