Catalan and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Spain
On September 16th the Observatory of the Catalan Language sent its report, in English and Catalan, on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in the Spanish state -with regard to the Catalan language, to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
The report came in the wake of the meetings held in July 2011 in Valencia, Palma, Saragossa and Madrid, by a delegation of the Committee of Experts responsible for monitoring the application of the Charter. The experts were Vesna Cmic, Alberto Lopez Basaguren and Gabor Kardos. Representatives of the Observatory's member organisations attended the first three of these meetings and reported on what they regard as the widespread incompliance of the spirit and the letter of the Charter.
The report is arguably the harshest of the three reports the Observatory has sent to the Council of Europe to date. Previous recommendations by the Council of Europe regarding the very limited use of Catalan in the courts and the lack of official status of Catalan for its 45,000 speakers in Aragon, have not been heeded. Catalan language-in-education policy, which has been in place for 20 years, and was ratified by the Constitutional Court in 1994, is under attack because of a widely contested 2010 Supreme Court judgment. In a letter accompanying the report, the Observatory, asked the Committee to reiterate its public position in favour of the Catalan educational model, as the Spanish Congress of Deputies did recently. The failure of the Valencian school system to achieve its objective of generalized bilingual proficiency among school-leavers, and the very large number of families whose requests for Catalan-medium education for their children is turned down every year, and announced changes to water down language legislation in Aragon and the Balearic Islands, are further causes for concern.
The report accuses the Spanish state of doing nothing to prevent a climate across Spain of growing hostility towards linguistic diversity in general, and towards Catalan in particular. This climate is also observable in the Basque-speaking territories and in Galicia.
The accompanying letter underlined one ray of hope, however: A People's Legislative Initiative promoted by Acció Cultural del País Valencià, has recently been accepted by the Spanish Parliament. If this becomes law, DTTV will allow speakers of Galician, Basque and Catalan to pick up TV broadcasts from neighbouring regions in the same language.
Professor of Languages and Cultures Studies of Open University of Catalonia