REGIONAL POLITICS

Catalan parties agree referendum on independence within two years

Deal between CiU, ERC paves way for Mas to remain premier

Education minister blasted in Congress over language reform

Madrid / Barcelona 12 DIC 2012 - 20:52 CET

Catalan Republican Left lawmaker Alfred Bosch (l) flanked by members of his party in Congress on Wednesday. / Álvaro García (EL PAÍS)

The center-right Catalan nationalist bloc CiU and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) on Wednesday reached an agreement to call for a referendum on independence for Catalonia within two years.

The deal paves the way for Artur Mas to remain premier of the region. The CiU emerged as the biggest party in regional elections held last month but fell short of the absolute majority it was seeking. ERC was the second most voted party. The two sides still have to agree on the budget for next year. The accord on the referendum states that it must be held before the end of 2014 but does not give a specific date.

In a parallel development, the CiU, the ERC and other Catalan parties — with the exception of the local branch of the ruling Popular Party — reached an agreement not to implement the reform of the education system put forward by Education Minister José Ignacio Wert, which restores Castilian Spanish to the same level in the classroom as co-official regional languages such as Basque or Catalan.

The accord says the parties will adhere to the Catalan Education Law, which promotes immersion in the Catalan language. The parties described Wert’s proposals as “unacceptable” as they “prevent linguistic immersion by segregating pupils on the basis of language.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Wert was given a rough ride in Congress over his proposals. The PSC Catalan branch of the main opposition Socialist Party and the CiU demanded that Wert step down. The congressional spokesman for the ERC, Alfred Bosch, said: “Even with civil guards in the classroom, schoolchildren will not stop studying Catalan.”

“You are going to come up against a nation ready to defend its children,” Bosch warned. “Don’t you dare touch our children. We’ve had enough; we won’t obey.”

CiU congressional spokesman, Josep Antoni Duran Lleida, warned Wert that “Philip V tried to put an end to Catalan and later Franco, but they didn’t succeed.”

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