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Spain's “linguistic discrimination” debated in the European Committe on Civil Liberties for the first time

The situation of the Catalan language in the Spanish state has been debated, for the first time ever, in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament. This Thursday the European Language Equality Network (ELEN), Europe’s only international civil society organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of regional, minority and endangered languages, warned of the “outrageous” discrimination regarding the use of Catalan in many spheres of public life in Spain. ELEN’s general secretary, Davyth Hicks, presented the latest report published by ‘Plataforma per la Llengua’ a non-governmental organisation that works to promote Catalan as a tool for social cohesion and stated that Spain is “violating the Charter of Fundamental Rights” and, therefore, called for proceedings against Spain for “linguistic discrimination”.

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17 March 2016 07:42 PM

by

ACN

Brussels (CNA).- The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament has discussed the situation of the Catalan language in the Spanish state for the first time ever. The European Language Equality Network (ELEN), Europe’s only international civil society organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of regional, minority and endangered languages, presented the latest report published by ‘Plataforma per la Llengua’ a non-governmental organisation that works to promote Catalan as a tool for social cohesion. ELEN’s general secretary, Davyth Hicks, described the situation of the Catalan language in Spain as “very serious” and called for proceedings against Spain for “linguistic discrimination”. The Catalan MEPs were pleased that the Committee debated the matter and hoped that the discussion could lead to a deeper debate. 


“We will be pressing for further measures”, stated Hicks as Spain “violated the Charter of Fundamental Rights”. He emphasised that the EU can’t continue ignoring a situation which, besides being “very serious” is “outrageous and completely unacceptable in Europe today”.  

Some of the reported acts of discrimination which appear in the ‘Plataforma per la Llengua’s latest report include, amongst others, “beatings, people being refused hospital treatment and parents losing their children's custody” because of their use of Catalan.

According to Hicks, the presentation of the report is “the beginning of a process” which he expects to lead to a comprehensive debate to be held soon on the Catalan question and also on that of other minority languages in Europe. 

Catalan MEPs celebrate the debate

Left-wing pro-independence ERC MEP Josep Maria Terricabras described it as “exceptional” that the situation of the Catalan language in Spain had been discussed in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, which is considered “much more political” than the Committee on Petitions, in which it had been previously discussed. “For the first time ever, the Committee made it their issue and took it to another level”, he stated.

According to Terricabras, “the European Commission should take part in it as the Spanish state doesn’t fulfil its own legislation regarding linguistic discrimination”. In this vein, Terricabras also called for the holding of a “monographic” session on the matter in which the situation of other languages in Europe could also be discussed. 

Liberal CDC MEP Ramon Tremosa stated that what made the debate effective is the possibility to “lay the topic on the table” and that “MEPs from other countries could see that the Catalan question is present”. Tremosa stressed that some of the cases reported by ‘Plataforma per la Llengua’ would make their politicians’ “hair stand on end” if they happened in their countries. 

According to Tremosa, this debate would allow “the democratic and civil practices of the Spanish state to be put in front of the mirror”. A Spanish state which, he warned “has a very low democratic quality in many aspects, including as regards language”.

UPyD: The report “is an instrument” to support the nationalist agenda

On the other hand, Spanish unionist UPyD MEP Teresa Giménez denied that Catalan was discriminated against in Catalonia, it is “entirely the opposite”, she stated. “This is an instrument for the establishment to support its nationalist agenda”, she stated and described the cases reported by ‘Plataforma per la Llengua’ as “anecdotes without any kind of rigour nor statistical backing”. “This report is an expression of linguistic Talibanism” she stated and assured that Spanish society “is one of the most open in Europe in terms of linguistic rights”.

Spanish Socialist MEP and former Spanish Minister for Justice, Juan Fernando López, assured that the statements made by ELEN were “much distorted”. “Saying that Catalan is prosecuted and that there is police brutality is completely nonsense” he stated. “Pluralism in Spain has been protected for more than 30 years and is exercised normally”. 

‘Plataforma per la Llengua’, an NGO defending the Catalan language

Born in 1993, ‘Plataforma per la Llengua’ is a non-governmental organisation that works to promote Catalan as a tool for social cohesion. 

The report presented by ELEN was published by ‘Plataforma per la Llengua’ this March under the title ‘If you address me in Catalan I’ll suspend the proceedings”. This new report presents 37 cases of discrimination that occurred between the 1st of July 2013 and the 31st of December 2015 which exemplify that infringement of individual rights, such as linguistic rights, in the Spanish state “is a contemporary and by no means sporadic process in a society that calls itself a 21st-Century democracy”. The infringements described “stem from racist or supremacist concepts of the state and of its linguistic management”. Through this report, the Platform intends to denounce these cases because they “break the law, taking into account the fact that Spain ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and that therefore it cannot discriminate against the speakers of these languages or enact or enforce legislation that prevents people from using them”.

Some of the acts of discrimination documented constitute “harassment of the speaker through the administration's position of superiority: ridicule, arrest, insults and even physical assault”. In other case, the discrimination translates into a loss of money or time due to the obstacles used by the administration to hamper, block and discourage the public use of official languages in Spain other than Spanish. 

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  • Image of the European Parliament's Committee on freedom justice and home affairs (by ACN)

  • Image of the European Parliament's Committee on freedom justice and home affairs (by ACN)