The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty, promoted by the Council of Europe since 1992, which aims to protect the historical European languages that are minority languages in the States where they are spoken. Despite its ratification in 2001, the Spanish State has failed to comply with several of the linguistic commitments in the Charter, as indicated by the evaluation reports drawn up periodically by the Council of Europe's ECRML Committee of Experts.
In its last report, the Council of Europe's Committee of Experts - which monitors compliance with the Charter - drew on the evaluations and data provided by Plataforma per la Llengua, which submitted its own evaluation report on Spain's non-compliance with the ECRML.
For example, as the Catalan NGO's report points out, the European Committee criticises the fact that it's not compulsory to be fluent in the language of the territory to access to public service positions, as this knowledge is considered to be merely a 'merit' to be taken into account. They also highlight another surprising fact: a knowledge of certain foreign languages, such as English, French or German, scores higher in the evaluation of applications for certain public jobs than a knowledge of the official languages. In this area, the report concludes that Spanish legislation is unable to guarantee that public workers are competent in languages other than Spanish. The Plataforma per la Llengua has repeatedly criticised the fact that, without a mechanism for training civil servants in Catalan, there can be no guarantee that Catalan speakers can be attended in their own language.
In its report, Plataforma per la Llengua also alerted the European Committee to the fact that digitisation is having a pejorative effect on the provision of citizen services in Catalan. In this sense, the Council of Europe's assessment explains that the growing shift towards online services discourages the recruitment of workers competent in the territory's own language. As a result, the Committee of Experts states that speakers of other official languages now have even less access to public services than Spanish speakers than they previously had through face-to-face appointments. With this statement, the Charter experts are clearly indicating that, in Spain, some speakers have more rights than others.
The report also criticises the Spanish state for the under-representation l of co-official languages on state websites and warns that Article 10 of the ECRML is not being respected. In this case, the document directly cites the results of a study by Plataforma per la Llengua, which indicates that out of 389 websites observed, only 5 have been fully translated into Catalan, 270 have no Catalan elements and the rest are only partially translated. As the study explains, European experts warn that these translations often contain errors and, as a result, many citizens end up choosing to fill in the Spanish version of the forms available on these websites.
The Council of Europe once again recommends that Spain should amend its Judiciary Act to guarantee the use of Catalan in court proceedings if one of the parties requests it, an option that is currently not guaranteed, despite the legal provisions of the Charter. The decision is left to the judges - and they often ignore the requests to conduct proceedings in Catalan. Although this recommendation has been issued on numerous occasions , no Spanish legislative body has insisted on its compliance, as criticised by Plataforma per la Llengua in the report sent to the European Committee of Experts. The Council of Europe document points out that due to this legal deficit, the use of these languages in court is extremely low compared to the percentage of the population that speaks them.
The Council of Europe also criticises some of the regional governments
The evaluation document is not only aimed at the Spanish government and the central state administration. The Committee also issued harsh criticisms of the Government of the Valencian Country. As they pointed out in their previous report, those responsible for monitoring the Charter consider that the multilingual model promoted by the Valencian educational law is not in line with the Charter and, once again, they recommend a model based on linguistic immersion in public education to guarantee the rights of all Valencians.
Apart from the territories that have Catalan as an official language, the Council of Europe's experts also regret the fact that Murcia did not take advantage of its recent statutory reform to include Catalan. In the same vein, they ask that the institutions act "immediately" to ensure that Aragon's Statute of Autonomy recognises Catalan, as they had previously called for in the last evaluation report. Indeed, the commission insists that the extraordinary measures applied as a result of the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to deny the rights of speakers of local languages. They also emphasise this point when referring to education, warning that online classes may result in disadvantages as there is considerably more audiovisual material available in Spanish. Furthermore, the Council of Europe recommends that all the information provided in relation to Covid-19 should be available in the different languages of the State.