Friday, September 27, 2013

The Power Behind Balearics Trilingualism

What has the teachers strike got to do with Carlos Delgado? The Balearics tourism minister had been quiet on the subject until the other day. His silence was wholly appropriate. Education is not a matter for a tourism minister, but then Delgado is no ordinary tourism minister.

In March 2011, two months before the last regional election, Delgado gave an interview, having been through one of those spells of which he makes a habit and when he appears to have disappeared. He was asked which ministerial post he would like. He had two preferences. One was tourism, the other was education. Where education was concerned, he wanted to see a situation by which parents could choose the language in which their children were taught, the choice being between Castellano and Catalan and one that was indeed established after the election. In the end, he got his wish for tourism, even though the hoteliers had tried to persuade Bauzá not to give him the job. Commenting on his preferences, I observed that "Bauzá has himself become divisive in a way that does not bode well for what should be within his grasp, the presidency of the Balearics. If he bows to Delgado's ambition for education, the divisions are likely to widen. But then who actually makes the decisions and who actually wields the power?"

I was fearful of divisions in Mallorcan and Balearic society that might come with a Bauzá presidency. They had not manifested themselves in quite the way that they have over the past few weeks, but the teachers strike is the consequence of this divisiveness. Concerted industrial action was going to happen at some point, and it now has. Had Delgado been made education minister in 2011, the chances are that it would have happened very much sooner and it would have been a lot bloodier.

One commentator in the Spanish press referred to Delgado recently as "education minister number one". By so doing, a point was emphasised that was widely thought to be the case before the 2011 elections; Delgado was the power to which I referred then, his anti-Catalanism was more vociferous than Bauzá's and had been well-chronicled before Bauzá was plucked from Marratxí obscurity to head the Balearics PP.

The tourism minister's silence over the strike has now been broken, and he has chosen to attack members of his own party: mayors of PP-led towns who do not fully support TIL. These mayors had met with the person who is the education minister, Joana Maria Camps, and had, in essence, called on her to back track. Among them were Sa Pobla's Biel Serra and Pollensa's Tomeu Cifre, mayors of towns with very identifiable Catalan and indeed Catalanist traditions. Delgado wants disciplinary sanctions against mayors who do not follow the party line. What does he propose? That they are thrown out of the party in the same way that Antoni Pastor of Manacor was for refusing to go along with PP anti-Catalan policy?

It has been suggested that it was Delgado who pushed for the removal of the former education minister Rafael Bosch, who was believed to be a moderate and so therefore a "Catalanist". It really is no coincidence that Bosch went very shortly after the original TIL bill was approved in April and was replaced by someone who would do as she was told. The question is, though: told by whom?

It may not ultimately matter who is wielding the power behind the scenes, but by calling for sanctions against mayors, Delgado is adding to the divisiveness that TIL is causing, and one is left to wonder if this is a divisiveness that has been craved. The unions have rejected accusations that they have embarked on a political strike, but their rebuttals do not convince. In turning down Camps' offer to make TIL voluntary for this year at secondary level and demanding instead that it be voluntary at primary level as well, they have tried to stick to the educational knitting, but have undermined their position by demanding also that the "law on symbols" (which covers inter alia the display of the Catalan flag) be withdrawn. What else is this but political?

Had TIL been purely educational there would not be a strike. The chances are that, were educational issues the only ones that mattered, TIL would not even have cropped up, but had it, then its implementation and its preparation would have been very different. It is a policy driven by a political agenda, one driven by Delgado and Bauzá and one that was inevitably going to lead to conflict and division. And the unions have been only too happy to oblige.

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