Catalan in Europe

I only just found out that you can receive the European Parliament’s propaganda mag, Focus on Europe, in Catalan. The forked tongue of Brussels/Strasbourg says that “Focus on Europe gives a broad view of European Parliament news. This newsletter is addressed to a wide audience and is published in all EU official languages.”
The Ebner report was OKed by the Parliament in September, but Catalan pleas for special treatment were rejected, so I would love to know on what basis Catalan is included as an official language by Focus. Have Aznar and Chirac done a deal with Ibarretxe and agreed, as an afterthought, to cede Roussillon to comrade Carod-Rovira and his fellow castellers? We should be told.
(Before Enraged of Empordà deluges me with hate-mail again, I would like to stress that I am all in favour, and that I look forward to the inclusion of Welsh as spoken in Bala on Saturday night as soon as possible. For, while article 22 of the EU’s fundamental charter of rights (ie Nice) commits it to respect cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity, it doesn’t mention the word budget once.)

Similar posts

  • Catalan in Europe
    I take it Arcadi Espada is joking: We have obtained an impressive victory: citizens who write to European organisations in Catalan
  • European agreements re language rights
    I’ve posted recently on the prohibition and persecution of non-Catalan toponymy in and outside Catalonia. While so I thought I’d
  • Irish: it’s official! Well, almost…
    The Taoiseachracy got sick of being hassled during the Irish presidency of the EU by lobbyists for various unloved languages, so
  • who cares if languages die out?
    From Sri Lanka’s Daily News: In a message to the first celebration [of International Mother Language Day in 2000] United Nations Secretary-General
  • End of an affair?
    Catalan Europhilia seems to be decreasing as contact with European institutions increases.


  1. I am an American who retired in Barcelona. My mother in law is a determined Catalan Separatist. I completely don’t understand why! Already, today, Catalonia, as an independent regional area of Spain; Catalonia has its own regional government; the Catalan is the primary language used in all schools (Spanish is taught only 2 hours per week); in Barcelona, there are perhaps 5 television stations that broadcast exclusively in Catalan; the Catalonia government requires literally EVERYTHING to be translated into the Catalan languagae: traffic signs, newspapers, food market labels-all in Catalan.
    So what the hell do these Separatist people want? I simply don’t understand! University classes are all taught in Catalan-not in Spanish: this assures a second rate ranking of all Catalan Universities, because it prepares students for careers in Catalonia! What the hell is that good for? It just assures these falsely proud Catalans that they will never become an important part of the world economy.
    I don’t wish to be too harsh- but the entire Catalan Separatist movement seems utterly ridiculous to me. These people would be far better off to just adapt to the fact they are part of Spain, increase their support for the Spanish government and work to make Spain more unified and more important on the world stage.
    It is interesting to note that Santander Bank, the most important financial institution in Spain, built their national headquarters in Madrid. Even though Santander has Catalan roots, they chose to be a National Institution by being in Madrid, SPAIN because you can’t be recognized as an important worldwide entity if you are hampered by being tied to Catalonia.
    The Catalan Separatists need to disband and support a strong SPAIN, rather than acting like spoiled children lying on the floor wailing, pounding their fists and kicking about what NEVER IS TO BE. Catalonia is only a part of the history of Spain. IT IS NEVER GOING TO HAVE IMPORTANCE IN EUROPE OR IN THE WORLD! Period.
    Just a strong personal opinion, of course.

  2. So I guess you don’t understand the Portuguese either? Because, as far as I know, they don’t want to unite with Spain!! They will never be important. And what about the Jews and the Palestinians? This lot don’t want to unite either! It’s funny because as I look round the world I fail to see any nation willing to unite with any another nation… of course, you’re entitled to your opinion that we are stupid because we don’t want to do what nobody else in the world want to do, but let me say to you that the facts you mention about the regional government requiring newspapers to be translated, and University classes being taught only in Catalan are entirely wrong.

  3. El Primo: To your points: Portugal is a nation and has been for hundreds of years. Catalonia is not a nation; it is part of Spain. Has been for hundreds of years. So the government doesn’t require newspapers to be printed in Catalan? Sorry, my mistake. BUT the 2009 Catalonia budget includes 68 mil. euros to support movies made in the Catalan language; I don’t know how many tv channels are owned/paid for by the Catalan government, but the broadcast in Catalan. Universities don’t teach in Catalan? Not what a Univ. de Catalunya told me; he sometimes asks the class if they want lectures in Catalan or Spanish-if majority want Spanish, he honors class majority.
    I don’t understand what separatists want. Perhaps you can illuminate this stupid American.
    For sure, in the World Cup, most Catalans will be happy if Spain wins-am I right or wrong? If Catalonia was a separate country, would it be able to field a decent World Cup Team? Just a question out of thin air.
    What about Santander Bank making their headquarters in Madrid? Any comment about that? Seems to me that the Basque/Catalan separatists keep the pot brewing to the point that it probably discourages investment from international corporations; they don’t want to have to deal with 2 or 3 languages. . they are concerned that the Spanish government might fall apart because of the separatist movements and create unwanted business risks.
    Again, just my opinion.

