Knowledge of any foreign language, whatever it is, will be more helpful than the ability to speak Catalan for those seeking jobs in the Spanish justice system, according to the rules laid down in the new system for applicants approved by Spain's justice ministry. The new process is intended for use in the selection of personnel for thousands of jobs currently carried out on temporary contracts in the adminstration of the law around the Spanish state, and it affects one in every four justice system jobs in Catalonia.
The Catalan government's justice ministry, as El Punt Avui reports, has complained about this linguistic discrimination, and has asked the Spanish ministry to change the rules. If no change is made, the Catalan administration says it will initiate legal action, considering that under the new system, the rights of citizens to be served in their own language will be violated in the justice system.
The announcement of the selection process, to cover several categories of civil servants in the justice administration, was made in Spain's official state gazette in March and April. It involves two types of tests. Firstly, there is an exam, and secondly, as a new feature of this year's selection process, an evaluation of a series of merits: IT knowledge; prior experience in justice system employment (of special importance to the high number of temporary contract workers who may be re-applying for permanent status); and finally, knowledge of foreign languages (that is, not including languages that are official within parts of the Spanish state).
The problem is that it is only after candidates have passed these initial stages that those choosing to work in Catalonia - or other parts of the Spanish state with their own languages - are tested for linguistic knowledge in order to improve their position in that territory. Thus, justice department employees who speak fluent Catalan and have spent years working on temporary contracts in Catalan courts may find themselves excluded from the process by others who have gained extra points through their knowledge of Russian, English or any other foreign language. Moreover, since the courts have their own specific translation services, the language knowledge of the new civil servants may not actually be put to use in the job. It should also be noted that knowledge of Catalan has never been a prerequisite for employment in the administration of justice in Catalonia.
The Catalan justice ministry has demanded that knowledge of the Catalan language be given the same value as foreign languages, "since at present it is a second-class merit," as El Punt Avui reported. In the request sent to the Spanish ministry, Catalonia's justice minister Esther Capella criticised the discrimination against Catalan and recalled that respect for Spain's "co-official languages" (Catalan, Basque and Galician) is recognized in the Spanish Constitution, the different Statutes of Autonomy and the European treaties.