Europe and the banning of the Catalan language in Real Madrid's stadium

It was May 9, 1950, the day when the idea of creating a community of coal and steel was first launched, thus putting the two raw materials needed for making weapons under shared control. That the idea was raised on May 9th made perfect sense: five years earlier, on May 9, 1945, World War II had ended in Europe.

And today, on our front page, we are asking how to save Europe. A starred blue flag flying on the coast before a boat crowded with people who want to enter the continent, quickly brings us face-to-face with one of the most serious problems facing Europe. A challenge worsened by the financial crisis and the change in economic scale brought about by globalization and the digital revolution. And still, a challenge no greater than leaving behind the misery of war and trying not to repeat it ever again.

It is in this sense that, last week, a European capital as important as London provided a great piece of news: the election of Sadiq Khan as mayor, a Muslim born to a British Pakistani family. The son of a Pakistani double-decker bus driver, as a child the new mayor of London lived in public housing, went to a state school, and his efforts and talent did the rest. Now he is mayor, and it's worth noting that only 12% of Londoners are Muslim —that is, he received a lot of votes from outside his ethnic group. In a way, the election of Sadiq Khan is the opposite of the European policy towards Syrian refugees.

This is magnificent news for London and for Europe --especially now that the English will hold a referendum as to whether they want to leave the EU--, because it resonates around the world and shows the extent to which Western Christian democratic values and those of the Enlightenment do not discriminate on the grounds of origin or religion, and can be deeply inclusive, provided that the host country and the newcomers are prepared to make a small effort.

But there is no chance of saving Europe --nor Spain, nor coexistence, nor even intelligence--, with incidents like yesterday's in Real Madrid’s stadium. At the end of the game, in the mixed area, they interviewed Madrid's goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who is Catalan. A TV3 journalist asked him a question in Catalan. Casilla hesitated and looked at Real’s press officer at his side, who told him: "No, in Spanish", and Casilla answered in Spanish. Afterwards he apologized to the journalist.

It's only one scene, but it's serious and revealing. It illustrates the feeling of inferiority that some Catalans experience when using their own language in public. It explains the fear of speaking Catalan in Spain. Why? Why in heaven's name can't you answer a question in Catalan in the mixed area of a stadium in Madrid, where questions are asked and answered in no end of languages? To what do we owe this attitude of colonial domination, of marginalization, perhaps of offense? Take a guess.


Nearly 40 years of democracy have not got rid of certain attitudes at the heart of Spain’s cultural personality. I've read many commentaries on the story and there are many people from Madrid itself that can't explain it, clearly. But the reality is that Casilla had doubts and the Madrid employee prohibited it, because the former knew that to speak Catalan in public has a price, and the latter knew that to prohibit its use would carry no penalty --in fact, it might even be rewarded--, and both things are deplorable and worthy of being denounced. And this is precisely not the way to save Europe.