The seaside town of Port-Vendres is one of the towns affected by the court decision, Source: Depositphotos

France suppresses use of Catalan in town halls of Pyrénées-Orientales

France suppresses use of Catalan in town halls of Pyrénées-Orientales

The Catalonian Government across the border has expressed “regret” about this. Could this sour the bilateral relationship?

Not quite a diplomatic row but a grudge between the regional government of Catalonia (Generalitat) and the French authorities seems to be brewing up. It's the result of The Administrative Court of Montpellier prohibiting the use of the Catalan language in the plenary sessions of several town halls in the Department of Pyrénées-Orientales.

That small region which lies just north of the eastern stretch of the Spanish-French border is unofficially known as Northern, or French Catalonia due to the identity, heritage and traditions of the local inhabitants. Since the 17th century, it has been part of France, as decided by the Treaty of the Pyrenees which ended the Thirty Years’ War.

Catalan was previously permitted to be spoken in plenary sessions on the condition that interventions be translated into French. This was allowed by the so-called Molac Law, introduced in 2021 to protect and promote the use of regional languages in France. The law, however, was recently overturned as unconstitutional.

The argument for the decision went that French remained the only recognized language in the country and it was unlawful for it to take a secondary status in official dealings, such as the local plenary sessions. The procedure that was used at the town halls in five towns of Pyrénées-Orientales was to have the sessions in Catalan with accompanying translation into French. The court decision stated that it should be the other way around.

Frowns in Catalonia

French policies since the 19th century have gone towards centralization and crafting of a singular national identity at the expense of regional identities and languages. That policy has been the mainstay of basically all governments regardless of their political orientation.

Molac Law, named after a Breton activist and politician who introduced the bill to force regional authorities to recognize the determination of regional identities seems to have been short-lived in effect, though.

Patrícia Plaja, spokesperson for the Catalan government, quoted by The Catalan News, said that the executive "regrets" the decision of the French courts to ban plenary sessions in Catalan. For the Generalitat, the decision follows "a very restrictive reading of the French Constitution" which also "contradicts the European spirit of respect for plurality."

The Catalonian authorities promised support to the local government of the towns of Elna, Els Banys, Tarerac, Portvendres, and Sant Andreu de Sureda in Pyrénées-Orientales.

The issue also reached Brussels, where the European Free Alliance Group (EFA) in the European Parliament called on the French state to stop the discrimination of regional and minority languages. EFA is a political alliance that defends the interests of regionalists and native minorities. Its Secretary-General is Jordi Solé, who is Catalan.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU