Almost two decades after Spain proposed for the first time in Brussels to recognize Catalan, Galician and Basque as official languages of the European Union, the Government will once again put the demand on the table of the General Affairs Council today.
Upon arrival at the meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, detailed what his argument will be to overcome the possible reluctance of his European colleagues: remember that multilingualism is "one of the objectives and values of the EU"; explain the "specificity" of the Spanish case, a "practically unique" constitutional linguistic regime and that they are languages that are already used in the national parliament, and specify that these are not "minority languages" but are spoken by millions of people, more than many official languages. "Finally, I will remind them of something that they already know, and that is that this is not a new or unprecedented proposal on the part of Spain. Spain has been requesting it for almost 20 years," Albares emphasized, thus rejecting that the demand is due exclusively to the political needs of Pedro Sánchez.
In 2004, to the political rejection expressed especially clearly by France, Austria and the Netherlands, was added the conclusion that it was impossible to expand the list of official languages without reforming the treaties (for Ireland's request it was not a problem because from its Joined the club in 1973 (Gaelic is a treaty language). Nobody considered it and Spain, which then launched the demand at the request of ERC, chose to lower its aspirations and settle for facilitating the use of these languages in the EU but without an official letter.
Almost 20 years after that experience, the Government has armed itself with arguments on all fronts, legal, economic and political, to reactivate the debate. Thus, to avoid this legal blockade of 2004, today he will evoke an article of the Lisbon Treaty, which did not exist then, to defend that the regulation on the linguistic regime of the institutions can be reformed without needing to change the treaties. The Spanish reading of this legal statement is that, de facto, the co-official languages are already recognized as such by the EU.
“This treaty may also be translated into any other language determined by the member states among those that, in accordance with their constitutional provisions, have the status of official language in all or part of their territory,” reads article 55.2 of the text signed in the Portuguese capital in 2007, in force since 2009. Countries that so wish “can deposit a certified copy of these translations in the archives of the Council.” In fact, Spain already translated the treaty into Catalan, Galician and Basque and delivered the copies to Brussels. Only one other Member State has availed itself of this right, the Netherlands, which translated the text into Frisian, the language spoken in its northernmost province.
The Spanish delegation maintains that, in light of this article, Catalan, Galician and Basque are “languages recognized as co-official languages by article 55.2 of the Treaty of European Union in said EU linguistic regime.” The meeting of the ambassadors of the Twenty-Seven held on Friday highlighted, however, that there are many doubts about the legal fit of the request and in some cases they evoked the possibility of consulting the Council's legal service.
The argument of money does not seem to be the most important, but the Government intends to neutralize any reservations on that front with its offer to bear its costs so that it does not affect the EU budget forecasts. European diplomatic sources consider that it could be “useful” and be “interesting” for certain delegations (Austria stated on Friday that it seemed like a good approach). This detail does not appear for now in the reform proposal presented at the beginning of the month, but it could be reformed to include it in the same regulation, so that a new category of languages is not created, but rather that option is simply given. The Government, for now, has not provided any estimate of the cost it would have for the Spanish public coffers.
The strongest objections, however, may have a purely political nature, but be based on other issues, hence the Government's efforts to neutralize the other arguments and rely on the “specificity” of the case of the Spanish co-official languages. Unlike 2004, you will now be able to say in Brussels that it is now possible to use them in Congress. For now, “there is no hostility” towards the request, diplomatic sources assure, who emphasize that “it is not a minor thing” when it comes to this issue.
"We believe that they have all the arguments (political, legal and economic) for the decision to be officially adopted tomorrow (today) and Catalan becomes the 25th official language of the EU. "Now it is time for them to negotiate skillfully ", declared yesterday Pol Cruz, spokesperson for the international campaign for the official status of Catalan of the Platform for Language, who yesterday met with the ambassador of Spain to the EU, Marcos Alonso, to address the situation, as well as with the delegations of Finland and Sweden, to try to change their minds. "We have also explained to them that this vote is not just any ordinary vote that is going to go under the radar, but that there are 10 million Europeans who are going to be attentive to the positions that your country adopts on our language".