Politics 22/09/2021

Senate will study putting Catalan and Spanish on the same level in the upper house

Socialists endorse processing of reform of the rules proposed by Junts

3 min
The senator of Juntos Josep Lluís Cleries, in an archive image in the Senate

MadridThe Senate is the chamber of territorial representation, but the chamber's rules allow for a limited use of co-official languages. Catalan, Basque and Galician can be used to defend motions in the plenary, in the autonomous communities commission or to submit written documents. Together for Catalonia (JxCat) believes this is insufficient and the group proposed a reform of the regulations of the upper house so that co-official languages can be used in "all the parliamentary activity" without exceptions, whether in plenary sessions (in all debates, not only those related to motions), in commissions and other activities. The Socialists, the plural left (which includes Unidas Podemos) and the Catalan and Basque pro-independence groups have voted in favour, allowing the initiative to begin to be processed in the chamber, in the face of opposition from PP, Ciudadanos and Vox.

"Why when we ask a minister a question can't we do it in our own language, which is co-official in the state? Why has the constitutional pact forgotten that there are several languages and several nations?", asked JxCat senator Josep Lluís Cleries, who has defended the reform of the regulation to achieve "equal treatment and dignity towards all languages" of the State. "No language is above any other," he added. The senator considered the 2010 reform currently in force insufficient, and he will seek to make all co-official languages interchangeable in the Senate: "To give a real image, if the Spanish state wants to represent cultural and linguistic diversity".

The votes of the 113 socialist senators have been key so the initiative could begin its processing of the Senate. Now it will be debated in committees, where the groups can negotiate modifications to Junts' proposal. "The socialist group is multilingual", defended the socialist senator Margarita Adrio. "Languages enrich a country, they are our heritage," she added, and recalled her Galician origins. Senators from the Plural Left spoke along the same lines, as did Basque Nationalist Party's Imanol Anda, who defended the initiative to advance "towards normality" in the Senate.

JxCat's initiative has been debated in the same week as the first draft of the new audiovisual law was published, which does not reserve a specific quota for the State's co-official languages on digital platforms. The Catalan pro-independence parties have already shown their disagreement with this draft and have demanded modifications from the Socialists. In fact, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has asked for changes in this issue to advance in the negotiations for the State budget.

Frontal opposition of PP, Ciudadanos and Vox

People's Party senator Alícia Sánchez-Camacho refuted Cleries's theses from top to bottom. With vehemence, the ex-president of the PP in Catalonia defended her party's rejection because they do not want the Senate to become a "tower of Babel of languages and earphones". Sánchez-Camacho has defended that in the State there is only one nation and only one official language, Spanish, and that is why JxCat's proposal cannot go ahead. "The Senate is a territorial chamber that represents the national sovereignty of the State," she stressed. During her speech, she has also blundered when she claimed that Ausiàs March was Galician (he was Valencian) and that Ramon Llull was Minorcan (he was Majorcan).

For Vox senator Jacobo González-Robatto the initiative carries a "moral superiority", and he denounced that it means spending "a million euros on a whim". Ciudadanos senator María Ponce has opposed the use of co-official languages in the Senate with the use of Spanish in Catalonia: "You believe it is more important that an environment commission in the Senate speaks Catalan than Catalan children knowing Spanish".

"You were waiting for me", answered Cleries, after hearing Cs and Vox's interventions. "You defend that to protect these languages we put them in a lunchbox and put them in the freezer. Catalan, Basque and Galician, we can bring out for Floral Games. But to talk about serious things, Spanish", he criticised, after reproaching the Spanish right for using language as an element of "confrontation". ERC senator Josep Maria Reniu spoke along the same lines: he criticised the opponents of the reform because he believes that it shows that "really nobody or very few believe that the Senate is a chamber of territorial representation".