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Pro-independence parties in Spanish Congress win right to deliver speeches in Catalan, Basque, Galician or Aranese

17 Aug 2023 4 minute read
Pedro Sanchez. Photo by Party of European Socialists is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Luke James

Members of the Spanish Congress will soon be able to deliver speeches in Catalan, Basque, Galician or Aranese under a deal with pro-independence parties over the election of a new president of the parliament.

Spanish politics has been in deadlock since last month’s general election saw the conservative Partido Popular (PP) win most seats but fall short of a majority, leaving Catalan, Basque and Galician nationalists as potential kingmakers for a new progressive government.

But Francina Armengol of the PSOE (Socialist Party) was elected as president of the Cortes’ lower house, a role equivalent to presiding officer in the Senedd, at the first attempt this morning after securing the support of pro-independence deputies, including those from the Junts Per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) party of exiled former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Under an agreement announced just minutes before the vote, the use of all of Spain’s official languages will be permitted in plenary sessions, as is already the case in the upper house of the parliament.

Historic anomaly

It ends a “historic anomaly” which means Spain “has a number of official languages but you can only speak in one,” said Gabriel Rufián of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia).

The Spanish Government, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, has also requested that Catalan, Basque and Galician be made official languages of the EU.

“Spain speaks Castilian Spanish but also Catalan, Basque and Galician,” acting socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said ahead of the vote.

“We are going to promote the use (of these languages) within EU institutions in a commitment I will carry out during Spain’s presidency of the EU.”

The situation will stand in contrast to the language policy in the House of Commons, which states that “speeches in the Chamber and in other proceedings must be made in English.”

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle told Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts to “just stop” speaking Welsh in the chamber, Welsh has been listed as a foreign language on the parliament’s official website, and Jacob Rees-Mogg compared it to a foreign language while Leader of the House of Commons.

An exception to the rule can be made in case of committees such as the Welsh Grand committee.


In Spain, Sanchez has also agreed to establish a parliamentary enquiry into the use of Pegasus spyware against leaders of the Catalan independence movement and continue the “de-judicilisation” of the political conflict between Barcelona and Madrid.

His choice of candidate for the role of president of the Congress was also seen as an olive branch to Catalans. Until recently the president of the Balearic Islands, Francina Armengol speaks Catalan, opposed the suspension of Catalan self-government following the 2017 referendum and supports a more federal, plurinational Spain.

Sanchez will hope today’s vote is a first step towards securing the support of pro-independence parties for his own investiture as Prime Minister and a second term for the PSOE’s coalition government with the left-wing Sumar coalition led by Galician communist Yolanda Diaz.

However, Junts per Catalunya stressed that the deal over today’s vote was not linked to the investiture of Sanchez.

They have told Sanchez their price is an amnesty for everyone charged for participating in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum and the right to hold a new referendum.

“We will not be moved by promises without guarantees,” Puigdemont restated following today’s vote.

“The investiture [of Sanchez] is exactly where it was the day after the elections.”

The PSOE and Sumar hold 152 seats of the 176 needed for a majority.

They will need the cooperation of Esquerra and Junts, who both hold seven seats, as well as EH BIldu and the PNB from the Basque Country, who hold six and five seats respectively, to form a government.

The PP and far-right Vox hold 170 seats between them but don’t have other potential coalition partners who could help them make up their six seat shortfall.

With Sanchez unlikely to meet Puigdemont’s terms, he may prefer to try to break the impasse by calling a second round of elections.

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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
6 months ago

Good to hear those nations held hostage by Spain can finally speak their birthright in the Spanish parliament without fear or intimidation. This differs to our political representatives in Wales who still cannot speak Britain’s native language Cymraeg in the so-called mother of all parliaments, Palace of Westminster with it being banned since 1535 under the Act of Union Wales. Damn, If only I could speak Norman French or Hebrew which is allowed along with English? Three foreign languages but not Britain’s original tongue Cymraeg? Speaks volumes. Hey, we live in a democracy don’t you know, not!

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