Read in Catalan

This Wednesday, Francina Armengol complied with the demand made by Together for Catalonia (Junts) in return for supporting her candidature to be speaker of Spain's Congress of Deputies: to normalize the use of Catalan in the Spanish lower house. Thus, the parliamentary groups of the PSOE, Sumar, ERC, Bildu, the PNV and BNG registered the reform of the Congress of Deputies' rules which will now allow the three main "co-official" languages to be used in addition to Castilian (that is, Spanish). This means that it will be possible to speak Catalan, Basque and Galician in the house and also to use the three languages in documents. There is the curiosity that, although the change originates in the demand made by Junts, the document does not bear the signature of any representative of that party; however, the changes required by the party led in Congress by Míriam Nogueras have been incorporated. It should also be remembered that the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) was won over to cast its votes in favor of Armengol's speakership when the agreement was reached on being able to speak Catalan in Congress and giving it official language status in the European institutions.


Junts did not sign the proposed rule change incorporating Catalan as a language that can be used in Congress, even though its vote is guaranteed, since the party's demands have been introduced into the reform, including the incorporation of the use of Catalan into the section of the rules that sets out the rights of MPs, thus placing the Catalan language, along with Basque and Galician, on equal footing with Spanish. Why didn't the Junts deputies sign? To avoid the image of their presence in a parliamentary bloc which has already become compact and consolidated around the PSOE. "We did not sign the text because we are not part of any bloc, nor are we partners with anyone," they argued from Junts.

The Carles Puigdemont-founded party, which insists that in order to use Catalan in Congress there was no need to reform the regulations, stresses the changes that have been incorporated in relation to the initial reform proposal presented by the PSOE, which, they recall, the other parties were ready to accept, which declared that any use of Catalan had to be accompanied by a Spanish translation.

In response to this, Junts demanded that, in all situations, Catalan had to be given equality with Spanish, which is why they rejected the imposition foreseen in the initial wording, requiring Spanish translations of the texts used in Catalan to be delivered. Only during the initial period of six months, while the technical services in the chamber are being adapted will MPs who present texts in a language other than Spanish be required to include the translation.

The proposed Congressional rule changes 

The proposal establishes the rights of all MPs to use any of the official languages of the Spanish state in any type of parliamentary activity; both in oral statements and in written presentations. Thus, the text also specifies that, starting at the upcoming investiture session (September 26th) the chamber will have available the required translation and interpretation services so that parliamentarians can express themselves in the language they want. With regard to the presentation of written documents, however, the reform foresees a period of six months for the institution to have the necessary means to process texts in languages other than Spanish.

At the same time, the proposed new rules state that all statements made and agreements adopted in the plenary sessions and committees are fully reproduced in the transcribed record of parliamentary debates, both in the languages that were spoken and in translation to Spanish. The PSOE now argues that it took this step as an action with respect to "linguistic plurality" and the "cultural heritage" of all "Spanish languages".

Previous experience in the Senate

Although Spanish continues to be used for the bulk of parliamentary activity, the Senate modified its rules a few years ago so that Catalan, Basque and Galician could be used, albeit on a very limited basis. Junts kept alive a proposal to reform the regulations and equate these three languages to Spanish, and the party's senator Josep Lluís Cleries has had the task of constantly denouncing the filibusterism of the PSOE in plenary sessions, in an attempt to avoid putting this language reform into motion.

In accordance with the Senate regulations, at present all senators have at their disposal a headset to listen to automatic translation. That is why the upper house has been provided with a pool of 25 interpreters who are called to work depending on the legislative activity. In these plenums, however, Spanish has always been the language used.