Government split on how to ensure Catalan in schools after Spanish quota ruling

Junts rejects proposed legislation change as 'it will not avoid 25% imposition of Spanish'

The Catalan cabinet meeting convened on May 10, 2022 (by Rubén Moreno / Catalan government)
The Catalan cabinet meeting convened on May 10, 2022 (by Rubén Moreno / Catalan government) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 12, 2022 12:57 PM

The two pro-independence Catalan government partners are split on how to make sure Catalan remains the working language in schools, despite the Spanish Supreme Court ruling ordering a minimum of 25% of classes be given through Spanish.

The cabinet's junior partner, Junts per Catalunya, has ruled out supporting an initiative led by senior partner Esquerra Republicana, together with opposition left-wing Socialists and anti-austerity En Comú Podem, in order to change the language policy law to dodge the judicial ruling.

For Junts, there is no point in amending the piece of legislation since "it will not avoid the 25% imposition of Spanish."

"We will not adapt the law to an unfair sentence," said Josep Rius, party spokesperson. 

Junts, together with Esquerra, the Socialists and En Comú Podem, agreed in late March on a bill, which, if approved, would see Catalan considered "the language of Catalonia." It describes Catalan as the main language of instruction in schools but says Spanish is used in accordance with the terms set by each school's language objectives.

This was a joint effort to make a move to respond the Supreme Court's ruling, but at the same time trying to preserve the Catalan immersion system. Yet, Junts, a few hours later, U-turned and said they could not greenlight the agreement pending more discussions. On Thursday, they finally confirmed they are not going to support the measure.

Esquerra would have enough votes to pass it with the two opposition parties, but this could carry instability to the executive as the two partners would vote differently while having the same final aim: preserving the four-decade-long immersion system, for which Catalan is the only working language in order to bolster it as a minority language. 

On Wednesday, President Aragonès, a senior member of Esquerra, urged parties to accept the amendment of the language policy law as one of the "tools" to counter the judicial ruling. And on Thursday, his party criticized Junts' decision for having "prioritized partisan interests" and does not rule out passing the bill with the opposition. 

Indeed, En Comú Podem urges to pass it next week with an extraordinary plenary session and accused Junts of "not being compliant, while the Socialists also accused Junts of being partisan and said the bill should go forward regardless.

2-week deadline to respond judicial ruling

On Monday, the Catalan high court (TSJC) set a two-week deadline for the Catalan government to introduce a 25% Spanish language quota in all Catalan schools, thus putting an end to the current system, in which Catalan is the only working language. 

Magistrates ordered education minister Josep González Cambray to give instructions to schools and to ensure that Spanish is used in the classroom not only for the Spanish language subject – while the politician flatly rejected the judicial move, he admitted on Thursday that he is "very likely" to give some instruction to schools over the TSJC ruling.

The TSJC's decision stems from the Supreme Court ruling on November 23, 2021, which obliged Catalonia to put an end to Catalan as the only language of instruction by introducing a 25% Spanish language quota.