Basque language organizations urge new Iparralde governing body to take linguistic policy one step further

Euskaltzaindia, cultural umbrella group demand some sort of official status for own language in France's Basque Country · Association of municipalities to be launched January 1st

Representatives of both groups read statement in Baiona.
Representatives of both groups read statement in Baiona. Author: Ipar Euskal Herriko Hitza screenshot @ Youtube
The Northern Basque Country, or Iparralde, is set to have its first-ever own governing body under the form of an association of municipalities, or EPCI, of the Basque Country, starting from 1 January. Its powers, under French law, are likely to include linguistic and cultural responsibilities. It is in this context that Euskaltzaindia (the Academy of the Basque Language) and Euskal Konfederazioa (the umbrella organization for the Basque cultural movement in the Northern Basque Country) are urging the new body to take on a clear leadership and promotion role for the Basque language.

Both organizations believe the Basque EPCI must take on, "from the moment of its creation, the development of [Iparralde's] linguistic policy." The goal, according to both groups, should be to improve the position of Basque in schools, the media, entertainment and the world of work.

The two organizations are also calling for Euskaltzaindia to be recognized as the new body's "main advisory institution" on language issues, and for Basque language to be granted some "official status" in Iparralde.

Euskaltzaindia and Euskal Konfederazioa argue that the current linguistic policy  —which is being led by the Public Office for the Basque Language— has been "insufficient" and lacking enough resources in order to reverse the decline in the use of Basque to the north of the Franco-Spanish border.

158 municipalities brought together

The soon-to-be Basque EPCI —which the two organizations suggest to call "Euskal Elkargoa", i.e. "Basque Collectivity"— brings together 158 municipalities. Most of them are Basque-speaking, except for a few Occitan-speaking ones in the Lower Adour area. This is why some pro-Occitan sectors argue the EPCI's name should take into consideration this twofold, Basque and Occitan character.

An EPCI is a type of French administrative structure in which municipalities share some of their powers. The new Basque EPCI is set to merge 10 association of municipalities currently existing there.

An EPCI typically manages powers related to economic development, urban policy, waste management and water management. In addition, French law also allows EPCI to exercise additional responsibilities, among which issues related to culture, environment, language and cross-border cooperation.