Catalan was used yesterday in the Spanish senate where all the official languages of the state (including Galician, Basque and Catalan, as well as Castilian) can now be spoken by the senators in plenary sessions (read article in Catalan here, Avui). From now on, members of the senate can speak in any of the four languages in the debates between groups, which means motions and propositions that don't deal with legislation; simultaneous translation is available to ensure that all senators can understand what is being said at any time. Although there are certain limitations on the use of the languages, the new system does go further than the general commission of the autonomous communities, the only place where the languages were employed in this way until yesterday. The move was an initiative on the part of the Catalan Socialist senator Ramon Aleu, motivated by a desire to confront problems in education. Members from the different regions of Spain with their own language declared their emotion at being able to speak in their mother tongue in the Senate for the first time. However, the Spanish opposition party, the Partido Popular (PP), criticised the introduction of the different languages in the senate. It was the only party whose members explicitly refused to use any language apart from Castilian for their speeches yesterday. The party's official line stressed that this is "the only language that is common to all the members of the chamber." The PP also criticised the fact that, at a time of spending cuts and high unemployment, the government had decided to spend €12,000 on installing a simultaneous translation system in the senate. The leader of the PP, Mariano Rajoy, said that in a "normal country" people wouldn't have to do their day-to-day work using a simultaneous translation service; few of the PP senators who were in the chamber yesterday actually made use of the headphones through which they could hear the translations into Castilian.
Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has said that his government will review its nuclear policy as part of its wider negotiations with employers and trade unions to deal with the current economic crisis (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Essentially, the proposal is to lengthen the working life of the eight nuclear power stations that are currently functioning in Spain, always providing there are no safety issues as a result. In theory, this could mean that the planned closure of the Garoña station won't go ahead although sources involved in the discussions have refused to speculate on this. The possibility of changing the nuclear policy of the Socialist government is dependent on agreement being reached on changing the retirement age for workers that has caused problems in the talks, particularly with the trade unions, who don't want the age to be pushed back from 65 to 67. In turn, the unions are hoping that if the policy regarding the power stations is changed, it will help save jobs.
House sales here fell again in November 2010, although the rate of the decrease slowed compared to previous months (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Around 32,000 properties were sold in Spain in November, which represents an overall annual fall in house sales of 6.2 percent; in October, house sales fell by 17.7 percent. The number of properties sold in Spain has been falling since September, following eight months when sales were on the increase. The majority of proprties bought in November were second-hand (51.3 percent) compared to 48.7 percent that were new-builds.