Spain wants recognition of Catalan, Basque and Galician as EU languages

by Lorraine Williamson
EU languages

MADRID – Spain recently pushed for recognition of Catalan, Basque and Galician as official EU languages. This request was submitted by the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, in August this year. 

The timing seems strategic: Spain currently holds the presidency of the EU Council and is in the process of forming a new government. 

The Spanish government had hoped that by recognising these languages, it would gain sufficient support for the election of Francina Armengol as the new speaker of parliament. This support would come mainly from Catalan independence parties. It seems like a political manoeuvre to negotiate with regional forces. 

EU states have their doubts 

Although Spain hoped for a quick decision, several EU member states, led by Sweden, have expressed their doubts. The reasons? The financial and legal implications of adding these languages to the official EU register. EU states emphasise the importance of carefully analysing the financial and operational impact before making a decision. 

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Response from Catalonia 

Catalan politicians, such as Laura Vilagrau i Pons, remain optimistic. They emphasise that translation costs are only a fraction of the EU budget. They also argue that the language rights of millions of Europeans should come before economic discussions. Therefore, they are prepared to use all available resources to have these languages recognised as official EU languages. 

Fear of a domino effect 

One of the concerns of EU Member States is that recognising these languages as official EU languages would set a precedent. Other minority languages may follow the same path, leading to further complications. This argument is put forward in particular by Sweden. 

Consequences for Spanish politics 

This issue has a deeper layer, as the Socialist Party (PSOE) and its coalition partners must make concessions to form a government. They would need the support of the Catalan nationalists. The concessions also include the use of these languages in the Spanish parliament and entering into further negotiations on Catalan independence. 

The EU states plan to slow down the process. This is despite the political calculations of the Spanish government and the optimistic attitude of Catalan politicians. Moreover, a quick decision, as hoped by Spain, seems unlikely. 

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