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Madrid and Barcelona team up to make Catalan an EU language – POLITICO

The EU’s General Affairs Council is due to decide on Tuesday whether to give the green light to Spain’s proposal to make Catalan, Galician and Basque official EU languages.

In an unusually united position, the national government in Madrid and the Catalan regional government in Barcelona are jointly pushing the candidacy. The move is entirely linked to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s desire to stay in power after last July’s inconclusive national elections.

Socialist leader Sánchez needs the support of Catalan separatists to form a government and recognition of Catalan as an EU language is one of the conditions.

EU nationals have the right to use one of the bloc’s 24 official languages ​​to communicate with institutions and receive responses in that language. Additionally, all EU laws, proposals and decisions – past, present and future – must be translated into officially recognized languages.

However, achieving this recognition will require the unanimous support of all 27 member countries within the bloc’s General Affairs Council.

Ahead of the vote, Spain’s foreign ministry tried to convince its counterparts across Europe, and the country’s official diplomats loosely coordinated with their Catalan counterparts. Normally, interactions between Madrid and Barcelona’s foreign representatives are rare and often tense. But as Tuesday’s vote approached, senior officials with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations, who were granted anonymity to speak freely about the ongoing negotiations like the other officials cited in this article, said they There was a common determination to secure EU recognition despite the historic mistrust between the two parties.

Over the past decade, Catalonia has attempted to establish “embassies” around the world to expand the region’s “geographical zone of influence.”

The Spanish government has never liked delegations and, following the failure of the Catalan independence referendum in 2017, it quickly closed the offices that the region had opened in Brussels, Paris, Vienna, London , Berlin, Rome, Lisbon, Washington, New York and Copenhagen.

A 2020 ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court said the region’s foreign action network could not “undermine state-level powers,” but in recent years Catalonia has managed to reopen its old front -posts and to inaugurate new ones, bringing the total to 21. in practice.

While Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares spoke one-on-one with his EU counterparts, Catalan delegates from the nine outposts the region operates across Europe met with national officials and defended their cause, and the Catalan Minister of Foreign Action and the European Union, Meritxell Serret, in Aleu spoke with the heads of European consulates in Barcelona.

Despite this joint effort, it is very unlikely that the Spanish proposal will obtain unanimous support within the General Affairs Council.

Several diplomats told POLITICO they remained concerned about the potential cost of adding three more languages ​​to the 24 already recognized by the bloc, a move that would likely cost tens of millions of euros in translation costs.

Other officials said they worried about a possible domino effect: If Catalan, Galician and Basque were recognized, other European language groups could also demand the same official status.

Serret i Aleu said his region’s government had identified the most reluctant EU members and had done everything in its power to overcome their skepticism.

The regional minister said that recognition of the language is a question of equality and justice, not money, and stressed that “Catalan is one of the 15 most spoken languages ​​in Europe… it is a democratic anomaly that 10 million people cannot speak to the institutions of their country. language.”

An EU official said no country was interested in a confrontation with Madrid over the issue, but there were still too many doubts for a unanimous green light to the proposal. A possible compromise could be to request additional information on the cost and legal implications of recognition and continue the discussion in a working group, which would significantly slow progress on the issue.

This solution is unlikely to satisfy the Catalan government and the separatist parties whose support Sánchez desperately needs. Serret i Aleu said Barcelona would hold Madrid responsible if the proposal was not adopted.

“The responsibility lies with the Spanish government, which must keep its promises,” Serret i Aleu said. “They have brought it to the Council table, but it is not enough… We must do everything possible to make it prosper.”

The Spanish government did not respond to POLITICO’s request for comment.

Barbara Moens, Gregorio Sorgi and Jakob Hanke-Vela contributed reporting.


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