Despite Protests, the Spanish Senate Proceeds to Outsource Language Services

Outsourcing of Language Services in Spanish Senate 2024

In September 2023, the Spanish Congress began using Basque, Catalan, and Galician along with Spanish in congress sessions and documentation. Prior to the amendment to Article 6 of the rules of congress that ratified the measure, members of congress had only used the three co-official languages in written documentation for select procedures.

The EFE Spanish international news agency reported at the time that about six interpreters had been hired, and that no permanent contracts would be available.

By December 2023, according to Spanish language news site Infobae, congress expenditure just on interpreting equipment to accommodate the new languages had amounted to about EUR 53,000.

Another news source, the Spanish ABC daily reported at the time that the budget for interpreting services in 2023 was EUR 280,000 and EUR 3,000 for transcription, and that the Senate had issued a call for tenders worth about EUR 0.75m.

A little over a month later, on January 23, 2024, the political party Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) asked the Senate to reconsider the outsourcing of language services. 

Alleging that outsourcing leaves interpreters in a “helpless” situation and “suffering a setback in their rights and working conditions,” Junts representative Josep Lluís Cleries requested the outsourcing of interpretation and translation services in co-official languages to be reconsidered, according to Infobae.

The same news source reported that on January 24, 2024, the Senate rejected the request, qualifying the terms of the tender to be the most appropriate. The contract will not require translators and interpreters to be present in the Senate, which will save the government money on transportation expenses.

In Spain, co-official language use has been leveraged by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s party to gain support from regional political parties after the July 2023 general elections, with pro-independence Catalonian parties making it a key aspect of continued negotiations. 

The co-official language topic has been brought up frequently in congressional discussions, reinforced by Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel Albares’ petition to the EU to include Catalan, Basque, and Galician as official EU languages while the country held the presidency of the European Union in 2023.

The EU discussed and put on hold the request with no mention of when or if the matter would be revisited.