Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Europe of Everyone, also of the Catalans

About the author of this article for Help Catalonia

Josep Bargalló Valls
First Minister and Minister of the Presidency of Catalonia 2004-2006
Minister of Education of Catalonia 2003-2004
Councillor in Torredembarra Town Council (1995-2003)
President of the Ramon Llull Institute (2006-2010)


We, the Catalans, often feel uncomfortable in a turbulent European Union in constant search for a false balance. We feel out of place in a European Union unable to resolve its many crises—all born by a financial sector that expands over its capacity, then shrinks, puts out its hand and looks away. We are marginalized by European institutions that rigorously dictate over insignificant issues while leaving the field wide open and uncontrolled when it comes to topics that are, to us as citizens, of most importance.

It is true that we need a social European Union—one that is not enslaved to the interests of states and economic powers. We need a Europe of the people, of the peoples, and we can get there in many ways: with a greater subsidiarity of decision power, with a higher degree of participation, and more efficient financial regulations, with a more transparent and clear legislation to regulate the doings of banks on public and private debt and in their own activities.

But this is not all. To feel that we are a part of it, we need the European Union to embrace all Europeans as they are. For us, the language is a clear example. Beyond the difficulties of its social use, legal status and regional diversity—all of those being internal aspects—, Catalan is neither a minority language nor a lower class language. With 10 million speakers, it is the 12th most spoken in the European Union—surpassing Finnish, Maltese, Gaelic, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian or Slovenian and rivalling Greek and Portuguese. Nevertheless, Catalan does not yet enjoy the status of being fully recognized as an official European language in the institutions of the European Union. And if we argue that all languages, regardless of the number of speakers, deserve the same respect and attention from public institutions, we have to conclude as well that Catalan is not a minority language: In today’s Europe of 27 states, there are 40 languages spoken by less than 300,000 people—the number of Maltese speakers, the smallest of the official languages in the Union. If Catalan was a minority language, how should we define the 28 that have fewer speakers?

And the fact that Catalan is not official in any big state—it is only official in Andorra—is, certainly, an internal anomaly, which we have to solve internally¬, but it should not be an external handicap. In the European Union, 30 million people have a first language that is not official in their country. Catalan is, in this context, I insist, a modern language. It transcends borders and it’s spoken in four sovereign states—in the Spanish state, it is official in the autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia; in the Perpignan region in France; in the city of Alghero in the Italian Sardinia; and in Andorra, a small sovereign state in the Pyrenees, where it is the only official language. It is a language that has always lived close to other languages—there is not a single Catalan-speaker who is not bilingual, because they all have full competence in either Spanish, Italian or French—sometimes in a couple of them. It is a universal vehicle, a language that translates and is translated—it is the tenth most translated language in Europe; and a vehicle, also, for new technologies—it is one of the ten most used languages on the internet, and the only language with its own top-level domain, .cat. Of course, Catalan may not be an internationally “major” language, but it is certainly not a minority language, either. It is worth mentioning that it is taught in over 160 universities worldwide.

When Europe speaks of diversity, it cannot only refer to diversity among nation states, but needs to also adopt the concept of profound diversity among European societies, of real diversity, and a first urgent step in this sense would be the official recognition of linguistic realities as solid and clear as that of Catalan, a language used daily by ten million Europeans.

Therefore, as an expression of modernity, Catalan, tied to opportunities for the future and linked at the same time to a very rich and centuries-old cultural tradition, is already part of mankind’s collective heritage. Catalan as a language of social integration and cohesion, Catalan as a language for the new technologies, Catalan as a language to be shared—this is the heritage that Europe has to recognize and preserve.

We would feel more comfortable in such a European Union. In a social European Union, of the people, of labour, of the peoples and of culture. One of all its citizens, without exceptions. A European Union that also would recognize the right of self-determination not just of the citizens of countries that are not part of the Union, but also of those who are.


Josep Bargalló Valls,

First Minister and Minister of the Presidency of Catalonia 2004-2006
Minister of Education 2003-2004

Read older posts of this author here
Read other Special colaborators articles
Related articles:
Catalonia would remanin in EU if it became independent from Spain
Catalan separatism: anachronism or a modernal proposal
From 20th Century Nationalism to 21st Century Separatism

3 comentaris:

  • Anonymous says:
    July 4, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    wow, i didn't know that!!!

  • Anonymous says:
    July 31, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    I like, Pep.

  • Anonymous says:
    August 6, 2011 at 6:50 AM

    Languages don't matter. States do. So, it's time to get one.

Post a Comment