The Catalan government has launched a massive public relations campaign across Europe as negotiations to reform the roster of official EU languages continue with the next ministerial meeting on the subject scheduled for Tuesday (24 October).
The campaign, launched on Friday, will last for eight days across all 27 EU countries with adverts in public spaces and media in all 24 current EU official languages, in a bid to increase public awareness of Catalonia’s demand.
“We want to explain that we seek this officialdom in an empathetic way, that they [EU citizens] see it in a positive way and that they see that it is to reinforce this European project, to reinforce this richness and this diversity that is essential,” Catalan Foreign Affairs Minister Meritxell Serret told Euractiv.
Rather than only focusing on Catalan, the campaign “is a defence and praise of all languages”, she said.
🇪🇺 From Catalonia we give you this campaign so you can promote your language.
If you also love languages, help us make Catalan official in Europe.
— Catalan Gov. EU (@Catalonia_EU) October 20, 2023
After July’s general election, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares officially requested that the EU Council start the process of adding Catalan, Basque and Galician as EU official languages in August, as the first step in negotiations with Catalan independence parties to secure their support to form a socialist government headed by Pedro Sánchez.
As Spain tried to rush the adoption of a final decision by EU countries on 19 September, several countries raised concerns over the proposal, especially about its costs, practicalities, and the possible domino effect on other minority languages in Europe.
The regional government and its international delegations have also circulated among EU countries in the last weeks an ‘argumentative’ report, seen by Euractiv, while also meeting with public authorities at different levels in Brussels, Barcelona, and Madrid.
The report contains rebuttals to concerns expressed by EU member states on making Catalan an official language, particularly costs and operational feasibility.
Stating that Catalan is used by 10 million speakers and is one of the 15 most spoken EU languages, the report argues that its exclusion from being an official EU language would be a ‘democratic anomaly’.
As for the costs, the Catalan government offers any resources at their disposal and reminds member states that translation accounts for less than 1% of the EU budget.
“It is important to bear in mind that, in terms of human resources, 25% of the staff interpreters and 30% of the interpreters in the EU’s pool of external staff are also competent to work in Catalan,” the report continues.
EU countries are set to discuss Spain’s proposal again during a meeting of general affairs ministers on 24 October. Despite Spain’s and Catalonia’s efforts to convince EU countries and Catalan Minister Serret stating that “things are moving”, the overall position has not changed.
Member states want more time to thoroughly analyse the implications of making Catalan, Basque, and Galician official EU languages, and this is likely to be a lengthy process, three diplomats told Euractiv.
Serret is also aware that the process is far from over, as “there may be questions that still require us to continue working to give them this certainty” while adding that the dossier will not be approved until there is “technical and juridical” clarity.
Another key issue that Catalonia seeks to address is member states’ view that making Catalan an official language is linked to the process of forming a progressive government in Spain, which has caused frustration among diplomats.
In the ‘argumentative’ report, the Catalan government argues that the request for language recognition has been a long-term request of Spain and Catalonia. At the campaign launch on Friday, Serret said that the request dates back to 1987 when the Balearic Islands Parliament approved the first official request.
“We need to ensure that this historical opportunity is not missed,” Serret said.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Nathalie Weatherald]
Read more with EURACTIV