MADRID — The Spanish government said on Wednesday it will ask the European Parliament to consider allowing the use of Catalan in the chamber, in what would be a first for a European regional language.
Madrid will present to the Parliament’s board in Brussels a “technically and financially viable” proposal and work to gather a majority among the board’s members to support the change, with the aim of getting it approved before year-end, the Catalan regional and central governments said in a joint statement.
Spain will extend the request to be used at the parliament for its the other two official regional languages, Basque and Galician, if their regional governments ask for it.
In order for a language to be declared official, it is necessary for the government of an European Union (EU) member state to request it expressly and to receive unanimous approval from the EU Council, a parliament spokesperson said.
Catalan is widely spoken in Catalonia, along with Spanish, and is also used with certain variations in two nearby regions. Its use was suppressed during General Francisco Franco’s 1939-1975 dictatorship in Spain.
Catalonia’s separatist government is on a drive to protect and promote the use of Catalan following several recent legal battles in courts by citizens and groups seeking to curb its use in public schools.
The plan to approach the European Parliament for permission to use it there was announced after talks with the Spanish leftist coalition government, which has taken a more conciliatory approach to the separatists than its conservative predecessor.
There are currently 24 official languages in the European Parliament and any new language would imply significant additional translation requirements.
Catalan nationalist parties have long pushed for the language’s use in European institutions.
They argue that the northeastern Spanish region has a higher population — over seven million people — than EU countries such as Denmark, Croatia and Slovenia, whose national languages are used in the bloc’s parliament.
Spain will also look to extend the use of Catalan in the chamber of its national Senate, Spain’s presidency minister Felix Bolanos told a media briefing after the announcement. — Reuters