Europe calls on administrations in Spain to protect Basque

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Sep 24 15:08:25 UTC 2005

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Europe calls on administrations in Spain and Southern Basque Country* to
protect Basque

The European Council has requested that support for the Basque language
not be equated with violence

Jakes Goikoetxea  DONOSTIA (San Sebastian)

The European Council's Committee of Experts has called on the Spanish
Government, the BAC-Basque Autonomous Community Government, the Government
of Navarre, provincial councils and municipal councils to do more to
protect and promote Euskara. This is the main conclusion it drew after
meeting with the authorities and social players in the Basque Country and
Spain in May of last year. The Spanish Government signed the European
Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on November 5, 1992 and
ratified it on April 9, 2001.  The Charter came into force in August,
2001. The European Councils Committee of Experts is the tool for
monitoring how countries comply with the charter. Last year it examined
how Spain was performing and the day before yesterday published a report
on its conclusions and recommendations.

The Committee of Experts stress that the Spanish Government does protect
minority languages through its laws, but they has requested, among other
things, that it should increase the number of Basque-speaking staff it
employees, particularly in the courts of law. The experts praised the BAC
Governments language policy, but made two main requests: that it should
strengthen the offer of education in Basque after Compulsory Secondary
Education and that it should promote the Basque-language media.

The Committee of Experts directed most of its denunciations and demands at
the Government of Navarre. The main one is that Basque should receive the
same protection in the mixed zone as it does in the Basque-speaking zone,
in accordance with the legislation of Navarre. The Committee also drew
general conclusions: Spain must increase awareness about minority
languages. But in many cases the experts admit that they lack sufficient
information to express an opinion or make recommendations.

According to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
subscribed to by Spain, minority languages are the ones which its
autonomous communities treat as official. In Navarre, Basque is official
only in the Basque-speaking zone so that is where is should receive the
greatest protection from the Charter. Yet the European Councils Committee
of Experts stress that 5.7% of the population in the mixed zone is
bilingual, 13.2% can speak a little Basque, 30% of the children study in
the D education model and that the citizens in the Basque-speaking zone
have very close, daily contacts with the mixed zone, in particular with
the Iruea (Pamplona) area.

The experts say that while they were in Navarre they noticed that an
increasing number of citizens equate Basque with cultural wealth and
heritage. That is why, they say, now is the moment for what we noticed to
be reflected in specific measures aimed at protection and promotion. They
have requested the Government of Navarre reflect on a perceived need to
give equal protection to Basque in the mixed zone and in the
Basque-speaking zone.

*The Basque Autonomous Community of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa plus the
Charter Community of Navarre.

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