Minister slams 'biased' EU mission on Catalan language immersion policy 

Fact-finding visit to evaluate system is facing strong criticism

MEPs at the office of the European Parliament in Barcelona during the visit
MEPs at the office of the European Parliament in Barcelona during the visit / Eli Don
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

December 19, 2023 02:33 PM

December 19, 2023 07:33 PM

The European Parliament's fact-finding mission in Catalonia to evaluate the Catalan language immersion model in schools is facing strong criticism.

On the second day of the visit, nine members of the Committee visited two schools in El Prat de Llobregat, Can Rigol School and Salvador Dalí Institute, where 25% of the classes are taught in Spanish. Earlier, they met with the President of Catalonia's High Court José María Barrientos.

Catalonia's education minister, Anna Simó, met the mission on Tuesday afternoon, with School Council president Jesús Vinyes also in attendance. 

Patrícia Plaja, the Catalan government spokesperson, said MEPs "come with manipulated discourse and a preconceived idea. The visit has no interest in knowing our educational model."

Meritxell Serret, the Catalan Minister of Foreign Action, said that the European Parliament's mission is an "artificial and biased controversy from the Spanish right".

Serret pointed out that the EU committee has 66 members, but only 12 MEPs - all from the conservative PP, the far-right Vox and the liberal Renew - traveled to Catalonia.   

"European progressives have refused to participate," she said. "The visit only seeks to fuel a self-interested and political controversy that has no relevance for Europe."  

Emphasizing the success of the immersion policy, Serret said, "there have only been about eighty complaints about the language immersion model, as opposed to 27 million students enrolled." 


Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja accused MEPs of "coming with manipulated discourse and a preconceived idea."

"The visit has no interest in knowing our educational model," she added.

Teachers' union: 'Farce'

The spokesperson for the main teachers' union in Catalonia, Iolanda Segura, branded the mission a " farce", saying that the MEPs came "with a predetermined lesson" and they branded the Catalan language immersion system as "detrimental to learning."  

The civic group National Catalan Assembly (ANC) also slammed the "instrumentalization" of language immersion by the European Parliament's petitions committee.   

"The mission that has just taken place in Catalonia is a blatant example of discrimination against the linguistic rights of the Catalan minority, which are protected by various international instruments," they said in a letter sent to the EU parliament. 

The conservative People's Party of Catalonia defended the mission, arguing that the European Parliament's visit exists because there is a "problem" in the education system, as "demonstrated" by the results of the latest PISA report.   

Reyes also called for a "reflection on the educational model we want for our children" and stressed the need for children to be " proficient" in Catalan and Spanish, but also English and mathematics. 

The EU visit comes after Catalonia's results in the 2022 PISA tests fell in all three areas of assessment, putting Catalan students below the average for Spain and other OECD countries.  

Last week, however, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, said he was "seriously concerned" by recent decisions to restrict the use of Catalan in schools and defended the immersion policy.   

"If the use of Catalan in the successful immersion program in Catalonia is reduced, there is a risk that students from Spanish-speaking backgrounds will not learn Catalan well, as it is a minority language. Spanish is the majority language in the country and its daily use and exposure is guaranteed and preferred," the text said.    

Listen to our podcast Filling the Sink to learn more about the immersion system.