Culture minister calls for everyone to join national pact for Catalan language
First meeting in February ahead of public consultation on way forward for Catalan
The Catalan culture minister, Natàlia Garriga, has invited "everyone" to sign up to the National Pact for the Language, as she announced the aims and timetable for the project on Wednesday.
With surveys showing a decline in the use of Catalan, and Spain's Supreme Court upholding a ruling that 25% of teaching in Catalan public schools must be done through Spanish, Garriga said that the new pact would "recognize" the unity of the language, the "complex and delicate" situation it is going through, and the need for action.
The National Pact for the Language will hold its first meeting in February when it will examine a report on the current situation of Catalan, written by seven experts in the field.
Members of the public will be able to submit their ideas and suggestions as part of a participatory process before July.
A framework agreement is due to be reached by the autumn, before being officially presented and signed in December, which will then serve as the basis for a future language policy plan.
This is a "crucial" moment for the future of Catalan, according to Garriga. The language has "nowhere near" the desired levels of knowledge, understanding and social use, and the language agreements of 40 years ago must be "updated and modernized," she said.
"Society has changed, it is diverse and multilingual; we need new tools and a realistic analysis of the situation of Catalan."
Public administration, education and research
Also present at the presentation of the pact on Wednesday was language policy secretary, Francesc Xavier Vila. He said the aim was not so much to set percentage targets but rather to establish "criteria and tools" to ensure the future of the language.
Vila also laid out the areas the pact will focus on, in order of priority: public administration, education and research, social cohesion, culture, audiovisual and media, digital and language technologies, socio-economic and work issues, healthcare services, leisure and sport, the relationship between Catalan-speaking territories, the national and international arena, and language quality. The initial budget for activities related to the pact is €345,000.
Socialists sign up
The leader of the opposition in the Catalan parliament, Salvador Illa, has confirmed to the culture minister that the Socialists will be taking part in the language pact, joining the two governing parties of the pro-independence coalition (Esquerra and Junts), alongside the far-left pro-independence CUP and left-wing Catalunya En Comú. "We have an outstretched hand and a desire to include everyone," Garriga said.
In December, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Barcelona in a peaceful protest against the court ruling imposing Spanish quotas in schools and defending the longstanding policy of linguistic immersion in Catalan public education.
The demonstration was called after the Catalan high court said that a school in Canet de Mar, a seaside town around 40km north of Barcelona, had to deliver 25% of the lessons of a certain class through Spanish, after the family of a pupil complained.
Catalan education department statistics reveal a decline in the use of Catalan in schools, despite its status as the official medium of communication in the classroom.
Below you can hear our podcast from November asking if social, political and technological challenges are putting the long-term survival of Catalan at risk?