Spain: Government of Navarre to create an institute for the Basque language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Sep 19 18:07:04 UTC 2007

  Government of Navarre to create an institute for the Basque language [image:
Friday, 14 September 2007 by Edu Lartzanguren

 To take Euskara, the Basque language, "out of the political arena" is the
aim of the new Government of Navarre, according to the new Education
Secretary Carlos Perez Nievas. Nievas announced on Wednesday that his
Government is creating the Institute of Euskara of Navarre to, among other
tasks, examine the fulfilment of European legislation on lesser used
languages in the province. While the move has been welcomed, Euskara
language organisations have warned that the institute will be of little use
as long as the law that divides Navarre into three language zones limits its

"The creation of the institute leads us to think that the anti-Basque
language policy will weaken, and that is good", said Xabier Mendiguren,
President of Kontseilua, the umbrella council of social groups working for
the advancement of Euskara. Mr Mendiguren refers to the policy of the
Government over the last eight years in which bilingual road signs that had
stood for decades had been substituted by Spanish monolingual ones, radio
stations broadcasting in Euskara had been denied permits, and the partition
of the region into three language zones with decreasing rights for Basque
speakers has been further embedded.

The Institute of Euskara will be launched next spring. It is meant to
evaluate the language policy of the administration, give advice and promote
Basque in media. It will, nevertheless, have only a consultative character
and will, therefore, have no power over the administration.  Nievas made it
clear on Wednesday that the law dividing Navarre into language zones and
limiting the official character of Euskara in certain areas will not be
changed and that Basque education models will continue to be forbidden in
public education in the southern half of the territory.

"The institute will not be able to fulfil it's objectives under the current
law", warned Mendiguren at a press conference. He added that the advice of
the institute might well be ignored by the Government: "That has happened
before with recommendations from Europe. The European Union told the
Government of Navarre to improve the situation of Euskara, and the advice
has been ignored". Nevertheless, Mendiguren expressed his willingness to
collaborate with the new body. On Thursday the Basque Autonomous Government
proposed the creation of a commission to coordinate both governments'
language policies, but it was vehemently rejected by Nievas today.

The new Institute also has no director. Representatives from the Basque
nationalist coalition Nafarroa Bai (the second party in the Parliament of
Navarre) said on Thursday that the Government was having trouble in finding
a suitable person for the post as prominent names in the Basque academic
world were not willing to accept a responsibility that would force them to
endorse the executive's current policy. However, Nievas said that the name
will be made public next week. Political commentators say that the new
political situation in Navarre has forced the Government to create an
institute for Euskara. UPN lost the absolute majority in the elections in
May and would have been driven away from power had Spanish premier Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero not vetoed a coalition of the socialists and Basque
nationalists in Navarre.

The executive, led by UPN party (a branch of Spanish PP), has caused
controversy by responding to the increasing demand for Basque language
education for children with the launch of an "experimental" so-called
"British Model" in which English substitutes Euskara at school and Basque is
treated as a "foreign" langage - even when it is one of the two official
languages. Also, the UPN Government has repeatedly ignored reports from the
European Parliament condemning its policies. (Eurolang 2007)

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