  4. Trevor: Cool idea, except I don’t need El Primo and my mother in law ganging up on me.

  5. Trevor: Thanks for the EU update. Interesting situation with rejection of Catalan proposals, but publishing information in Catalan.
    I am completely serious when I ask the question: Precisely what do the Separatists want that they don’t already have? I don’t want to appear to be a stupid and insensitive foreigner, but I really don’t understand. My mother in law just huffs when I ask what separatists want that they don’t already have! She says “Well, you just don’t understand Catalan culture.” I am completely dissatisfied with her response which does nothing but make it sound like she is as being completely obstinate-kind of dumb as a mule. I honestly want to understand the Separatist viewpoint.
    Can you or someone else help me understand precisely what Catalan Separatists want that they don’t already have? What can Separatists achieve that has not already been achieved? What would be the consequences of separatism? What would be the economic costs? Who (other than politicians) would be the winners? Who would be the losers?
    By the way, I can’t avoid observing that the fertility rate of native Catalans is falling drastically: there just aren’t enough native Catalan babies being born to sustain the Catalan population. At current rates, Catalonia (and the rest of Europe) will eventually become a Muslim community; native Catalan women are not having 2.1 babies necessary to sustain the population; Muslim immigrant women have 4 or 5 babies each. I am deadly serious when I assert that in just 50 or 60 years, Catalonia will have a Muslim majority population.

  6. I refer you to a very old post: “There existed then a city associated with the Moors and in revolt against the Frankish forces, a city which in ancient times the Latins called Barchinona and which had been beautified by Roman civilisation. It was a constant refuge of Moorish thieves and full of malefactors, who, coming and going from Hispania [ie territories held by the Moors], sheltered there because they found there a safe haven. Its inhabitants continuously devastated our harvests and welcomed with joy the booty of kidnappers.”

  7. Aaron: Forget about whether we are a “nation” or not. Do you agree that we the Catalans are a set of human beings just like the Portuguese are? I assume you do. Can you understand that the idea of dismantling their state and becoming an “autonomous region” of Spain doesn’t sound exactly appealing to the Portuguese? Well, it doesn’t appeal to us either, for the very same reasons.
    So, what will we achieve when we are independent? To begin with, we won’t have to put up with that fascist, Franco-appointed royal family any more. This alone will be a great achievement, perhaps the greatest. Nor will we have to put up with scores of ignorant politicians moaning about Spain breaking up and threatening to centralise power, day in day out. We’ll get rid of their fascistic church as well. And finally, it will allow us to forget once and for all about all this nationalism thing, and start actually doing things.
    Now, you seem to suggest that foreign corporations would refrain from investing here because we speak two languages, or whatever. There’s little evidence that this would happen, but if it should it wouldn’t be much of a big deal. This isn’t Congo or Senegal after all, we already have got capital of our own, so we don’t depend on foreign capital. More importantly, we are currently giving away about 10% of our GDP every year in subsidies to Spain, studies have shown. This will stop. We will be able to employ these resources to fund all sorts of things, such as developing our own military-industrial complex, which will make the economy thrive.
    Of course, there’ll be a few drawbacks, like proabably Catalan teams being banned from the Spanish league, but I’m sure we could reach a satisfactory agreement on that matter, since it’s in their own interest as well.

  8. I forget to mention that Banco Santander is as Catalan as the Marseillaise, as far as I know. I haven’t the slightest idea why they made their headquarters in Madrid. Do you think it’s because they only speak one language over there? Then why Madrid and not Sevilla or Badajoz?

  9. 1) Personal feelings aside, would it be cheaper for this (or each) region to finance a French-style presidency than for the whole state to pay for a well-meaning if somewhat dim king?
    2) What evidence have you got that Catalonia is any less Catholic (or religious) than Spain as a whole?
    3) Some 85% of inward investment already goes to Madrid. Do you think Barcelona’s share would increase or decrease if you had an independent state that was finally allowed to say publicly that it didn’t use Spanish or English?
    4) I’m not going to argue about your 10% figure–which most would agree is absurdly high–but do you think the EU would take less from an independent Catalonia than Spain does? Because of Spanish political clout and relative Spanish poverty, Catalonia has continued to receive major inflows from the EU, despite income per capita being above the EU-15 average–I believe that it was recently still the European region receiving most Objective 2 structural funds. If I were putting together the EU budget, I would view an independent Catalonia as an apple ripe for plucking, or phucking if you prefer.

