'Second phase' of independence push should begin in 2024, Catalan president says

Pere Aragonès calls for referendum and amnesty law approval in institutional Christmas speech

Catalan president Pere Aragonès in his traditional Christmas speech
Catalan president Pere Aragonès in his traditional Christmas speech / Jordi Bedmar
Oriol Escudé Macià

Oriol Escudé Macià | @oriolsqd | Barcelona

December 26, 2023 09:09 PM

December 26, 2023 09:13 PM

Catalan president Pere Aragonès said that 2024 "must be the year" to open "the second phase of negotiations with Spain," that of an independence referendum.

In his institutional Christmas speech broadcasted on Tuesday coinciding with Sant Esteve, Aragonès said the amnesty law must be approved and "fully implemented" to allow the return of those who left Catalonia after the 2017 referendum. 

"[The amnesty law] will allow the recovery of freedom and the return to Catalonia of those repressed in their commitment to organizing the independence referendums. 2024 must be the year we start the second phase of the negotiation process with Spain, in which Catalonia must be able to decide its future freely," he said.


The Catalan president said his priority for the coming year is to reach an agreement with the Spanish government on a new financial tax system for Catalonia.  

"It will put an end to an unbearable fiscal deficit that deprives us of allocating the resources we already pay to improve health care, strengthen education, support the self-employed, workers and entrepreneurs, or support people with dependency and fight against gender-based violence," he said. 

The Catalan president has also called for the "commitment" of other parties in the Catalan parliament to approve the government's budget for 2024, which has not yet been passed. Last budget, the one for 2023, was passed in early March.

Most intense drought ever recorded

President Aragonès made his speech at the Rei Martí water deposit, in the Sant Gervasi district of Barcelona, to underline the government's "commitment" to tackling the "most intense drought ever recorded" in Catalonia.

Aragonès said the drought has already taken a toll on farmers and warned that it "will require an effort from the rest of society."  

He also announced future investments in water infrastructure to "overcome" the effects of the drought and "become more resilient to climate change, which is now more palpable than ever." 

Poor PISA results

The Catalan president also highlighted the challenges in schools following the poor results in the international PISA assessment.   

"It is essential that we put even more effort into this and continue to work together with the educational community, because our children and youth are the present and future of the country," he said. 

2023: A year of 'great achievements' 

Looking back at 2023, Aragonès said it was "a year in which we achieved important milestones," including the "complete transfer of Rodalies," agreed upon with Pedro Sánchez, and the transfer of control over the targeted basic income. 

He also defended the "boost" for the Catalan language, which can now be used in the Spanish Congress and has "begun the path to becoming official in the European Union".  

"Looking back, we can be satisfied as a country with all the progress that has been made. This should give us the confidence, strength and conviction to overcome the challenges we face," he said.