The Catalan asks for passage into the European Union in an atmosphere of open skepticism

Europe was warned, but not prepared to position itself as quickly as the times of Spanish politics dictate.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
16 September 2023 Saturday 10:21
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The Catalan asks for passage into the European Union in an atmosphere of open skepticism

Europe was warned, but not prepared to position itself as quickly as the times of Spanish politics dictate. Pedro Sánchez's agreement to request in Brussels the official status of Catalan, Basque and Galician in the European Union was one of the commitments that this summer unblocked the formation of the Congress Board and, immediately, the Government put the demand on top of the table in Brussels.

The item has been on the agenda of the General Affairs Council (CAG) for Tuesday, September 19, since the beginning of the month. But when the detailed agenda was published, many delegations were alarmed by the express sequence that the Spanish Government proposed to make changes to Council Regulation No. 1, the 1958 legal instrument that establishes the linguistic regime of the European Economic Community. : presentation, exchange of impressions and “adoption”

“All on the same day?” diplomatic sources commented skeptically at the beginning of the week regarding an initiative that requires something always elusive in Brussels, the unanimity of the Twenty-Seven. Pressured to position themselves in a few days, several countries (Sweden first, Finland later) chose to make clear their reservations towards the idea. On Wednesday it was the Swedish Minister of European Affairs, the conservative Jessica Roswall, who raised fears that the Spanish request would make the EU less efficient, evoked its budgetary cost and pointed out that “there are many minority languages ​​that are not official within the EU.” EU". On Friday, it was the Finnish Government that warned of the “increase in the financial and administrative burden” that the initiative would entail, which would also “probably” also “slow down the entry into force of the Union regulations”, since to do so they must first have been translated into all their official languages, a process that is taking more and more time.

The reservations and doubts raised by these countries publicly were evoked by practically all the delegations that took the floor, about 16, at the ambassadors' meeting held on Friday, in which the issue was examined for the first time and in which the The Spanish delegation expressed its willingness to “assume the costs” derived from its request. This approach differs from the treatment that the EU gives to its official languages, whose use fully finances the community budget, and could open the door to creating a new category of languages, which is why several countries raised how it would be defined and which ones can benefit from it. she.

At the ambassadors' meeting, almost all countries (including France, Germany, Belgium, Slovakia and Austria) asked to commission a report from the Council's legal service before taking a position. Spanish diplomatic sources deny that the atmosphere was hostile to the measure and emphasize that the ambassadors of several delegations expressed their sympathies with the essence of the Spanish request and defended the importance of multilingualism. The Czech Republic and Slovenia indicated that there are more speakers of Catalan than the official languages ​​of their countries, but only the latter country and Portugal clearly said that if European jurists endorse it, they would support the initiative, according to diplomatic sources.

Poland was much more critical and recalled that the agreements signed since 2005 between Spain and all EU institutions – except the European Parliament, where it was not possible due to the rejection of the European People's Party – already allow it to be translated into Catalan, Basque and Galician a large number of texts, as well as interpreting for the representatives of Spain when they use some of those languages ​​in certain meetings as long as advance notice is given to organize the necessary device. Hungary did not speak but it is presumed that it may also take a position against it during the CAG on Tuesday, which the Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, will chair on behalf of Spain.

For now, only the Government of Ireland has publicly shown its receptivity towards the Spanish initiative. Although it is “too early” to set a position, “Ireland has always defended linguistic diversity and has encouraged the widest possible access of European citizens to information about the Union” and “this context will define its position in the debate of the Council,” Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said in a recent debate in the Irish parliament.

Dublin's apparent sympathy for the officialdom of Catalan, Galician and Basque is not coincidental. Ireland was the last – and only – country to have successfully requested a review of the EU linguistic regime to include Gaelic among its official languages, something it did not ask for when it joined in 1973, at the same time as the United Kingdom, and was He settled for English to obtain that status. The new deal was negotiated in 2006 and included a derogation to allow time for all EU legislation to be translated into Gaelic. The shortage of translators lengthened the process so much that it did not obtain full official status until 2022, 15 years later.

After the case of Gaelic, the list of official languages ​​of the EU added one more language, through conventional means, in 2013 with the entry of Croatia and the incorporation of Croatian, until reaching 24. In 2016, the Government of Luxembourg considered asking the EU to admit the Luxembourgish language (official in the country, along with German and French) among its official languages. But the initiative was nothing more than a response to criticism of the Government for its lack of interest in the language, there was no real demand among the population and the idea died without pain or glory.

Contrary to what the agenda for Tuesday's meeting suggests, nothing will be attempted that day nor will anything be voted on. The expectation rather is to pass the issue to a Council working group and request a report from its legal services based on the new proposal. The initiative will start but with the times typical of European discussions, not the rhythms of Spain.