Thursday

23rd May 2019

Catalan, Basque and Galician get EU language boost

EU citizens speaking Catalan, Basque or Galician can now communicate with the European Parliament in their own language, after a small majority in the parliament agreed to the move.

The vote cast by parliament president Josep Borrell was determined when seven out of 14 vice-presidents in the parliament's so-called "bureau" voted in favour, while the rest voted against the move in a meeting in Strasbourg on Monday (3 July).

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  • Basque, Catalan or Galician- speaking EU citizens can now send a letter to MEPs in their own language (Photo: European Commission)

The decision will allow citizens of the five autonomous regions where the three languages are spoken to direct their letters to the parliament and to receive answers in their own language.

The deal does not cover language use in parliament plenary sessions or in the lawmakers' committee meetings however.

A previous vote in April on the same subject rejected acceptance of the Spanish regional languages with seven of the parliament vice-presidents voting against six in favour.

The centre-right EPP has been against the move to use the Spanish semi-official languages in the parliament.

Barcelona welcomed the decision

The Catalan government based in Barcelona welcomed the decision of the parliament.

"[It] implies a historical step for the country and for all the Catalans in the sense that we are now able to address ourselves in our language to this European institution," said president of the Catalan government Pasqual Maragall in a statement.

Any kind of communication sent to the parliament in any of the three languages will be translated by the institution's translation services to guarantee confidentiality while all costs will be covered by Spain.

Spanish citizens already have their right to write and receive replies in their own regional language in the European Commission and the council - the member states' decision-making body.

However, the languages fell short of attaining a full EU official language status like Irish (Gaelic) which will become an official EU language by 1 January 2007.

There are 1.6 million Irish speakers while far less use the language on a daily basis, according to official figures released in Dublin in 2004.

Basque, or Euskera, is spoken by around 1 million people in the Basque country in northern Spain and in bordering France.

Catalan is used by as many as 10 million people and is co-official in the Spanish autonomous regions of the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencia.

It is also the official language of the Pyrenean mini state of Andorra and is spoken in some areas of France and Italy.

Galician is spoken by 3 to 4 million people in Spain's north-western region of Galicia and has similarities to Portuguese.

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