  10. Trevor:
    1) Does actually the EU require that member states have a head of state? Anyway, yes, it would probably be cheaper.
    2) I have no evidence that people in Catalonia are less catholic or less religious. There’s however some evidence that suggests that the Catalan branch of the Catholic church is less inclined to get involved in politics than their Spanish counterpart.
    3) I have no idea. Do you?
    4) Catalonia has received some 8.640 millions in EU funds between 1986-2006 [1], which amounts to 432 millions per year, or approx. 0,22% of its GDP per year, on average. If Catalonia was an independent state, this income would probably turn into a net outflow, but it seems very unlikely that it could even get close to the 10% of GDP that we are seeing now, given the fact that the biggest contributor to the EU budget in relative terms -the Netherlands- makes an estimated net contribution of about 4,9% its GDP [2].

  11. Aaron:
    The comparison with Portugal seems legitimate to me. You say Portugal is different because they were never part of Spain. Alright, maybe instead of Portugal I should have said Flanders or Cuba, which once belonged to Spain. Spain has conquered many countries in the past and every single one of them has become independent by now … except one.
    Then you say that we would be better off being part of Spain because Spain is a bigger country. It’s an opinion. If you look at the data, you’ll find no correlation between a country’s size and its standard of living. Has Spain got more economic power than Switzerland or Denmark? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it hasn’t, at least in per capita terms. Is it more prestigious? Again, I think not.
    Regarding the linguistic situation in Catalonia, the idea that Catalan graduates have poor skills due to classes being taught in two languages strikes me as highly unconvincing. Catalan and Spanish are closely related and anyone who has made it to the university in Catalonia is guaranteed to be fluent in both languages. You seem to see bilingualism as a problem, when most experts agree that bilingual people are more capable of learning a third or fourth language than monolinguals.
    I can’t say much on your concerns regarding the Muslim population. I simply don’t feel threatened by Muslims at the moment, maybe in 50 years I will.

  12. Aaron:
    Don’t overestimate the importance of the Spanish language. Spanish may have 350 million speakers, but 310 are in another continent altogether. In practice, is like if those 310 million didn’t exist at all. That leaves Spanish as nothing more than a third-rate language. In Europe, you can speak to more people if you can speak German, French or Italian than if you can speak Spanish. Try crossing the French border, nobody speaks Spanish on the other side. That being said, I don’t think that many supporters of independence really want to wipe Spanish off Catalonia.
    Overall, I agree that the primary reason for independence lies on moral (or emotional) grounds. Even if we had to pay high a price, which I don’t think it’s the case, many people would still support independence on principle grounds. I don’t agree, that we’d be worse off being independent. I do think that Spain would be worse off without us.

  13. Primo, Spanish is growing as a second language in Europe at the expense of French and German. I’d say that, in second language terms, English and Spanish are the only games in town.

  14. What Primo and the EU cynically omit to mention is that in 2004 the EU swallowed up the old Eastern Bloc, where German second language usage was well established and where there was a history of French subsidiary language use. The numbers simply aren’t comparable. notes a major drop in French and German in English schools, but only a minor decrease in Spanish. suggests a strong increase in interest for Spanish and Spain/Hispanidad in Dutch education – despite the legacy problem of lots of German and French teachers on the payroll.
    The reasons are not particularly surprising: Spanish is easier than French or German, I believe the culture is generally found to be more attractive, and the economies of Spanish-speaking lands (including Cataloonia) have grown faster than EU average over the last 20 odd years.
    Trying to convince the outside world that Barcelona doesn’t or shouldn’t speak Spanish is pure economic lunacy–cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

  15. Yes, and what you cynically omit to mention is that your cherry-picked anecdotes prove absolutely nothing.
    The simple fact is that when it comes to the total number of language users in Europe Spanish isn’t even in the same league as English, German or French.
    In light of this, I think you should really try to convince your friends of UPD to change their language policy. It seems obvious that Spain should give up on Spanish and adopt something more “universal”, such as French.

  16. My stats aren’t anecdotes nor are they cherry-picked: they’re the first ghits I found. I don’t waste a great deal of time on people like you.
    BNS was making a point about trends in second language use, where Spanish appears to be doing much better than French or German. If you’ve got something more reliable, don’t be shy: share. In terms of global first or second language use per capita, Spanish is way ahead of either. The figures at Ethnologue are crap, but substitute fra and deu for spa and then come back if you’ve got something more reliable that supports your case.
    The general problem you face is that you may convince other members of your sect, but you’re failing everywhere else.

  17. Aaron: I’m sure the bigot will sort you out with a couple of irrelevant anecdotes that he will have the audacity to call stats.

