Catalan Language News Ed. 20 - June -2007

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jun 18 13:36:06 UTC 2007

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Catalan Language News 20 - June -2007

The Catalan Language Observatory was set up in 2004 by cultural
organisations from all the Catalan-speaking lands, with the purpose of
monitoring the Catalan language rigorously and objectively.


The following organisations are members of the Observatory:
· Acció Cultural del País Valencià
· Associació de Juristes per la llengua
· Casal Jaume I de Fraga
· Casal Jaume I de Perpinyà
· Centre Internacional Escarré per a les Minories Ètniques i les
Nacions (CIEMEN)
· Centre Unesco de Catalunya
· Comitè de Seguiment de la Declaració Universal de Drets Lingüístics
· Consell de Col·legis d'Advocats de Catalunya
· Culturalnord
· Fundació Congrés de Cultura Catalana
· Institut Linguapax
· Obra Cultural Balear
· Observatori de la Universitat d'Alacant
· Omnium Cultural
· Omnium Cultural de l'Alguer
· Organització pel Multilingüisme
· Plataforma per la llengua

With the support of:
· Institute of Catalan Studies
· Television of Catalonia
· IJLV - the Joan Lluís Vives Institute -, whose members are the
following universities:
- Abat Oliba CEU University
- Autonomous University of Barcelona
- International University of Catalonia
- Jaume I University
- Miguel Hernández University (Elx)
- Open University of Catalonia
- Pompeu Fabra University
- Ramon Llull University
- Rovira i Virgili University
- Technical University of Catalonia
- Technical University of Valencia
- University of Alacant
- University of Andorra
- University of the Balearic Islands
- University of Barcelona
- University of Girona
- University of Lleida
- University of Perpinyà
- University of Valencia
- University of Vic

With the support of:




Generalitat de Catalunya Government of Catalonia
Govern de les Illes Balears Government of the Balearic Islands
Generalitat Valenciana Government of the Valencian Community
Parlament de Catalunya Parliament of Catalonia
Institute of Catalan Studies
institut Ramon Llull
Ramon Llull Institute

Observatori de la llengua catalana
C/ de la Diputació, 276, pral.
info at
00 34 93 319 80 50


The current state of the use of Catalan in the legal system differs
highly from the actual legal framework, which regulates its use, as
there are many barriers to secure its use in this sphere. The legal
framework that regulates the use of Catalan in the justice system has
improved considerably in recent years. On the one hand, the new
Statute of the Autonomy of Catalonia (Organic Law 6/2006 of 19 July;
henceforth referred to as EAC) includes a number of articles aimed at
establishing Catalan as a lingua franca within the justice system. On
the other hand, the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages, ratified by the Spanish state, also reinforces the rights
of citizens to use their own language within the legal system.
Although this is not an ideal situation, there are sufficient norms
which should be able to block any form linguistic discrimination
arising from the use of Catalan in this domain.

Yet, we are still enduring today some of the consequences from a
legacy of restrictions and historical prohibitions regarding the use
of Catalan in the legal system. As a consequence, only 5% of current
legal proceedings in Catalonia are carried out through the medium of
Catalan. Furthermore, this lack of use of Catalan within the legal
system has resulted in the fact that almost all materials used by
professionals within the field of law are written in Castilian,
including: legal doctrine, jurisprudence, legislation, juridical
magazines and journals, reference works and so forth.

In relation to the legal position of the language, article 6 of the
EAC establishes that Catalonia's own language is Catalan, and as such,
Catalan is the language of preferential use within public
administration and public media in Catalonia. Catalan is the official
language of Catalonia, together with Castilian. All persons have the
right to use the two official languages and citizens of Catalonia have
the right and duty to know them. There shall be no discrimination
based on the use of either of the two languages.

The new EAC now includes a number of articles in chapter III that
clearly define the concept of linguistic rights and responsibilities.
The following articles concern exclusively to the administration and
KNOWLEDGE AND USE OF LANGUAGES "Each individual has the right not to
be discriminated against for linguistic reasons. Legal acts executed
in either of the two official languages have, in linguistic terms,
full validity and effect."

This article would be enough to prevent that any juridical document
written in the Catalan language could ever be declared null and void.
Unfortunately, this legal framework is often breached by the very same
legal system. For instance, the presiding judge in Vilafranca del
Penedès recently took legal action against the Justice of the Peace,
for writing entries in the Civil Register in Catalan and has declared
them null and void. In consequence, the Justice of the Peace had to
re-register more than 200 entries of births and deaths, etc. written
in Catalan, and now have no legal validity until they are
re-registered and are re-entered in Castilian. The paradox is that the
Organic Law of Civil Registries was amended in 2005 (article 12/2005
of 22nd of June). Amendments were made specifically to allow
registrars to accept entries and work as well using the autonomous
community's own la nguage in which each registry is located. The judge
who made this ruling did not take into account neither the EAC nor the
amendment to the Law of Civil Registries, but applied an article,
which had already been repealed. Hehad neither taken into account
Article 9 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
This is not an isolated case.


There are other cases of linguistic discrimination, and which are also
in breach of existing legislation. To quote but one, recently a couple
wishing to marry in Catalan in the Civil Register in Badalona were
unable to do so because the judge claimed that he did not understand
Catalan. The attitude of the judge, on the one hand being detrimental
in carrying out his duty as clearly defined under existing
legislation, c an in no way be put down to ignorance, solely due to
unwillingness on his part. It turns out that the judge had been
working in Catalonia for a number of years, working in a court of
another town near Barcelona (Mollet del Vallès). This courthouse,
being part of a pilot programme, had received supplementary funds from
the Government of Catalonia in order to work in Catalan. The judge, in
fact, was being paid to work through the medium of Catalan.
Furthermore, he asked for a transfer to another courthouse claiming
the knowledge of Catalan to his benefit. Obviously, it was almost
impossible for him to claim a lack of knowledge of the language in his
new post. (Article 33 EAC)

As a last point of contention, it must be clearly stated that the use
of Catalan in this domain is far from established. Despite the fact
that there exists a framework that should allow the use of the
language here, it is ignored in the majority of legal establishments,
either because of ignorance of the law or because of a lack of
willingness to apply it. This is an attitude that contrasts with the
scrupulous respect for such questions in other multilingual states
(Switzerland, Belgium, Canada...). The same contrasting attitude in
the application of existing legislation is also to be found in higher
instances. As such, when cases of similar discrimination have been
reported before the High Court of Catalonia or the Legal General
Council, those complaints have been ignored without any form of
punitive action being taken against those who infringe the law. It is
unacceptable that the continuing infringement of the rights of Catalan
speakers in the legal system be allowed with no action being taken.

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