<td class="contentheading" width="100%">Government of Navarre to create an institute for the Basque language </td>
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<div>Donostia, Friday, 14 September 2007<span class="small"> by Edu Lartzanguren </span> </div>
<td valign="top" colspan="2">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 effectiveness.
<div><br>"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.
<div>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.
<br> <br>"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.
<br> <br>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.
<div>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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