EU Defers Decision on Making Basque, Catalan, Galician Official EU Languages

EU Defers Decision on Making Basque, Catalan, Galician Official EU Languages

On September 19, 2023, the Council of the European Union discussed Spain’s request to include Basque, Catalan, and Galician as official languages of the EU. Although not rejected outright, the request put forth on August 17th by the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, was put on hold.

In its official meeting summary, the Council said it “had a constructive exchange and decided to continue working on the request by Spain to amend Regulation No 1 … The General Affairs Council will remain seized of the matter.” The agenda for the next meeting does not include this topic and there is no mention of when discussions around Spain’s request will resume. 

Prior to the September 19 Council meeting, Sweden had expressed concerns around what was labeled as “haste” for something that the representative of the Nordic country said needed “a more thorough investigation.”

Days before the Council met, Spain also held the first congressional session in which the three co-official languages were allowed for central government business for the first time. Approval of a modification of Article 6 of the rules of the Spanish Congress for permanent inclusion of co-official languages is still pending. 

Language as Political Leverage

In domestic Spanish politics, the issue of language use figures prominently in all negotiations between current Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez´s party and the Catalonian political parties, which include pro-independence collectives. 

After July’s general elections, no clear winner for the PM position emerged, and Sánchez has since been seeking the support of Catalonian parties to form a government.

In anticipation of the September 26 2023 European Day of Languages, Sánchez also defended multilingualism as he presided over a related event at Instituto Cervantes, an official government body created in 1991 to promote the Spanish language. 

According to the La Verdad journal, in his intervention, Sánchez spoke of the use of co-official languages as a “political decision against those who want to cut them off and censor them.”

Spain will preside over the EU government until December 31, 2023, and the Financial Times reported that during the Council meeting, Albares proposed to roll out Catalan first, saying that there was greater insistence from the Catalan-speaking community, and reminding attendants that Spain was willing to finance the incorporation of all three languages into the EU.