EU Petitions Committee report sees Catalan language model in schools as 'dysfunctional'

Conservatives and far-right MEP approve report amid progressive boycott

Petitions Committee vote on report on Catalan language system in schools
Petitions Committee vote on report on Catalan language system in schools / Albert Cadanet

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

March 19, 2024 05:18 PM

March 19, 2024 08:36 PM

The European Parliament's Petitions Committee has voted in favor of a report that questions the Catalan language immersion model in schools. 

The initial draft report, published in December, recommended that Catalan and Spanish be given “equal” treatment in the classroom, and was the conclusion of a fact-finding mission from the European Parliament, which visited Catalonia in December last year to assess the Catalan model.  

The majority of the MEPs who took part in the mission were from conservative or far-right parties, while MEPs from the Socialist, Green, and left groups boycotted it for its “political bias”.  

Now, in the approved report, which doesn’t have significant changes compared to the draft, the Committee MEPs express their “concern” about the “serious dysfunctions” they say the Catalan model creates for students whose first language is Spanish. 

The report also criticizes the “controversies” of the model, referring to “cases of social exclusion, intimidation and bullying of both children and their parents,” as it once again calls for Spanish and Catalan to be treated equally.  

According to the report, Catalonia is also “making it difficult” for newly arrived families to send their children to Spanish school.  

The amendments to the report were introduced by the head of the mission that visited Catalonia, Yana Toom, an Estonian MEP who belongs to the Russian minority in the Baltic country. Toom has previously expressed concern that Russian, her mother tongue, faces discrimination.

As with the draft version, the final report was approved with votes from conservative and far-right parties, while progressives once again boycotted.

Catalan reactions 

Following its approval, the Catalan pro-independence party Junts Per Catalunya called the report “an absurdity.”  

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Junts MEP Toni Comín said that the “Commission doesn’t have the competence to deal with the issue, which the president, Dolors Montserrat, herself has admitted.” 

“It only serves to destroy the reputation of the Committee of the European Union,” said Comín, adding, “If anyone has a dangerous friendship with the Putin regime, it’s Dolors Montserrat through Yana Toom”.  

Montserrat is from the conservative People’s Party (PP). 

Similarly, Catalan left-wing Esquerra Republicana MEP Diana Riba called the right-wing and far-right use of the Petitions Committee “biased”, and reiterated Comín’s point that the committee doesn’t have educational or linguistic competencies to rule over the matter. 

The Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja criticized the report and demanded that Montserrat be “held responsible” for “misusing” European Parliament funds to “benefit themselves”, referring to the PP.

On the other side of the political spectrum, right-wing Ciutadans MEP Maite Pagaza celebrated the report after its approval, calling it a “giant step” towards “ending the taboo of the language policy in Catalonia.”

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