  18. Primo, Spanish is expanding in all western European countries (except Spain), it is now widely taught in Italy, for example, at the expense of French and German (largely because students find it much easier and more useful).
    I never said Spanish was bigger than French or German in Europe (yet), but French and German are definitely declining relative to Spanish, for the reasons Trevor mentions.
    Your stats are the dodgy ones, being highly selective comparisons of two non-analagous data-sets.

  19. Apparently my comments have offended a Catalan separatist, because I am now considered a spammer and my commentary has stopped appearing. It seems Catalans don’t want an outsider that asks hard questions.
    In all this discourse, nobody has provided a sound reason for Catalonia to become a separate country, other than some psychological/mood changing, non specific reasons. I repeat my first question: what do separatists want that they don’t already have ? (except a seat at the United Nations and a Catalonia passport-neither of which is possible because Catalonia is part of Spain:
    1. Catalans already have complete control over the educational system.
    2. Catalans have their own tv stations, newspapers in the Catalan language.
    3. Catalans control their own health care system.
    4. Catalans have their own police force.
    5. Catalonia budget includes 68 million euros to subsidize films made in the Catalan language
    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the reason for wanting a separate nation. You effectively already have your own nation with the autonomous community concept. To me, separation just doesn’t make sense, other than the fact that Catalonia pays more taxes than they receive back from the Spanish government (which, as I have said before, is the same situation with California in the USA). If Catalonia was a separate country, they would be sending taxes to the EU with little or no rebates, so it would end up being the same situation as it is now.

  20. [
    I think Aaron must have been mis-identified as a spammer somewhere else by someone who disagreed with his comments, and this carries over to this blog. I will investigate and try to resolve. My apologies!

  21. An Open Letter to John Laporte:
    Dear Mr. Laporte:
    The FCB title as European Champion was very thrilling to all of us! Winning a triple crown was an extraordinary accomplishment for you and the entire FCB organization. I hope FCB will do a repeat performance next season.
    While thrilled at the FCB accomplishments, I was deeply offended and embarrassed watching the victory celebration at Camp Nou, which I saw as a poorly concealed and contrived call for Catalunya independence from Spain. I was offended that FCB players from Argentina, France & Cameroon were obviously instructed to shout “Viva Catalunya.” These players came to celebrate a championship: they didn’t need to be directed to call for Catalan independence-these players, along with many FCB fans like me when calls for separatism are mixed up with championship celebrations.
    You confuse me: At the Championship game in Rome, you sat next to the King of Spain and the President of Spain, both of whom celebrated the FCB victory. You accepted the Spanish King’s Cup for the Spanish title. Then you turn around a call for separatism from Spain? Well, sir, you just can’t have it both ways!
    If you REALLY BELIEVE Catalunya should be a separate country, you need to take a stand that clearly illustrates your beliefs:
    1. FCB must DROP OUT from the Spanish league. If Catalunya is not part of Spain, then divorce yourself from Spain: take a stand! Stop being such a ridiculous hypocrite!!!!!
    2. I know you won’t do #1, so how about this? You should NOT allow FCB to play in King’s Cup games. If you hate Spain so much, then for heaven’s sake, take a stand that is meaningful-a stand that clearly illistrates your beliefs. If you play in the King’s Cup games and win the championship, you should NOT accept the Spanish King’s trophy.
    So what happens to FCB if Catalunya becomes a separate and independent country that you obviously want?
    1) FCB will not longer be in the Spanish League. FCB will have to play with the Big Boys in the European League.
    2) Catalunya will be forced to create its own team for the World Cup. Catalan players will not be able to play for Spain in the World Cup.
    The combination of these two elements will badly harm the ability of FCB to attract world class players like Messi, Henry, Eto’o, Galves, YaYa. FCB will, over time, become a backwater team.
    So how about it, Mr. Laporte? Do you really want a separate Catalunya or not?
    Thoughtfully submitted,
    Aaron Ashcraft

  22. Boy: You said that “in terms of second language” Spanish and English were “the only games in town”. This is not true, as the EU data above shows. Be it in terms of usage as second language or in terms of usage as first language, both French and German are a long way ahead of Spanish.
    Let’s assume that Spanish is growing at the expense of German and French, even though you have provided no evidence to back your claims. It doesn’t change the fact that in the present day and in the foreseeable future Spanish is nothing more than a regional language, in the EU.
    If foreign investors are so scared of regional languages, it seems clear that they should steer clear of Spain then.

  23. BNS’s use of “only game in town” is, as I think is usually the case, forward-looking. You could probably use an English course, featuring in lesson one the popular idiom “None so blind as those who will not see.”

  24. Aaron, I believe King Joan spells it “Laporta”, the door. At the beginning of his reign, when the team were going through a bit of trouble and people wanted him to go, a pun appeared on the train line to Vic: “Tanca Laporta, que fa fred”, “Shut the door/Terminate Laporta, it’s cold.” Shades of je t’adore/shut the door.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *