This Tuesday, European ministers postponed, sine die, the decision on the Spanish request for Galician, Basque and Catalan to be official languages. They want more time to study and debate the proposal, they want legal reports, a cost estimate and an assessment of what the impact could be on the functioning of the European Union.
The 27 have not put a veto on the table, not at the moment, although unanimity is required for approval. Spain has offered to assume all the resulting expenses, has assured that it is “good for Europe” and is in line with the “multilingualism objectives set out in Article 3 of the Treaties” and has even, in an unexpected turn, offered to “prioritize Catalan” and leave the other two for later. But still, the General Affairs Council has decided to postpone the debate until they have data, reports from the institutions’ services and more clarity. Which in the best case scenario will be many months.
That the Spanish proposal, which was express for debate and approval, was not going to come out was no surprise. Many countries have made it clear these weeks, publicly and privately, that this was not the way to address the issue. They understand Spain’s hurry, the political relevance for the Government, but they believe that things cannot be done that way. “The Government has fulfilled its commitment,” he has assured Brussels the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares. “Today we have launched the reform of regulation” 1/58 that affects the linguistic regime of the Union. It was all Spain could do, because the decision belongs to everyone.
But the surprise has come from the decision to put Catalan before Basque and Galician. “The presidency [que este semestre corresponde precisamente a nuestro país] has confirmed that no one has expressed a veto. No Member State has vetoed,” Minister Albares highlighted. “Some have asked for more time to analyze what development and implementation would look like. We have agreed to continue working to respond and channel comments“, has added.
One of the issues that countries like Sweden o Finland have stated in writing, and many others in private, is the cost of adding three languages at once. “Spain has indicated its commitment to assume any costs, as we have done since 2005 for administrative arrangements. And Transitional periods and gradualness have been proposed. We have agreed to give priority to Catalan and then continue with the other two languages“explained the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has come expressly to give political weight to the meeting, since usually in these European meetings the representative is the Secretary of State.