The slight improvement that the Law on the Languages of Aragon of 2009 meant for Catalan (in the Franja) and Aragonese (in the Pyrenees) is being threatened by the will of the Popular Party (PP, Spanish conservatives) to terminate some of its provisions. Chunta Aragonesista (CHA, Aragonese progressives) is taking the case to the European institutions. A conversation with Miguel Martinez Tomey, CHA responsible for European Affairs.
The government of Aragon (with a PP majority) has widely announced its wish to modify the current Law of languages of Aragon (that had been passed with the support of a coalition between the Spanish socialists and CHA). The amendment to the law will certainly remove some linguistic rights that had been foreseen for the Aragonese and Catalan languages. Why is PP trying to do that, bearing in mind that the Law of languages did not even make Aragonese and Catalan official languages?
The Law of languages of Aragon does not recognize Aragonese and Catalan as official languages. However, the actual contents of the Law give them in practice a status fairly similar to that enjoyed by any official language in the zones of the country where they are spoken. Official status, in its barest sense, sets up obligations mostly to public administrations. Although the obligations of the Aragonese law only apply to certain public administrations, PP still considers that these are unacceptable, and presents them as if they were imposed upon citizens.
CHA has recently asked the Council of Europe to act as a guarantor of the linguistic rights of Aragonese and Catalan speakers in Aragon in the light of the compromises that Spain undertook when the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages was signed and ratified. Have European institutions been receptive to CHA's demands?
European institutions have been very receptive and helpful. In April 2009 CHA organized a visit of the representatives of the NGOs that work for the Aragonese languages to the European Parliament and the European Commission. They met with MEPs and European Commission's senior officers to explain the difficult situation our languages and speakers were (and still are) undergoing, and even taking into account the limited legal framework for an EU strong action, they made very bold statements of the issue. The Aragonese media made a quite good coverage of that visit. It is difficult to say to what extent that impact happened to be decisive, but the fact is that only a few days after that visit, the Socialist party announced the introduction of a bill in the Aragonese parliament that became the current law, with the support of CHA. In our last initiative before the European Parliament and the Council of Europe (March 28th, 2012) we were invited to explain directly the Aragonese case to the members of the European Parliament Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages and to the Head of the Secretariat of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of at the Council of Europe's headquarters in Strasbourg (both of them scheduled for May 24th, 2012). These invitations give a good idea on how concerned the European institutions feel about the Aragonese linguistic problem.
The lack of opportunities to study Aragonese and Catalan is one of the main linguistic black spots in Aragon now. To which extent is it possible to find those languages as curricular subjects in the Aragonese education system?
Despite the entry into force of the Law in 2010, which provided for the gradual introduction of the teaching of both languages as curricular subjects by September 2011, neither the previous nor the current Aragonese governments have made a single positive step in that direction. As a result, we are today as far away from that possibility as ever and our children (those who have access to such an opportunity) can only study these languages once the school day is over, thus being in disadvantage with respect to these of their fellows who do not take Aragonese or Catalan lessons. The only new circumstance in that respect is that it puts the Aragonese government in a blatant breach of the law approved by its own country's parliament.