Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New chance for Catalan at the European Parliament


The debate on the official use of Catalan at the European institutions is a recurrent topic. According to the latest data available, Catalan is the 14th most spoken language in the European Union, outnumbering ten other languages which are already official in the Union. However, in order to get full recognition it needs to be official in a member state, not just in part of it (as is the case in Spain). Currently, Catalan enjoys a semi-official status at the EU together with Basque, Galician, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh.

Making Catalan official at the European Parliament may be a much more accessible goal, especially after the election of the new chamber’s President, Social Democrat Martin Schulz. In spite of the fact that this very debate has already been opened several times, the outcome may be different now. Mr. Schulz has already declared that all eurodeputies should be allowed to express themselves in their mother tongues during the plenary sessions, though he understands it is not possible for languages which are not official at the chamber. In a recent interview at Catalunya Ràdio, Schulz said that the previous decision of not allowing Catalan to be used at the Parliament has a revision clause, which can be used to make a new proposal. He added: “We have to make the effort in the following sense: Catalans who whish to use Catalan in a written or oral way should be allowed to do it and obtain an answer. […] I personally consider that our linguistic regime is so involved that we can also include Catalan, why not?”. Schulz has admitted he is an enthusiastic reader of the novels of the Catalan writer Jaume Cabré (in their German translations). During the interview, Schulz talked about a personal experience related with Cabré’s novel Jo confesso (I confess): “My father was a passionate violinist and during his imprisonment in the war, he wanted to play in an orchestra and constructed a violin by himself, which I still keep today. Every time I read Jo confesso I have a look at my father’s violin. I feel very identified with the young man who sees his violin as a special treasure. That is, I have with him a personal relationship.”
However, the decision of giving Catalan an official status at the European Parliament does not depend exclusively on its President but also on its Bureau, where there is a strong presence of deputies from the European Popular Group, contrary to allowing the use of Catalonia’s own language. The main reasons argued against the use of Catalan at the chamber have to do with its economic cost, but it is well-known that many of the interpreters and translators of Spanish are also able to translate from and into Catalan language. The true reasons are, therefore, of political nature, as sometimes has been made explicit by Alejo Vidal-Quadras, one of the most hostile deputies from the Popular Group.

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