Spain 'not granting deserved protection' to Catalan, president says at UN

Pere Aragonès denounces Catalan is a "minoritized language" in United Nations Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva

Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, during a speech at the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva
Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, during a speech at the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva / Catalan government
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Geneva

December 1, 2022 12:26 PM

December 1, 2022 06:58 PM

The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, has said that Spain is "not granting the deserved protection and recognition" to Catalan over time. 

The leader made these remarks on Thursday during a speech at the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva, where he also said that his language is "minoritized," that is, suffering from "discrimination" by authorities such as the Spanish government.

Catalan "cannot be considered a minority language, as it has 10 million speakers," he said but "Italy, France, and Spain have not granted total recognition" to Catalan, he added, referring to all territories where the language is spoken, including not only Catalonia but the Valencia region, the Balearic Islands, a strip in Aragon, the so-called Northern Catalonia administratively in southern France, and Alghero, a city in the Italian island of Sardinia.

There is a "clear consensus" in Catalonia to "stop the Catalan language being replaced by the Spanish one," before talking about some of the initiatives, such as the Parliamentary decree approved in June 2022 to use the language as vehicular in schools. 

"Neither Italy, France, nor Spain have offered the Catalan language the full recognition and protection that any language in the world deserves," Catalan president Pere Aragonès, said

In that case, the new legislation was intended to protect the language despite the judicial order to put an end to the current immersion system and introduce a 25% Spanish quota.

During his speech at the UN Forum, Aragonès said that the audiovisual sector is one of the fields where authorities have to work on in order to "regulate the digital space" in a way that includes and does not discriminate against all languages.

He pointed out his "concerns for the future of the Catalan language" as surveys continue to show a decrease in the use of the language in society.

For him, it is essential to "preserve all languages as a way to protect equality rights for everyone," regardless of whether they are a language backed by a country or a "stateless" one. 

The leader of the Catalan government started his speech in Catalan before switching to English and explaining that "Catalonia is a modern, advanced and prosperous nation," with "culture and language" as a "key role" in ensuring and promoting the "social cohesion of the territory." 

UN Forum on Minority Issues

Pere Aragonès was invited to the first meeting of the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues by Fernand de Varennes, the UN Special Rapporteur on the matter. 

"Minorities are entitled to full and equal protection of their fundamental rights," he said before Aragonès spoke. 

During his time as the rapporteur, he has suffered several attacks to silence him and even "silence the voice of minorities," he announced as he has seen "an increase of hate speech, hate crimes, and even atrocities, often targeted at minorities." 

"This is one of the greatest challenges the United Nations is currently facing," he concluded.

Fresh push for Catalan

Aragonès addressed the UN two days after the Catalan government launched a fresh push to boost the use of Catalan with an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Tuesday focusing on the language.

After the meeting, Catalan president Pere Aragonès presented a new program of 100 measures with initiatives being implemented or planned for next year focusing especially on schools, medical centers, and the audiovisual sector.

Filling the Sink podcast episode

Catalan is a vibrant, living language with 10 million speakers and a history stretching back to the Middle Ages, but statistics show a decline in use and language activists say it needs more protection, not least in classrooms and on online streaming platforms.

Listen to our Filling the Sink podcast episode published in November 2021 to learn more about it.