For the first time, the Committee on Civil Liberty, Justice and Home Affairs held a discussion on language rights in the European Parliament. To date, the issue of language had only been discussed in the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture.
The initiative was brought forward by Valencian MEP Marina Albiol with the support of other Catalan-speaking members of parliament including Josep Maria Terricabras, Ernest Urtasun, Francesc Gambús, Ramon Tremosa, Jordi Sebastià and Ernest Maragall. The MEPs attending today's debate were also joined by a representative from Plataforma per la Llengua (Platform for Language), a Barcelona-based NGO set up to defend the rights of Catalan-speakers in Spain.
The Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, Claude Moraes, defended the need to conduct this debate, stating that it was “absolutely adequate to address this issue” in a committee that is responsible for discussing “all kinds of discrimination” including “linguistic discrimination", he added. According to Moraes, it is “a highly sensitive, passionate debate", where the EU’s legislative branch has "the power to address the issue”. Moreover, the British MEP asserted that it is “necessary for the European Parliament and for the Commission to study it in detail”.
In the opening of the discussion, Davyth Hicks, the secretary-general of ELEN (European Language Equality Network), gave a brief presentation on the situation of linguistic rights in Europe with a special focus on the Catalan case. Hicks also used an updated report by Plataforma per la Llengua that documented a series of violations of linguistic rights in Catalonia. The presentation was followed by a speech by a representative from the Directorate-General of Justice of the European Commission. The floor was then open to various MEPs, including Marina Albiol, Josep Maria Terricabras, Ramon Tremosa and Jordi Sebastià, who discussed the issue further.
New report by Plataforma per la Llengua
As a member of ELEN, Plataforma per la Llengua provided the MEPs with a summary of five cases of linguistic discrimination across five different areas (public administration, custody of children, police, justice and the health sector). On Monday, the organisation was able to deliver an updated report, entitled “If you speak in Catalan to me, this trial is over” to the MEPs, which included thirty-seven new cases of serious linguistic discrimination, which the NGO considered to be clear violations of language rights. What is more, these new cases were already in addition to the fifty collected in the previous report “En español o nada" (In Spanish or nothing).