Yesterday Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos delivered a memorandum to his EU colleagues requesting modification of the EU institutional regulations so that the “co-official” Basque, Galician and Catalan languages become official European Union working languages. For the proposal to be successful it has to be approved unanimously by all 25 member states.
In a press conference yesterday (which didn’t receive much coverage as the entire Spanish media centred its attention on Zapatero’s seemingly endless 14-hour appearance before the 11th March investigation commission), Moratinos said that the proposal reflected one of the Socialist party’s electoral promises. He said that Spain was requesting “the maximum possible recognition” of the three Spanish languages within the EU, and he said that his colleagues had received the proposal with “respect and interest”.
The Spanish government wants to see clause 1/58 of the linguistic regulations changed, so that Basque, Catalan and Galician can be used and translated during sessions of the European Parliament, Regional Committee and Ministerial meetings when regional government representatives from the Basque, Galician, Catalan regions attend.
The government also requests that Spanish citizens who use these languages be able to write in them to European institutions, and that all legislation passed by the European Parliament and Council be published in all three languages, as well as Spanish.
Meanwhile the Valencian regional government has said it intends to challenge the proposal because it “doesn’t fully satisfy the interests of Valencian people”, presumably because Valenciano, which is almost exactly the same as Catalan, is not included as a language in its own right.
No mention was made yesterday about how much this may cost the European Union, whose funds are already tightly stretched.
Providing translation services for the three languages in all European Union institutions, parliament and meetings would be extremely expensive, quite apart from being completely unecessary because everyone in Spain speaks and understands Castilian Spanish anyway, even if they prefer to speak their regional language.
Even if the Socialist government feels obliged to present these kind of divisive, expensive and complicated reforms to the European Union because of its minority government’s dependance on the support of regional parties, it could surely have argued that this was not the moment to do so. Spain is still putting pressure on the other EU member states to continue to receive grants from the Cohesion Fund, and ever since he became President, Rodriguez Zapatero has been campaigning for the EU budget to remain at 1.
24% GDP of member states which would help to avoid a drastic reduction in the amount of EU money received by Spain each year. Given that no decision has been made regarding the new EU budget yet, and given the linguistic complications which have arisen in EU institutions since the 10 new EU member states joined (with 10 different languages), it hardly seems tactful or sensible of the Spanish government to request linguistic reform just now.