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Spain's parliament goes multi-lingual


In an unusual move, and one with implications for the rest of Europe, Spain's Parliament members can now use Catalan, Basque or Galician when speaking before the body, instead of only Castilian Spanish.

The move comes in the middle of a Spanish political crisis, in which neither the right-leaning Popular Party nor the left-leaning Socialist Party has a firm coalition that would allow it to form a new cabinet. The Socialists could eke out a bare majority with the support of Catalan separatist parties, and the language deal is part of their demands, along with asking the EU to make Spain's three official but minority languages EU languages as well.

Spain, currently led by caretaker Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, has submitted the request to the EU, which already has 24 official languages, but there has been some pushback, in part because other EU countries have a number of regional languages that might expect to be included as well.

Spain is arguing that its case is different, in part because the three minority languages are co-official in Spain and in part because they are spoken by large numbers of people, in some cases by more people than the entire population of some smaller EU countries such as the Baltic States whose three countries and three languages cover a total of about 6 million people, while more than 9 million speak Catalan alone.

Meanwhile, in Spain itself, parliament members from some of the right-leaning parties are refusing to accept the earpieces that would allow them to hear the simultaneous translation of the other languages, saying that should at least wait until the parliament can debate a law allowing the minority languages.

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