Never before have the different languages of Spain resonated so strongly as this Tuesday between the walls of the plenary hall of the Congress. They spoke Catalan, Galician, Basque, Aragonese and Asturian. It was a challenge by nationalist groups to the rules of the House of Representatives, which only allow the use of Spanish. And disorder was guaranteed, as his supporters wanted to summon him to back up their claim that all the languages of the Autonomous Communities could be spoken in Parliament. The most naughty ones like ERC and Junts have caused the word to be withdrawn. PNV, EH Bildu and PDeCAT used a ruse by transferring themselves to avoid interference from the president.
The use of official languages is only permitted in the Senate. In Congress, it is common for nationalist groups to insert paragraphs in the languages of their respective territories, a practice permitted by the President as long as it does not go beyond a few sentences. This Wednesday, all nationalist groups other than En Comú Podem submitted to plenary discussion a proposal to reform the House’s rules of procedure to include the ability for deputies to speak any official language. The proposal was doomed to failure due to the rejection of the PSOE and the right, so the most significant of its supporters decided to turn the plenary session into a form of protest, realizing that they were going to face the presidency.
The fire was opened by Montse Bassa of the ERC, who started in Spanish, only to switch immediately to Catalan. “We are fed up with not being able to speak our language,” he protested. In the absence of President Meritxel Batet, it fell to the First Vice President, also a socialist, Alfonso Gómez de Celis, who was patient, to deal with the situation. With Bassa and with other deputies who imitated her, Gomez de Celis tried to show understanding. “I can understand what they are doing, but the rules don’t allow it,” the accidental president warned. “Speak a common language so that we can all understand you, including Andalusians like me,” Gómez de Celis pleaded.
The ERC MP ignored the demands, and on the third notice they took their word back. Bassa continued to speak with the microphone turned off and remained in the gallery for a couple more minutes. After a short conversation with the president, he eventually went to his seat. He was followed by Miriam Nogueras of the Junts. She spoke Catalan, and the truth is that almost everyone understood her. At some point, he said: “If our language does not fit here, then neither do we.” And from the seats of the Vox, a cry was heard: “Excellent!” Nogueras followed the same path as Bassa, as did CUP’s Albert Botran and BNG’s Galician Nestor Rego.
Others have evaded the ban with a ruse pioneered by PDeCAT’s Ferran Bel. His speech had a certain humorous tone, as evidenced by the smiles of Gómez de Celis himself and even staunch political rivals such as José María Espejo of Ciudadanos, who sarcastically congratulated him on his “performance”. Bel spoke the sentence in Catalan and then translated it into Spanish. “What I do can be done simultaneously with translators through headphones,” he illustrated.
The same formula was chosen by Joseba Agirretxea of PNV; Merche Aizpurua of EH Bildu and Joan Baldovi of Compromís. Four representatives spoke on behalf of United We Can, including Pablo Egenique, who spoke a few words in Aragonese, and Sofia Castagnón, an Asturian, who inserted phrases in her own language and in Galician. The Basque Roberto Uriarte and the Catalan Joan Mena used only Spanish. The latter was most critical of the PSOE’s refusal to accept the proposal. “Common sense is that everyone can speak their own language. If this is not clear to you, then you have problems, ”Mena said, referring to the socialists.
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There was no shortage of Catalan words in the speeches of Juan José Aizorbe of Vox and the liberal Espejo. Groups on the right have agreed in what they see as a contradiction that the use of Catalan is declared in Congress and Spanish is restricted in schools in that community. They all also appealed to the expense that would be involved in gathering a group of interpreters and defended “the right of any Spaniard to understand the speeches of his deputies.” The popular Miguel Ángel Jerez accused the Nationalists of trying to “Balkanize” the Congress. Regarding the PSOE, Galician MP Guillermo Meillon limited himself to reminding that the Senate, as a territorial chamber, is the place where official languages are allowed, and highlighting the loss of speakers that the native language of Galicia has suffered in the years when the current leader of the NP, Alberto Núñez Feijoo, presided over the autonomous government.
After the plenary session, the signatory groups read out a manifesto stating that the situation with the official languages is “critical” and condemning the onset of “Spanish linguistic superiority”. According to these formations, the use of languages other than Spanish in the Senate is “anecdotal” and their introduction into Congress would be an “act of justice” and recognition of linguistic diversity and a “multinational reality”.
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