Heated clash in EU Parliament over Catalan language immersion report

Progressive bloc seeks to delay debate, accuses conservatives of impartiality

Chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels where the report was debated
Chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels where the report was debated / Albert Cadanet
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

February 14, 2024 12:19 PM

February 14, 2024 08:23 PM

MEPs in the European Parliament's Petitions Committee today clashed over the report on the Catalan language immersion model in schools.

The draft report, first published by the Catalan News Agency (ACN) on Tuesday, recommends that Catalan and Spanish be given "equal" treatment in classrooms.

A fact-finding mission from the European Parliament visited Catalonia in December to assess the Catalan language immersion model in schools.

Only MEPs from conservative or far-right parties took part in the mission, while MEPs from the Socialist, Green and Left groups openly boycotted it, criticizing its "political bias". 

During today's debate in the EU Parliament, members of the conservative bloc faced accusations of "impartiality" as allegations surfaced that the mission was being exploited as part of a "political campaign" for Spain's conservative People's Party (PP).

The progressive bloc tried to postpone the debate, arguing that they had received the report in less than 24 hours. They claimed that the report was only available in English, which violated their "linguistic rights."

The committee's president, conservative Dolors Montserrat, defended that the mission had received fair and equal treatment.

"We are not voting on anything today, it is just a debate. I do not understand the fuss over something that has been done the same way in all missions for the last four years," she said.

In response, Socialist MEP Ibán García del Blanco said: "The European People's Party is in the hands of the electoral strategy of the Spanish People's Party."

During the debate, Yana Toom, the head of the mission who visited Catalonia, called for "the protection of families who demand Spanish education for their children". She also denounced cases of "harassment" and "social exclusion" in Catalan schools.


"On one hand," Toom said, "we talked with authorities that were vehemently convinced the language immersion model they have built is necessary for the continuation of the Catalan language, and they’re willing to consider any families that suffer from it as collateral damage that is worth it so long as the objective is achieved."

"On the other hand, we talked with families that showed us the extent they had to go to get more education in Spanish and the terrible treatment they faced afterwards."

"The two positions are so diametrically opposite that it can be hard to imagine how the two can be reconciled," Toom said.

The draft report states that the education system in Catalonia "should give equal treatment to Spanish and Catalan as languages of education".

It also speaks of "intimidation" and "hate speech" against families who have used the courts to demand that 25 percent of classes be taught in Spanish, in accordance with a legal ruling.

Parties now have until March 1 to submit amendments to the report, which will be voted on March 19.

To learn more about the Catalan language immersion model in schools, listen to this episode of our podcast Filling the Sink.