Perhaps because the historic claim to nationhood is shaky, language has become an obsession for the nationalists. Franco banned the public use of Catalan, Euskera (Basque) and Gallego. The constitution made these languages official ones alongside Spanish in their respective territories. In Catalonia the official policy of the Generalitat (the regional government), under both the nationalists (some of whom are really localists) and now the Socialists, is one of “bilingualism”. In practice this means that all primary and secondary schooling is conducted in Catalan, with Spanish taught as a foreign language. Catalan is also the language of regional government. A Spaniard who speaks no Catalan has almost no chance of teaching at a university in Barcelona. A play or film in Spanish will not be subsidised from public funds. “If we don’t make a big effort to preserve our own language, it risks disappearing,” says Mr Mas.
Catalan and Spanish are more or less mutually comprehensible. Not so Euskera, which does not belong to the Indo-European family of languages. The Basque government allows schools to choose between three alternative curriculums, one in Euskera, another in Spanish and the third half and half. But in practice only schools in poor immigrant areas now offer the Spanish curriculum. Despite these efforts, Basque and Catalan are far from universally spoken in their respective territories: only around half of Catalans habitually use Catalan and about 25% of Basques speak Euskera.
The nationalists’ linguistic dogmatism is provoking a backlash. Earlier this year Mr Savater, the philosopher, together with a diverse group of public figures ranging from Placido Domingo, a tenor, to Iker Casillas, Real Madrid’s goalkeeper, signed a “manifesto” in defence of the right of citizens to be educated in Spanish. They were denounced as “Castilian nationalists” in the Socialist press. But they touched a nerve. Many thoughtful Catalans believe that Catalan would be safe if it remained the language of primary schools, but that Catalonia would gain much by allowing a choice between Catalan and Spanish in secondary schools.
The power of language
The argument about language is really about power. “The problem with nationalists is that the more you give them, the more they want,” says Mr Savater. What some of them want is independence; all of them use this as a more or less explicit threat to gain more public money and powers. The polling evidence suggests that no more than a fifth of Catalans are remotely tempted by the idea of independence. The figure for Basques is around a quarter, despite 30 years of nationalist self-government and control of education and the media, and despite the departure of around 10% of the population because of ETA’s violence, points out Francisco Llera, a (Socialist) political scientist in Bilbao.
ETA’s political support is declining, though not vanishing. The PNV is split between a pro-independence wing led by Juan José Ibarretxe, the president of the regional government, and home-rulers in the party leadership. Mr Ibarretxe wants to hold a referendum on the right of Basques to self-determination. Mr Aurrekoetxea argues that ETA should not have a veto over whether Basques can peacefully express a view on the future.
The government, parliament and the courts have all blocked the referendum plan “because it is against the constitution”, says Mr Zapatero. “It would make ETA right in fighting on the basis that this is an oppressed people,” says José Antonio Pastor, a Basque Socialist. He and many other non-nationalist politicians and their families must live with round-the-clock bodyguards. In parts of the Basque country, in the tight rural valleys on the borders of Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa, non-nationalists cannot campaign freely. The Socialists hope to win a Basque regional election due in March. To improve their chances, they are following their Catalan peers in embracing cultural nationalism.
Buying off the Basque and Catalan nationalists with more money has become harder. The central government now accounts for just 18% of public spending; the regional governments spend 38%, the ayuntamientos (municipal councils) 13% and the social-security system the rest. But under the new Catalan autonomy statute more money has to be devolved. Over the next seven years Catalonia will have to be given a share of public investment equivalent to its weight in the Spanish economy, which will amount to an extra €5 billion a year. Previously Catalonia, although Spain’s fourth-richest region, received less public spending per head than several others. It complains that its commuter trains, in particular, have been starved of funds.
The Basques have no such worries: each Basque province and Navarre collect their own taxes and hand over less than 10% to the central government in Madrid. But they benefit from central-government defence spending, and they are net recipients from the social-security system. As a result, public spending per person in the Basque country is the highest in Spain.
The new Catalan statute requires the government to strike a new regional financing deal, even though the one in 2001 was supposed to be final. But it is to the central government that Spaniards will look for unemployment benefits and for spending to alleviate recession. Local governments are likely to suffer budget cuts by 2010, if not next year.
The government’s ability to carry out economic reforms is also compromised by decentralisation. As regional governments acquire more and more power to regulate, businesses face higher compliance costs. Now that the government employment service has been decentralised, José María Fidalgo, the general secretary of the Workers’ Commissions, the largest trade-union federation, worries that jobseekers have to look at 17 different websites.
It would have been easier for all concerned if Spain had adopted federalism in 1978. That would have set clear rules and aligned responsibilities for taxing and spending. The Senate could have become a place where the regions were formally represented and could settle their differences, akin to Germany’s Bundesrat. But the Catalan and Basque nationalists will only accept a confederation of several “nations”. The PP also opposes federalism.
Adéu a Nihil Obstat | Hola a The Catalan AnalystDesprés de 13 anys d'escriure en aquest bloc pràcticament sense interrumpció, avui el dono per clausurat. Això no vol dir que m'hagi jubilat de la xarxa, sinó que he passat el relleu a un altra bloc que segueix la mateixa línia del Nihil Obstat. Es tracta del bloc The Catalan Analyst i del compte de Twitter del mateix nom: @CatalanAnalyst Us recomano que els seguiu.
Moltes gràcies a tots per haver-me seguit amb tanta fidelitat durant tots aquests anys.
dimarts, 11 de novembre de 2008
La crítica els treu de pollaguera
La consellera de Justícia, Montserrat Tura, considera "preocupant el grau de desconeixement que tenen de la nostra nació" els periodistes del setmanari britànic 'The Economist', que van tenir la gosadia de denunciar el "dogmatisme lingüístic” dels nacionalistes. Segons Tura, el reportatge "té afirmacions difamatòries i insultants, pel que fa a la llengua pròpia que utilitzem i a presidents escollits democràticament" i "quan un reportatge ratlla l'insult, ha d'haver-hi una reacció per part del Govern". La reacció ha estat demanar a "The Economist" una rectificació.
Publicado por NO a les 10:11 p. m.