Intergroup: UNESCO on the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Catalan in Valencia and the Balearic Islands

June’s Intergroup meeting featured Mr Frank Proschan from the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH); Professor Ferran Suay from the Catalan NGO Acció Cultural del País Valencià (ACPV) discussing the controversial closure of the booster station which has cut Catalan language TV (TV3) from Valencia and the subsequent fine of 800,000 euro faced by ACPV over the issue; and Júlia López-Seguí from the NGO Obra Cultural Balear (OCB) on issues facing Catalan in the Balearic Islands.

Mr Proschan described the functioning of the ICH in detail, how there have been rapid ratifications by States but how the UK, Germany and Finland had still not signed up. The ICH is innovative because it recognises the importance of communities and depends on communities themselves to define their cultural heritage rather than States deciding. Once a State has signed up to the ICH it is obliged to create institutions that will facilitate safeguarding of the specified cultural item.

UNESCO had met with problems from some States who were against the ICH including languages, while other States such as Brazil, where languages are given specific protection, were for language inclusion. The situation led to some ambiguity in what is defined as intangible cultural heritage in the ICH so as to allow for language projects. Mr Proschan also noted how joint nominations from states and disfavoured peoples had a priority and how this could be used for heritage projects for the Kurds or the Roma, for example.

ACPV representative Professor Ferran Suay spoke to the Intergroup over the treatment of Catalan in Valencia describing it as a “disgrace in 21st century Europe”. Catalan-medium education is under threat, Catalan TV3 has been cut off, and now the NGO working to protect the language (ACPV) is facing a fine of 800,000 euros. Prof. Suay underlined that the move contravenes the ECRML ratified by Spain, and that 651,000 people had signed a petition for the TV without Frontiers initiative which aims to let Catalan, Basque and Galician public broadcasters share programming. He called for the EU to intervene in the matter.

Júlia López-Seguí from OCB described the complex situation for Catalan in the Balearic islands. In 1997 a ‘Minimum’ decree was passed so that at least 50% of education was taught through Catalan, but that the new government had threatened to undermine it. Visibility for the language is poor with few visitors realising that the islands spoke Catalan. One example of tension was that recently a court found against a policeman who had hit a person in the airport simply for speaking Catalan. She asked that the Parliament stays aware of the situation and continues to support language organisations in the islands.

The presentation on the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage can be downloaded from HERE.

The photo gallery of the pictures taken at the meeting HERE.