Aragonès says 2022 to bring light into Covid-19 darkness
Catalan president appraises vaccine effectiveness and collective effort to stop the pandemic
President Pere Aragonès welcomed the New Year with a message of hope after recognizing that in the last year Catalonia has successfully fought the coronavirus pandemic, and the "mortality rate has dropped."
In the traditional New Year's speech, aired on December 26, Aragonès said that 2022 will be the year for Catalonia "to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic," and that levels are much better compared to when the first coronavirus vaccine was administered on December 27, 2020.
"Thanks to vaccines and the collective effort, we had great weeks and months that allowed us to leave behind the vast majority of measures to keep the pandemic under control," said Pere Aragonès. However, he highlighted that the "Omicron variant has, once again, sounded the alarm."
Early this week, the government announced new measures to tackle the spike in new cases, such as a curfew in over 120 municipalities in Catalonia and a 10-person limit gathering. Aragonès acknowledged that these restrictions are "painful, especially at the time of the year we find ourselves, but will only remain in force the time needed to stop the virus and avoid a health collapse."
Catalan language immersion system
This is the first New Year’s speech by Pere Aragonès, as he became president on May 2021. He recorded the message in a school in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a city in the Barcelona metropolitan area. The school, Rosselló Pòrcel, was born "40 years ago, thanks to the stubbornness of some parents that wanted their children to be taught in a public school and using the Catalan language," he said.
The school set the first stone "for the current Catalan school system," which has been on the news agenda since November 23, when Spain’s Supreme Court confirmed 25% of school instruction must be given in Spanish.
For over four decades, schools have been using the Catalan language as a working language rather than changing between Catalan and Spanish, to ensure that students could speak both languages. This is one of the decisions by the new authorities in the late 1970s after Francisco Franco’s dictatorship as they considered that Spanish is learned in society because it is the most widely used language.
The school in Barcelona’s metropolitan area uses "the Catalan language as a working and social gathering language. A role that had a reason to be four decades ago and that is [...] currently important in a context where the country’s cultural and linguistic diversity keeps growing and enriching itself with worldwide contributions," said the Catalan president.
"This is why we have to keep fighting for our school," added Aragonès. "For its linguistic model, its ability to cohesion and generate opportunities. Because without a doubt, it is the soul of the Catalan nation," he continued.
Bid for self-determination
During his televised speech, Pere Aragonès spoke about the bid for Catalonia’s self-determination. In a year where the Catalan president met with Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez, the Catalan leader said that 2022 is the year "to start unblocking the conflict with Spain."
The "negotiation has to move forward and must obtain tangible results," stated Aragonès. He addressed the Catalan residents when he said that "it is necessary to give a response to the majority of Catalans that know that the solution involves amnesty and the right to self-determination," the president said.
"We have a majority," explained almost at the end of his speech. "A majority that wants to solve the conflict and does not accept any blocking. For this reason, we have to start looking for alternatives," said the Catalan president. These "alternatives," in case negotiations fail, need to be real but must have the maximum approval and "we have to learn from the path that led us to here," said Aragonès. "We cannot give up on Catalonia's independence," added the territorial leader.
Aragonès also highlighted that Catalonia will welcome the New Year with an approved budget, the first one in 12 years.
The spending plan was greenlighted on December 23 with the votes of the executive and anti-austerity En Comú Podem party and without the support of the independentist CUP force who rejected the plan.