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New Catalan Government aims to end ‘relaxed attitude’ towards language
New Catalan Government aims to end ‘relaxed attitude’ towards language by Jaume Clotet The Catalan elections, held on November 16th, were won by Convergència i Unió (CiU), the autonomist party that has ruled the regional government since 1980 with veteran Jordi Pujol as President. However, it was a pyrrhic victory
Jacques-Yves Le Touze pour EUROLANG le 18/12/03 19:22

New Catalan Government aims to end ‘relaxed attitude’ towards language

by Jaume Clotet

The Catalan elections, held on November 16th, were won by Convergència i Unió (CiU), the autonomist party that has ruled the regional government since 1980 with veteran Jordi Pujol as President. However, it was a pyrrhic victory, as following the recent election the CiU did not win enough seats to stop the set up of an opposition party coalition, announced yesterday. The coalition of the three other main parties will now run the country.

CiU obtained 46 representatives out of a Parliament of 135 seats. The Catalan socialists (PSC) achieved 42 seats, while the independentists of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) obtained 23 congressmen. The remaining seats went to two minor parties: the Popular Party (PP, right wing) 15 and the leftist and ecologist Iniciativa (ICV) obtained 9 seats. With these figures, many combinations were possible to reach the 68 seats needed to make up a majority in the chamber.

However, despite great efforts by the CiU to convince ERC to make up a nationalist government, the independentists eventually decided to create a coalition with the PSC and ICV. As a result of that agreement, the new government or Generalitat, which will be led by socialist Pasqual Maragall, will focus on social, ecologist and nationalist policies for the next four years.

The main objective will be to achieve a new political status for Catalonia, following the path marked by Basque president Juan José Ibarretxe. The current status of autonomy was approved in 1980 and needs some modifications. Therefore, the new Government wants to pass through the Catalan Parliament a new and ambitious text, which will be sent to the Spanish parliament afterwards. After that, it should be approved in a referendum by all Catalan citizens.

Added to this the ERC has managed to include in the new government programme a series of measures aimed at increasing the social use of the Catalan language. The main objective is to end the relaxed linguistic policies of the former CiU governments, and to place more stress on its legal protection.

Following this scheme, the programme states very clearly that ‘the current situation of the social use of the Catalan language needs an urgent response’. Therefore a Catalan language support plan will be set up in the near future, which will become the guideline for all policies related to the language.

Considering that the main objective is to boost the social use of Catalan and to protect it from the 'law of the market’, the main measure will be that the Catalan government will change its criteria when it comes to buying goods and supplies. From now on the Generalitat will take into account the presence of Catalan on labels and signs before buying a product. If it is borne in mind that the Catalan government is responsible for areas such as schools or hospitals, it gives an idea of how positive and influential such a measure could be.

Apart from that the new government will increase the presence of the language in media and new technologies. A very important goal is to increase the number of cinema films that are dubbed into Catalan, an aspect that has not achieved good results until now.

Also the Catalan language will be extended in the educational system: the immersion learning system will be extended from now on to the secondary levels. This is an old objective of all former governments, but none had ever really achieved it. Immigrants and newcomers will also be given Catalan language courses to make it easier for them to integrate into Catalan society.

Finally, the new government will do its best to give official status to the language in EU institutions. To do so, it will study all possible legal measures and will negotiate with the Spanish government for its cooperation.

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Eurolang? is a specialist niche news agency covering topics related to lesser-used languages, linguistic diversity, stateless nations and national minorities within the European Union. It provides an expanding on-line daily service across Europe, to NGOs, the media, European, State and local government, academia, researchers and the general public. The purpose of Eurolang is to provide, on a daily basis, relevant and current news about Europe's regional, stateless and minority language communities, numbering some 46 million speakers, to the general public and to national and regional media (newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, internet media) in Europe and worldwide.
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