The legal conflict over the linguistic immersion system in Catalan educational centers is on the way to eternalizing in the courts. The Supreme Court made final two weeks ago the sentence handed down a year ago by the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) that came to settle the debate by urging the Generalitat to teach a minimum of 25% of the classes in Spanish. The problem is that that ruling was based in part on an additional provision of the Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality (Lomce), the so-called ley worth, which established that Spanish is the “vehicular language of education throughout the State,” but that reference was repealed in the new education law (known as Celaá law).
The Generalitat alleges this change in the educational law to refuse to comply with the sentence now ratified by the Supreme Court, which derives from an appeal presented by the central government in the time of Mariano Rajoy. The current Executive of PSOE and United We Can has been ambiguous about whether it is going to require Catalonia that at least 25% of the classes be taught in Spanish and, in an interview in The world, The Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop, also warned this Tuesday of the need to study how the change in the Education law affects. “It is not clear that it is necessary to comply with 25 percent of Spanish in schools because now a different law is in force than the one that governed when the events were reported,” he said. The Catalan high court, however, considers that nothing changes with the Celaá law.
The “obligation for Castilian to be the vehicular language in education derives directly from the Constitution, hence the modification operated [por la reforma educativa] it does not affect the status of Spanish as a vehicular language ”, the regional judges warned in two sentences last March in which they annulled the educational projects of two schools that only taught in Catalan. Jurists consulted, however, admit that the situation is not clear and that the doubts will have to be resolved again in court.
The Generalitat, “inflexible”
“The origin of everything is that the Generalitat has refused to be flexible and has imposed that teaching be exclusively in Catalan, in breach of the judgments of the TSJC that obliged it to offer teaching in Spanish. And the reaction of the judges to this breach has been, in my opinion, inadequate: to act as legislator and to force the teaching of a minimum percentage of teaching in Spanish, ”explains Alberto López Basaguren, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of the Basque Country.
This jurist considers that the educational reform does not alter the jurisprudence because the Constitutional Court already stated in the ruling on the Statute, in 2010, that Spanish was the vehicular language. In the same sense, the also Professor of Constitutional Lorenzo Cotino expresses himself: “Since 2010 it was the obligation to offer teaching in Spanish. The PP tried to put more guarantees before the failure of the Generalitat. What is not now in the law are these guarantees, but the obligation has not disappeared and the TSJC and the Supreme Court have just recalled it, “he says.
Antoni Bayona, who was the Parlament’s senior lawyer during the 2017 independence challenge, disagrees with these interpretations and assures that the change of law does leave the obligation to comply with the Catalan court ruling that sets the minimum of 25% of teaching in Spanish. This judicial decision, Bayona warns, was based on the fact that the Wert law established that Spanish should be guaranteed “in a reasonable proportion”, a precept that led to the inaction of the Generalitat, the TSJC specifying that minimum percentage. “I believe that the sentence of now is no longer applicable in its terms, it has been superseded by the new law because the precept on which it was based has changed”, argues Bayona, who considers that the new norm gives “much more scope for action ”To the Government.
Agustín Ruiz Robledo, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Granada, also considers that the Celaá law, at least, has added “confusion” to a conflict that the Supreme Court had resolved. “The Wert law specified the mechanism and the Supreme Court tied up the remaining ends, but the current law eliminates that mechanism. The obligation of the Government that promotes this change should be to replace what is removed, but has not been done, “laments the lawyer.
In any case, all the jurists consulted do agree on something: the Generalitat has to guarantee that Spanish is also a vehicular language in education. And if the Government, as it has announced, does not comply with it, the conflict will drag on in the courts. “The problem is that the burden of going to court, very few families are willing to play it because it is a difficult public exposure to bear,” says López Basaguren, who draws attention to another legal element that until now has been left out: the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages, signed by Spain, obliges Spain to offer exclusive teaching in Catalan to those who request it. This agreement “conflicts” with the sentences that impose a minimum percentage of Spanish, the jurist warns, but it would not be correct to interpret that the document can serve the Generalitat to impose Catalan as the only language of instruction. “The European charter requires that it be offered only to those who want it, not that it be imposed on everyone,” he recalls.