The Administrative Court of Montpellier has decided to annul the decision of the plenary sessions of the municipal councils of Elna, Portvendres, Tarerac, Els Banys and Sant Andreu de Sureda that amended the internal regulations of the town councils to allow the use of Catalan, with consecutive interpretation into French.
The court considers that the amendment to the regulations approved by these five town councils is contrary to Articles 1 and 2 of the French Constitution because it violates the "primacy" of French. If there is no appeal, or if any appeal confirms the decision, Catalan will be relegated to secondary use and future amendments to the regulations will allow its use by elected officials only as a translation of French.
Plataforma per la Llengua considers that the court ruling represents an institutional attack on the Catalan language in Northern Catalonia. In addition, Article 75 of the French Constitution states that "regional languages" are the "heritage of France". However, the survival of this linguistic heritage cannot be guaranteed if its teaching is not publicly ensured and if no right inherent in the maintenance of this heritage is guaranteed. Plataforma per la Llengua considers that such a broad interpretation of Article 2 of the Constitution is supremacist and centralist and totally contrary to the precepts of respect and promotion of "regional or minority languages" contained in international regulations.
The decision of the Administrative Court of Montpellier follows the argument used during the hearing on 18 April by the court rapporteur, who argued that the problem with the regulation was the primacy of Catalan over French, as it allowed councillors to express themselves in Catalan rather than in French. According to the speaker, this meant Catalan language was being used as the principal language. For this reason, he asked for Article 19 of the internal regulations to be annulled, and this was the decision made by the court.
The court's decision acts against the protection of minority languages
The Court's order goes against the Oslo Recommendations, promoted by the OSCE, relating to the language rights of national minorities, which states that elected officials must be allowed to use their own language and that this right must be guaranteed. Plataforma per la Llengua urges the French government to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) and to make Catalan official in Northern Catalonia. It also calls for international protection against this violation of linguistic rights.
Faced with a similar decision by a French administrative court to annul the internal regulations of the Assembly and the Executive Council of Corsica which stipulated that the languages of debate were Corsican and French, Fernand de Varennes, the UN's special rapporteur on minorities, stated that the sentence "could be discriminatory with respect to international obligations". He added that the court's interpretation of Article 2 of the French Constitution went a long way, pointing out that no other country acted in the same way or found it normal to prohibit the use of other languages and force the exclusive use of a single language. Fernand de Varennes concluded that "the Constitution must be interpreted in accordance with France's international obligations: the time is right to do so". It also violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights.
In addition, this court ruling against the Catalan language contrasts with the fact that the French State pays 50% of the cost of the Public Office of the Catalan Language. The main aims of this office are to design and implement public language policies that promote the Catalan language. However, decisions like today's operate entirely against these goals.