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Schulz tells Mas he will “work hard” to permit the use of Catalan at the European Parliament

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, met with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, in Brussels. Mas told the press that Schulz had stated he would “work hard” to enable the use of Catalan at plenary sessions. However, Schulz did not confirm neither “any date” nor can he “guarantee that he would achieve it, as it does not only depend on him”, explained Mas.

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21 March 2012 11:58 PM

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ACN

Brussels (ACN).- The President of the European Parliament, the German Social-Democrat Martin Schulz, promised Artur Mas, President of the Catalan Government, that he would \u201Cwork hard\u201D to enable the use of Catalan language at plenary sessions. However, as Mas told the press, Schulz neither confirmed \u201Cany date\u201D nor gave \u201Cabsolute guarantee that he would achieve it, as it does not only depend on him\u201D. Nonetheless, the Catalan President was \u201Coptimistic\u201D, although he has had previous bad experiences, as \u201Cwe have already tried it on other occasions, and we did not get it\u201D. Furthermore, he emphasised that interpretation into Catalan would not cost money, as most of the Spanish translators are Catalan and could perform both tasks at the same cost. Mas and Schulz met on Wednesday in Brussels, during the Catalan President\u2019s fourth visit to the European institutions. Despite being an official language in Catalonia and spoken by some 11 million European citizens, Catalan is not an official EU language, and thus cannot be used at the Euopean Parliament\u2019s plenary sessions. Besides, Mas explained to Schulz the austerity efforts Catalonia is making to reduce its public deficit in order to meet the deficit targets.


Artur Mas spoke with the press after his meeting with Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament. The Catalan President thought it \u201Cwas very positive\u201D to have the support of Schulz for the use of Catalan at the plenary sessions. \u201CWe thank him [for his support], because we are not used to gestures of kindness like that. People who should be much affected, sometimes are far more distant\u201D, complained Mas. Schulz is a former bookseller and a confessed reader of Catalan authors such as Josep Pla, Màrius Torres and Jaume Cabré. The German Social-Democrat already stated he would try to approve the use of Catalan in the plenary sessions in an interview before taking office, almost three months ago. Now, the President of the European Parliament has reaffirmed his commitment directly to the President of Catalonia.

Some members of the Parliament\u2019s Bureau are against it

However, \u201CSchulz told us that he would work on it and believes in it, however he can't absolutely guarantee that he would achieve it, as it does not only depend on him\u201D, explained Mas. Neither has he committed to \u201Cany date\u201D, added Mas. In fact, the authorisation needs to come from the Parliament\u2019s Bureau, chaired by Schulz but with members who are publicly against it. The Catalan President pointed out that one of the fourteen Vice Presidents of the Parliament, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, who is from Catalonia, is clearly against the idea. \u201CI know Vidal-Quadras for many years and I know that regarding Catalan it\u2019s useless to insist because he has radicalised his stance\u201D, stated Mas. \u201CWe do not count on his help, quite the contrary. We are convinced he will block it if he can, while other members of the People\u2019s Party (PP) are far more reasonable\u201D, affirmed Mas.

Catalan interpretation would not cost money

Despite the obstacles, the Catalan President is \u201Coptimistic\u201D because \u201Ctime has told us we are right, even though it is doing so slowly\u201D. \u201CNow is the time to spread the seeds and not harvest the fruits\u201D, he said. However, Mas wanted to clarify that the intervention in Catalan at the Brussels and Strasbourg plenary sessions \u201Cwould not cost money\u201D, as \u201Cmany Spanish translators are Catalan\u201D, and he knows the money issue \u201Ccan stress some people in these times of austerity\u201D, he concluded.

The fourth visit to EU institutions in one year

This latest trip is the Catalan President\u2019s fourth visit to Brussels in one year. In its previous journey's he met with other presidents of European institutions and key officials, such as José Manuel Durao Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

Catalan, the 13th most spoken language in the EU

Catalan is the 13th most widely spoken language within the EU, with more speakers than Bulgarian, Danish, Irish, Finnish, Slovakian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, Latvian, Estonian, and Maltese. All these 10 languages, some with less than half a million speakers can be spoken in all European institutions. Furthermore, citizens can address the institutions in these languages. Catalan can not be spoken, and many Catalan citizens feel their linguistic rights and identity are not being respected by a European Union whose motto is \u201CUnited in Diversity\u201D and by EU bodies Catalan citizens pay for, as Catalonia is a net contributor to the European Union\u2019s budget. Therefore, Catalan citizens contribute to pay for the translation of the 23 EU official languages but are not allowed to use their official language in the EU institutions, a language that is also for many their mother tongue.

Catalan is symbolically allowed in almost all EU bodies

The use of Catalan has been a difficult and complex matter, which very often is not really understood within the so-called Brussels bubble. However, over the last seven years, the use of Catalan has become more accepted and some institutions have signed special agreements that allow for its use. However, the European Parliament has been the only body refusing to sign any agreement to recognise Catalan and allow its use. The European Commission, the European Council, the Committee of the Regions, the Social and Economic Committee, the European Ombudsman, and the Court of Justice of the European Union have signed such agreements. For instance, in 2006 the European Commission allowed Catalan citizens to address letters or e-mails in their native language and the European Commission committed to answering back in Catalan, with the costs paid for by Spain. However, the Catalan association \u2018Horitzó Europa\u2019 has blamed the Spanish Government and Commission for not answering back in Catalan. Nonetheless, the European Commission\u2019s offices in Barcelona, as well as the European Parliament\u2019s offices in the Catalan capital, regularly issue publications in Catalan, as well as information campaigns and press releases. Furthermore they have their official websites in Catalan. In the European Council, Ministers from the Catalan Government are allowed to participate in ministerial meetings (in some areas, the Catalan Government has full powers) and they are allowed to speak in Catalan if it is informed seven weeks in advance. However, this only happens once every two years, as the Catalan ministers share a chair with the other 16 Autonomous Communities of Spain.

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  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas (left), with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz (right) (by J. Bedmar)

  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas (left), with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz (right) (by J. Bedmar)