Linguistic oversensitivity

The exaggerated posturing of nationalists and the PP distort relations between Catalonia and Spain

Congress passed a motion on Tuesday in support of Catalonia's educational language model. The parliamentary vote took place after the Catalan regional High Court had issued a ruling urging the Catalan regional government (Generalitat) to adopt the necessary measures to ensure that Castilian Spanish is put on the same "vehicular language" footing as Catalan in the region's public schools.

In opposition to the motion, the conservative Popular Party and centrist UPyD argued that the parliamentary vote flies in the face of judicial authority. Nationalist parties see it the other way around; that it is the Catalan court which is guilty of interfering with the regional government's powers.

The congressional motion does not free the Generalitat from its obligation to respect judicial decisions. Its value is purely political, serving as a reminder that the Catalan language model is not the exclusive patrimony of nationalist parties. There are also national political forces which are in favor of maintaining the Catalan approach without condoning any snub to the authority of the Catalan regional High Court.

This position, taken by the ruling Socialist Party, for example, is in danger of being distorted by the heavy-handed reaction of the nationalists, who perceive any correction of the system as an intolerable attack. At the other end of the scale is the exaggerated posture of the PP and UPyD, who seem to think that the ruling demands nothing less than the dismantling of an education policy followed since 1983. Neither approach is a fair one, although they do offer a grim reflection of where these parties wish to lead institutional relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.

The declarations of Catalan premier Artur Mas, to the effect that last year's ruling on the regional autonomy statute by the Constitutional Court and the recent constitutional reform aimed at preventing budget deficits have brought to an end the era of consensus, are not only an exaggeration, but also constitute a wanton lack of respect for many citizens who, despite not being Catalan, believe the elaboration procedure for the Estatut and the eventual court sentence on it to have been a grave error. Many such citizens doubtless think the same thing now concerning the rushed reform of the Constitution. The reckless way key institutions are playing with Spain's established political harmony is not only to be seen in Catalonia, as Mas would have us believe, but rather is something which is affecting all citizens who wish the rules of democracy to be scrupulously observed. Because it suits his political platform, Mas aspires only to become the spokesman for one portion of that citizenry against the rest.