Basque language gains increased recognition at local government level in France

2003 June 5

More than fifty mayors participated last week in the ‘Day of the Municipalities for Euskara’, organised by Euskal Konfederazioa (Basque Cultural Associations’ Confederation) in collaboration with the Basque Cultural Institute, in Espelette, Iparralde (Northern Basque Country in the French state).

The aim of the initiative was to promote the normalisation of the Basque language and especially its use in the various municipalities, through the oral use of the language during City Council meetings and the translation of various documents into Basque.

Both the President of Euskal Konfederazioa, Marie-Jeanne Mercapide, and the President of the Basque Cultural Institute, Erramun Bachok, expressed their satisfaction with the day’s events. This initiative follows the recent signature by the Municipality of Hendaia/Hendaye, a large town in Iparralde, of the Convention with Euskal Konfederazioa to promote the use of Basque in all municipality activities. Thirteen cities have thus far signed this Convention, with the support of the local sub-prefectures.

Talking to Eurolang, Basque Cultural Institute Language Service Officer, Pantxika Maitia, said ‘This initiative is paramount; translating municipality acts into Basque and using it in meetings will definitely help the situation, which is currently very critical. According to the last survey, which was carried out in 1996, only 25% of the population in the Northern Basque Country speak the language, and the vast majority are rather elderly. We are now awaiting the 2002 results, which will become public in a few weeks. In the future, we should all be focusing on education and family transmission of the language, which is gradually decreasing. At the Institute we are responsible for organising a number of extra-curricular school activities in the language, but if parents and grandparents stop speaking Basque to their children and grandchildren, the situation will not improve’.