Read in Catalan

"Catalans are not asking to be an exception in Europe", but rather they are "asking not to be". That is the assertion of the president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, in an article calling for Catalan to be granted official status in the European Union, published this Monday  in four different media from around Europe: La Reppublica (Italy), Público (Portugal), Table.Media (Germany), Nacional (Croatia). The article, with the title of 'Speaking Catalan in Europe', aims to address European public opinion in several languages, just one day before the Council of the European Union is to discuss Spain's proposal that Catalan, along with Basque and Galician, be given official EU status - a move long requested from the language communities themselves but now being presented to the 27 by Spain, in the context of the political agreement between Together for Catalonia (Junts) and the Spanish Socialists (PSOE) to constitute the Congressional Bureau, as the country attempts to form a new government.

Language, "a country's soul"

The president begins by quoting the 20th century Catalan novelist Mercè Rodoreda: "Language is a country’s soul and deserves a great deal of attention." "She said it with all her love for the Catalan language, the foundation of our country, Catalonia, and what gives us backbone and cohesion. A language that defines us as Europeans, as do all Romance languages", emphasizes the president, recalling that the Catalan language is a thousand years old, and contributes to enriching Europe's cultural and linguistic diversity. "Far from being a minority language, it fully maintains its vitality and is one of the 15 most widely spoken official languages in the continent," he explains.

The president also states that Catalan is one of his government's priorities and considers it an "opportunity" for Europe and Catalonia that now the 27 European states can decide on its official status. "A great opportunity to correct the serious historical anomaly of millions of European citizens whose linguistic rights are still, today, not guaranteed on equal terms with the vast majority of European citizens," writes president Aragonès.

The president wants "linguistic equality"

He also notes the possible "suspicions" of some European states and, for this reason, Aragonès does not ask for the recognition as "favourable treatment", but to achieve "linguistic equality". "We are Europe and we believe in Europe. And we only ask to be able to speak to Europe as almost all of our fellow citizens do, in our language," remarks the president. Nevertheless, Aragonès also notes the persecution by "exclusionary Spanish nationalism" of the Catalan language, as well as citing the ban on the language during the Franco dictatorship. At the same time, he asserts that there are now Spanish parties that "are trying to prevent the full normalisation of our languages".

Those pursuing such policies are "adopting the same attitude, that goes against equality, multilingualism and diversity, that has generated so many conflicts in Spain and in Europe itself, and which is far removed from the values the Union represents", says the president. With regard to the expenses involved in recognizing new languages in Europe, Aragonès notes that only 0.2% of the EU budget is spent on translations. However, he emphasizes his willingness to "explore" mechanisms to overcome all obstacles.

It is about "an end to being an exception"

Regarding the voices that suggest that limits should be placed on the adoption of new official languages, the head of the Catalan executive asserts that it must be taken into account "one of the requirements for entering the club of official European Union languages is being official in a member state". "And today there are only five languages in Europe at the moment that are not yet official in the EU despite being official in their member state", said the president, who says that Catalan is one of them.

Nevertheless, Aragonès makes this agreement his own, in the context of the agreements reached at the Spain-Catalonia dialogue table a year ago, and argues that tomorrow "European Union General Affairs Council will not discuss the re-election of Pedro Sánchez as prime minister of the Spanish state". Rather, he says, "it will discuss the recognition of the linguistic rights of 10 million European citizens", and he concludes by asserting that Catalans are not demanding to be made an exception in Europe, but just the opposite: "We are demanding not to be one."