‘Catalonia will vote, once again, on its future,' pledges president

Pere Aragonès says in National Day speech that independence is a “necessary tool" to improve residents’ lives

Catalan president Pere Aragonès during his 2022 Catalonia's National Day speech (by Arnau Carbonell)
Catalan president Pere Aragonès during his 2022 Catalonia's National Day speech (by Arnau Carbonell) / Gerard Escaich Folch

Gerard Escaich Folch | Barcelona

September 10, 2022 09:07 PM

Catalonia has to decide its future in the polls, president Pere Aragonès said during a speech made from the Empúries archaeological site on Saturday night, the eve of the territory’s National Day. "The proposal that generates more consensus" is a vote, the leader said. "Catalonia will vote, once again, as it is inevitable," he concluded.

Self-determination is the "necessary and essential tool to improve residents’ lives," Aragonès justified before adding that Catalonia is powered by "research on welfare, progress, and citizens’ prosperity." 

Residents have to be able to "willingly, peacefully and democratically decide the future of the country," the president conveyed to Catalans. Everyone should be able to choose between "an obsolete state, that does not answer to its citizens’ needs, as we recently see with the nefarious and unacceptable Rodalies commuter train service or a Catalan republic with all the tools to make locals’ lives easier," the pro-independence figure proposed.

The Catalan leader gave his institutional address from the Roman and Greek Empúries archaeological site in the northern seaside town of Castelló d’Empúries, a location chosen as it was a meeting point during Roman times and it is currently a reference when talking about conservation and origin of the territory’s heritage. 

During his address, the leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), called on residents to bear the flag "of democracy, of progress, and freedom," as this will be the "way to build a better future, a new beginning, to have the future in our hands," he told Catalans.

The speech was also a moment for the president to praise the de-judicialization of the independence conflict. This was a needed step to "facilitate a negotiation tackling the political issue with the Spanish state," he said.

Early in 2020, ERC and the Spanish socialist party, one of the ruling forces in the Spanish executive, signed a deal backing PM Pedro Sánchez's presidential bid. The agreement supported the creation of a bilateral negotiating table to discuss the future of the territory.

Since the deal, these meetings have happened very few times, the last one was just before the summer break. On that occasion, neither the PM nor the president were in attendance as they had already privately met days before. Their goal, was to regain trust among both executives had been broken because of the Catalangate espionage scandal

According to an investigation by Citizen Lab and The New Yorker magazine published in April, around 60 pro-independence figures’ phones, including all of the last Catalan presidents, had been targeted with Pegasus spyware.

School is Catalonia’s future

Political conflicts aside, Aragonès also noted the importance of school and especially education with Catalan as a working language. 

The Catalan education system follows, since the 1980s, an immersion system policy, making Catalan the working language to protect it and to ensure everyone can fully speak using the territory’s language. 

However, in recent years, several civil society groups and political parties have been battling the measure in order to add more lessons in Spanish. The Spanish Supreme Court confirmed that at least 25% of instruction should be given in Spanish, something that the Catalan government and parliament countered. 

The executive greenlighted a decree bypassing the percentage quota, while the parliament approved a law that made Catalan the working language and Spanish the curricular language in education centers.

During the speech, Aragonès remarked on the importance of protecting Catalan in schools as it is an "essential tool for social cohesion."  

Further to working language, education has also been a topic that the president mentioned during his speech. From this September, daycare for two-years-old is completely free, making it easier for around 25,000 children to start learning. 

"This is a revolutionary measure that we want to implement to kids aged three or less, as it brings new opportunities, and makes us stronger as a society," the Catalan leader shared. 

Inflation, a new battle for the government

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of living has increased month by month making it more difficult for "citizens to get to the end of the month," the president recognized.

This is also endangering "the economical recovery and is accentuating inequality," which is why "the government is acting on it," Pere Aragonès said.