What will happen with Catalan in schools after High Court reversal?
The Constitutional Court's ruling could come next year and it would be definitive
BarcelonaDoubts have arisen after Catalonia's High Court announced it considers applying the ruling which forces schools to teach 25% of classes in Spanish a "legal impossibility". The professor of administrative law of the Universitat de Girona (UdG) Josep Maria Aguirre answers in four questions on the future of the legal case.
Beginning of the school year
What will happen in schools in September?
"The school year will begin as it ended and most likely it could be the case that for a few months we will not hear about the 25%-in-Spanish ruling. The High Court has urged the parties to state their position on the need to raise a question of unconstitutionality. Very soon we will see what the Prosecutor's Office, the Generalitat and the State have to say and we will have a new resolution from the Catalan High Court. In principle, this will be escalated to the Constitutional Court, and the 25%-in-Spanish ruling will be suspended. Its execution is suspended, but not the roll-out of the government's decree law and Parliament's law on Catalan. This will continue in place, including linguistic projects. What is practically guaranteed is that school year will start without the 25%-in-Spanish sentence being applied".
Has the strategy followed by Government and Parliament worked?
"The strategy followed by Government and Parliament was that the decree law and the law would send the problem to the Constitutional Court. Therefore, it is a success of the strategy. But when we reach the end of the road, it will be possible to evaluate the whole. Now they have succeeded in getting the issue beyond the High Court, and it will depend on constitutional doctrine. It goes back to where it originated, because all this started with the definition of Spanish as a vehicular language in the 2010 Constitutional Court ruling on Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy."
How long can the Constitutional Court take to issue a sentence?
"The Constitutional Court manages time in a weird way because it still has to rule on homosexual marriage over a decade after it was passed. There are really very different rhythms, but it could be resolved in months. First the Constitutional Court has to assess whether to admit the question. It is of constitutional relevance and the normal thing would be to admit it. If it is not admitted, the scenario would be quite different because the legal impossibility of executing the 25%-in-Spanish sentence would leave it in a cul-de-sac, but it is unlikely. It is an issue that not only affects Catalan and Spanish in the education system, but may have effects on the sociolinguistic models of the whole state. If it were not admitted, there would also be the appeals that some parties have announced against Parliament's law. It may be that we will have a sentence in a relatively short period of time, which constitutionally means months. I doubt it will be in 2022. It will more likely be 2023".
What does the Constitutional Court have to decide and what weight will its position have?
"When the Constitutional Court rules, it can annul, validate or question the issue, but its decision will no longer be subject to any appeals. The 25%-in-Spanish comes from an interpretation Catalonia's High Court and the Spanish Supreme Court make of constitutional doctrine. The Constitutional Court never fixed 25% as the proper percentage. Now the last game is being played out and the final result will come faster. They have to study a very specific discussion, which is percentages. We have been going around in circles for over a decade and the Constitutional Court has a window of opportunity. Three issues are raised: an adaptation of the legal framework to the constitutional doctrine on vehicular languages that derives from the ruling on Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy; if the decree law and the law have been passed to avoid compliance with a ruling and prevent effective judicial protection, and whether the decree law should be of extraordinary and urgent necessity. The weakest link in the framework is the decree law, and the sentence of the TC will be important".