The president of the Congress of Deputies, Francina Armengol, reserved a paragraph of the first speech addressed to the deputies to solemnly proclaim her “commitment to Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician.” “I want to announce that this presidency will allow the use of all these languages in Congress from this constituent session.” Her commitment could not be made effective at that time and the new parliamentary bloc (PSOE, Sumar, PNV, EH Bildu, BNG, Junts and ERC) that promoted her to the presidency of the Chamber has been working since then on a reform of the Regulations that would make it possible.
Sumar has drafted a proposal that serves as a basis for the negotiation and that establishes “the right of the deputies of Congress to have their writings, interventions and parliamentary actions, oral or written, in plenary session, commission or permanent deputation be carried out in any of the languages that have character in any autonomous community in accordance with the Constitution and the corresponding Statute of Autonomy.” Sumar details in its proposal that the Chamber’s services “will proceed with the simultaneous interpretation in Spanish of the interventions in plenary session, commission or permanent deputation that take place in an official language other than Spanish.”
Negotiators are aware of the complexities involved in making Armengol’s commitment a reality. In their conversations, they have already reached an agreement to allow the use of co-official languages in all plenary sessions held by Congress, and to progressively extend this practice to the rest of the parliamentary activities of the Congress of Deputies. Dialogue between all groups attempts to resolve the operational problems that may arise from extending the use of co-official languages in plenary sessions and commissions to written initiatives. Congress is a chamber that produces dozens of laws every year, in some of which the most complex discussions have to do with the meaning of a word or the gender of an adjective. Some of the negotiators understand that incorporating the use of co-official languages in the writings of parliamentary initiatives can complicate legislative work. Sumar’s proposal establishes that “documents presented in an official language other than Spanish will be translated into Spanish by the Chamber’s services.”
Aside from this inconvenience, the legislators of the parties that voted together for President Armengol intend to apply in the Congress of Deputies a much more widespread use of co-official languages than what is now in force in the Senate, the territorial Chamber.
The elections of 23-J left the PP with an absolute majority in the Senate. This party rejects the use of co-official languages in Congress with the following argument: “Putting simultaneous translation in a room where everyone shares a language, Spanish, is not common sense, it will entail an enormous cost and a great slowdown of the process.”
In 2005, the Senate modified its regulations, as Congress now intends to do, to allow the use of co-official languages, but only in the sessions of the General Commission of the Autonomous Communities, which barely meets, through simultaneous translation from Catalan, Valencian , Basque and Galician. Five years later, the Senate again reformed its regulations to allow the use of those languages during the debate of motions in plenary session, which are held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And the possibility was established for the initiatives to be published in Spanish and the corresponding co-official languages. The Senate allocated 280,000 euros in its last annual budget to guarantee the use of co-official languages in accordance with previous guidelines.
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Sumar was the parliamentary group that advanced this initiative for the use of co-official languages in the Congress of Deputies. A year earlier, its government partner, the PSOE, together with PP, Vox and Ciudadanos, rejected a similar initiative presented by Unidos Podemos and the parliamentary allies of the coalition Executive. The PSOE then justified that co-official languages should only be used in the Senate as a chamber of territorial representation and that Spanish was the only language of common understanding that should be used in Congress.
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