More than 10 million people in Europe speak Catalan, which is the 14th most spoken language in the continent. However, Catalan is not official in the EU. This means people can't use the Catalan language to petition European institutions and, thus, they have their rights restricted. In view of this, Plataforma per la Llengua cannot but condemn the recent comments on Twitter on this issue by the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell*, who affirmed citizens can petition European institutions -and the European Parliament in particular- in the Catalan language, an assertion that is patently false†.
Plataforma per la Llengua wants to note that the rules governing the European Parliament establish that petitions must be submitted in one of the official languages of the EU. At the moment Catalan doesn't have an official status and therefore citizens can't exercise their fundamental right of petitioning the European Parliament in their own language. This situation would change if the Spanish Government -of which Borrell is a minister- requested it to the European Council. For this reason, Plataforma per la Llengua challenges Josep Borrell to propose it to European Institutions. It is it in his hands.
It is claimed that not only the former president of European house, Martin Schulz, but also the current president, Antonio Tajani, have been open to the possibility of permitting the use of the Catalan language in the plenary session in case the Spanish Government requested it. However, that request has never been made. On the other hand, Catalan Parliamentarians are not allowed to speak in their own language in the European Chamber.
To sum up, the Catalan language is nowadays still discriminated against solely due to the will of successive Spanish governments, in spite of there not being any other language of similar vitality, economic weight, demographic size, and symbolic importance that doesn't already enjoy an official status. Plataforma per la Llengua has reported that this situation has negative consequences on speakers and that many people are unaware of it.
It is worth noting that it is neither possible to communicate directly in Catalan with many other EU institutions, such as the European Commission, the European Council, the European Ombudsman, the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and social Committee, and the Justice Court of the European Union.
A jumble of discouraging translations
Communicating in the Catalan language with European institutions is somehow possible, but one must use indirect ways. It is not well-known, but people can channel their requests in Catalan through the Permanent Representation of Spain in the UE, that will act as an intermediary with the concerned European institutions. However, taking this path means getting into a jumble of translation-related proceedings which involve answers will be substantially delayed if compared with the answers to letters sent directly to EU institutions in an official language such as Spanish. Overall, the indirect process means the citizen will address their request to the Spanish Administration, which will refer it to an office in Barcelona to be translated, and then will send it on to the European institution in hand; finally, the answer will be sent to the citizen. It is an over-complicated process.
This dysfunctional procedure discourages the use of the Catalan language in communications with European institutions. Moreover, neither bilateral agreements nor any official website specifies that this procedure exist, that letters written in Catalan must be sent to the Permanent Representation of Spain in the UE and not directly to the concerned European institution. This fact confuses citizens and damages Catalan speakers' awareness of their linguistic rights; it is, to all intents and purposes, pointless. In any case, this process is only applied for basic administrative procedures without any legal relevance, since the Spanish language is the one usually required.
Therefore, Plataforma per la Llengua must insist that only the Spanish Government can change this situation and guarantee that the rights of Catalan speakers are respected; it is, by the way, also the job of the Foreign Affairs Minister. As a matter of fact, the lifting of the ban on using the Catalan language in the European Parliament depends on Mr Borrell's will and on whether he is ready to ask the president of this institution, Antonio Tajani, for it to happen.
Plataforma per la Llengua is working for the recognition of the Catalan language as an official language of the EU and all its institutions. Plataforma per la Llengua considers that Catalan ought to be fully official because it is the 14th language in the UE in number of speakers and because making it official is necessary to guarantee the linguistic rights of Catalan speakers in Europe.
Plataforma per la Llengua will request a meeting with the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister in order to warn him of this unfortunate situation and present its arguments face to face.
* (1) Josep Borrell, Foreig Affairs Minister of the Spanish Government, is a Catalan politician, member of the PSOE, who has been Minister of Public Works under President Felipe Gonzalez's Government in 1991, and president of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2007. Borrell has been very critical oabout the situation of Catalonia in the recent years. The last Spanish political campaign of 21th of December he had declared that Catalonia must be 'disinfected', which caused lot of criticism in this country.
† (2) Borrell stated that when he was president of the European Parliament he used his casting vote to permit the use of the Catalan language in the chamber, because the vote on whether it should be allowed or not was deadlocked.