Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

EU rejects fast-tracking Spain's Catalan language bid

  • Ctalan flags at a demonstration in Brussels in 2017 (Photo: EUobserver)
Listen to article

To little surprise, Spain's request to make Catalan, Galician, and Basque into official EU languageswas left on stand-by following initial talks in Brussels on Tuesday (19 September).

The appeal dates back to August, when Spanish foreign affairs minister José Manuel Albares called for the three co-official languages in Spain to become the 25th, 26th, and 27th official languages of the EU, as a sign of the incumbent government's efforts to meet the demands of a Catalan pro-independence party and secure a majority in parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

After inconclusive elections in July that made it impossible to form a government, socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez and his team are negotiating a deal with pro-independence forces led by Catalan MEP Carles Puigdemont to remain in power.

Since the illegal referendum in October 2017, Puigdemont has been persecuted by the Spanish judiciary and is in self-exile in Belgium.

The move to make Catalan an official EU language is a gesture that helped give the PSOE (S&D) control of the Spanish parliament, where a reform is now pending approval to allow the use of co-official languages.

The issue led the 33 deputies of the far-right party Vox to leave their seats this morning as a sign of disagreement.

However, despite the efforts of Spain, which currently holds the EU Council presidency, the language bid will have to wait — and so will the pro-independence forces.

"Some member states have asked for more time to analyse its development and implementation, and for this reason, we have agreed to continue working to respond to states' comments on this proposal," Albares said, following first talks by EU affairs ministers.

The fob off came after less than an hour of debate.

And although no member state exercised its right to veto, concerns over costs, and operational and legal implications weighed heavier than the Spanish rush to add three more EU official languages to the existing 24.

These doubts were already openly expressed by countries such as Sweden and Finland, whose foreign minister declared himself (in a mixture of Spanish and Catalan) to be a "great friend of the languages of Spain" and called for a common defence of "diversity" during the doorsteps prior to the debate, but who added it was still "slightly early" to take a decision.

The cost of adding these three new languages is not yet known, but the Spanish government has offered to cover the fianancial needs that would result from this linguistic reform.

The EU budget usually covers these costs. Last year, the EU Commission spent more than €355m on staff, outsourcing, IT and events for the 24 existing official languages.

Catalan first

In his presentation to the other 26 EU countries, Albares explained that these three languages are not "minority" languages, although the figures for Basque and Galician are far from the 10 million people who speak Catalan.

In 2016, around 750,000 people spoke Basque, according to the Institut Culturel Basque.

In fact, the Spanish minister told the media that Catalan would be given priority over Galician and Basque in order to give a gradual approach to the request, which requires unanimity among member states.

After a closed-door meeting last Friday, EU diplomats told EUobserver that no decision would "realistically" be taken on Tuesday's general affairs meeting, especially due to concerns in member states with larger minorities which could see the Spanish request triggering a 'snowball effect'.

From now on, the proposal will follow the usual council procedures, and the doubts and concerns expressed by member states will be addressed at a working group and diplomat level.

In terms of deadlines, Albares' only confirmation was that progress would be "as quickly as possible".

Exiled Catalan leader sets conditions to make Sanchez PM

Catalan former separatist leader and current MEP Carles Puigdemont has set out preconditions for negotiations to support Pedro Sánchez as next prime minister of Spain — seeking a "historic agreement" for Catalonia.

Sanchez's 'amnesty' talks with Catalan separatists to stay PM

Spain's socialist party wants to avoid new elections and is rushing to form a governing coalition for incumbent prime minister Pedro Sánchez before the Socialists' European congress on 10-11 November. But an 'amnesty' for Catalan political separatists is a sticking-point.

Opinion

The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

The EU's own analysis has made it clear this is economic self-sabotage, and it's politically foolish three months from European elections where the far-right are predicted to increase support, writes the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child

During a plenary session in Strasbourg, an MEP was denied access to the chamber because he was carrying his young child, due to unforeseen circumstances. The episode shows parliament's rules need to be updated, several MEPs told EUobserver.

Latest News

  1. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  2. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  3. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  4. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  5. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  6. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  7. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  8. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us