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EU countries to slow Spain?s new official languages bid

European Union member states seek to study the financial and legal consequences of making Catalan, Basque, and Galician official EU languages, making it unlikely for the bloc to speedily reach a decision, as initially hoped for by Spain.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jos? Manuel Albares officially requested the EU Council to start the process of adding Catalan, Basque and Galician as EU official languages in August to secure enough support – especially from the Catalan independentist parties – to swear in Francina Armengol as Spain?s parliament chief, all in the context of negotiations to form a government.

The EU Council Presidency, currently held by Spain, thus scheduled the debate and the adoption of a decision for a meeting next Tuesday.

However, it seems EU countries are planning to slow down the process, with Sweden being the first country to publicly flag its concerns.

“We believe that it needs to be investigated more thoroughly what the legal and financial consequences of the proposal are”, the Swedish government expressed in a statement.

The rushed approach by the Spanish government is a common concern among member states, which seek to carefully understand the operational implications of the move – especially the costs – before forming a position, EURACTIV learned from three EU diplomats.

“Such a decision requires a careful process; a decision in two weeks is really quite ambitious”, one of the diplomats said.

Another shared concern remains that other minority languages could follow and seek the same official EU status. “There are many minority languages that are not official languages of the EU”, the Swedes argue.

The Catalan?s stance

“We do not consider the possibility of not approving this official status of Catalan in Europe”, Catalan Minister of the Presidency Laura Vilagr? i Pons told the press on Wednesday.

Faced with EU countries’ lukewarm stance, Vilagr? i Pons told EURACTIV that, though being “in permanent contact” with several governments, it is up to the Spanish authorities to rally the necessary support, which have a “commitment” to the task and now need to “rise to the occasion”.

Vilagr? i Pons also downplayed EU countries? cost concerns, arguing that translation services account for a very small part of the EU budget while affirming that “the defence of the linguistic rights of millions of Europeans should not be an economic discussion”.

“Improved machine translation tools and artificial intelligence mean that translation costs can be significantly reduced in the coming years?, she added, while also expressing that Catalonia is ready to step up and contribute with resources.

“The [Catalan] government is and will be at the disposal of the European institutions and, if they require it, we will use all the resources at our disposal to make the officiality effective”, she concluded.

A socialist government on the line

The incorporation of Catalan, Basque, and Galician as EU official languages is part of a series of concessions by Spain?s socialists to gather enough support to form a government – especially the support of Catalan independentist parties Junts per Catalunya (JxCat/NI) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC/GreensEFA).

Achieving the officiality of Catalan is the first step to building trust for further negotiations and to “verify” the Spanish government’s commitment, JxCat?s leader and MEP Carles Puigdemont said during a press conference, adding that “if Spain wants it, it can do it”.

Further demands by Catalan independentists in exchange for their support include an amnesty law, a referendum, and taxation competencies for Catalonia.

As part of the negotiations the coalition parties, PSOE and Sumar, have also agreed to allow the use of Catalan, Basque, and Galician and other regional languages in the Spanish parliament.

(Max Griera Euractiv.com)

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