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The New Catalan Bill in Andorra

The New Catalan Bill in Andorra

On 13 September, the Government of the Principality of Andorra approved the new catalan Bill in Andorra that will seek to require the accreditation of a minimum level of the language at the time of renewal of the residence permit.

It should be remembered that this is not the first time that the debate has been raised regarding the use of Catalan in the Principality, as well as its preservation and promotion, given that Catalan is the official language of the country and an important part of its national identity. Article 2.1 of the Andorran Constitution states that “the official language of the State is Catalan”.

In addition, Andorran institutions have always argued that knowledge of the Catalan language is essential for proper integration and participation in Andorran society.

As expected, the announcement of the new catalan Bill in Andorra has created great controversy among the residents of the Principality because, as announced by the Government, the bill would limit this need for basic knowledge of Catalan to people holding a residence and work permit. Residents who are self-employed, border workers, temporary workers, passive residence and other types of permits, such as those commonly held by athletes, content creators and streamers residing in the Principality, are therefore excluded.

This limitation would be motivated, as announced by the Minister of Culture and Sports, because it is the type of permit held by most people working in the tertiary and public service sectors, such as commerce and hospitality.

The forecast is that said legal ruling will enter into force in September 2024 and is expected to initially impact around 3,000 residence and work permits that are to be renewed next year.

However, the bill is in an initial phase and may be subject to amendment during the parliamentary process.

The objective of this rule is to promote the use and preservation of the official language of the Principality. For this reason, it is expected that residents who do not have this basic knowledge will be required to complete a 30-hour Catalan training course and will have one year to do so.

How will this basic knowledge be verified? The bill does not provide for this, but what it does provide for is that these details will be set by regulation, a regulation for the implementation of the law that should take place in less than 6 months, and which probably includes an oral test as a means of verification.

In order to carry out this training, the Government of Andorra is looking for four new Catalan teachers to strengthen the group of teachers who currently work in the Catalan learning centres, which have recently experienced an avalanche of enrolment requests, and which currently have a waiting list of more than 700 people.

The law would contemplate a fine of 1,000 to 60,000 euros, although the director of Culture and Sports has indicated that the idea is for fines not to be applied, that the regulations “are not punitive” and that the inspectors of each sector will have to ensure compliance with the rule, in coordination with the Linguistic Policy department.

The announcement of this measure has caused a reaction in some residents who oppose the bill, pointing out that the rule limits freedom of choice and discriminates against those who do not speak Catalan. They argue that it is important to guarantee respect for the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Principality, and that the official language can be promoted without the need to impose its knowledge as a requirement to be able to reside in the country. Among them, some streamers or Spanish content creators residing in Andorra have publicly complained on their platforms about this proposed law.

Beyond the demand for Catalan for some residents, the bill has the challenge of replacing current regulations, the Law on the Regulation of the Use of the Official Language, approved in December 1999, which has not undergone many amendments since its entry into force.

The draft of the new Catalan law foresees its use in the department of Justice and in the alternative resolution of conflicts, referring to the use of translators and interpreters or the use of Catalan sign language, and taking a step forward to guarantee the rights of people with disabilities. Likewise, it foresees a modernisation of the administrative language and of public and online communications.

Therefore, to conclude, we would like to highlight two points that we believe are important:

  1. It is a draft law, which means that it is not yet clear whether this regulation will end up being applied, in what way, and to whom it will be directed.
  2. It is mainly focused on workers in the service sector who deal face-to-face with the public (shops, hospitality, etc.) along with civil servants, with the aim of continuing to use the official language of the country in these sectors. Therefore, residents such as athletes or content creators are left out, although they are advised to learn the language. 

Katia Carneiro

If you have any doubts or do you want to know more about this bill, please contact us!

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