12th April 2024
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Spain allows MPs to speak Catalan, Basque and Galician in Parliament – Vox walk out

The Spanish Congress allowed its national MPs to use the country’s minority languages of Catalan, Basque and Galician for the first time from Tuesday.

The reform of the linguistic policy of the Spanish parliament was a demand of Catalan pro-independence parties to support the appointment of a socialist, Francina Armengol, as the new Parliamentary Speaker last month following inconclusive national elections in July. ALSO READ: Socialist candidate Armengol elected as parliament speaker – seen as step to Sánchez securing re-election.

The right to speak languages other than Spanish in the Congress is a long-held objective of smaller parties from the regions in Spain’s north that have bilingual populations.

‘[This change is] … to normalise something that is already common for citizens who speak a language other than Spanish,’ said socialist (PSOE) member José Ramón Besteiro, who alternated between Galician and Spanish to become the first MP to take advantage of the modification.

The Spanish Congress provided simultaneous translation with earpieces for the 350 MPs of the chamber, as well as for the nationally televised transmission of the session.

The right-wing People’s Party (PP) was against the reform, saying it would make debating more difficult. The far-right Vox party went further with their anger about the reform – and walked out of the chamber during the debate on Tuesday (see video in Tweet below). Led by Vox president Santiago Abascal, each MP of the far-right party left their headphones on the seat of acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who was not in the chamber.

‘Today I left the plenary session of Congress along with the rest of the Vox MPs, outraged to hear the language of my grandparents, Galician, used as a tool of hatred and division,’ Abascal wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

Spain’s government is also trying to have Catalan, Basque and Galician recognised as languages that can be used in the European Union.

This support of Spain’s minority languages comes as acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is hoping to secure the backing from Basque nationalist and Catalan pro-independence parties to form a new left-wing government.

Catalan is spoken by around nine million people in Spain’s northeast, its Balearic Islands, as well as a small population in France. Galician is spoken by some two million people in northwestern Spain, while Basque has 750,000 speakers in Spain’s Basque Country and Navarra regions.

Spanish is also known as ‘castellano’ or ‘Castilian’ in Spain for its origins in the Kingdom of Castile. It is spoken throughout the country of 47 million people, including the regions where minority tongues survive.

Spain’s 1978 Constitution recognises its minority languages as co-official along with Spanish in regions where they are spoken. Their use is common in regional parliaments and town halls.

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