In a New Year's message delivered this evening, the president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, stressed that 2020 must be the year that democracy is regained.
The president during the speech. Photograph: Rubén Moreno

In a New Year’s message delivered this evening, the president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, stressed that 2020 must be the year that “democracy is regained” because Catalans “want to govern ourselves based on three key principles: democracy, dialogue and human rights”.

After another year in which “democracy has been held hostage […] with more evidence than ever of the authoritarian side of the Spanish state,” the president said that the coming year must also be one in which Catalans “tell ourselves the truth”. “With deep honesty, we need to get back on track and regain the initiative in order to chart a course to an inspiring future.” The president also emphasised the need to “regain the sense of unity that made the First of October referendum possible”.

Torra said: “There’s no real solution for Catalonia that doesn’t include recognising our right to self-determination and exercising that right. We can’t fall into the trap of deluding ourselves again.”

“We don’t have a problem of coexistence or one of flags; we have a problem of welfare, progress and justice that should be resolved with the focus on future generations, not on the next elections.”

Torra stressed that his willingness to engage in dialogue was “absolute” but insisted on the need for “concrete content and a commitment to political and democratic solutions. Without a commitment to let citizens have their say on Catalonia’s political future, there can be no honest dialogue.” According to the president, a real, lasting solution depends on adherence to this principle. “Dialogue also means recognition, and in this case it requires a bilateral approach and respect for political subjects with rights and duties,” he added.

2019: a year marked by state repression

Taking stock of the year now ending, the president lamented the difficulties and injustices Catalonia has faced and the “ongoing judicialisation of decisions taken by Catalan citizens and their political representatives”.

Torra said one of the clearest examples of state repression was the “shameful” trial of the Catalan political prisoners, who were sentenced to a total of 100 years in prison, noting that the trial has been condemned by leading human rights organisations. “And right now, the Spanish state is violating a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Vice-President Oriol Junqueras must be released immediately and, consequently, a mistrial must be declared.”

The president also said that “the use of the justice system for political ends has led to the president of the Government of Catalonia being brought before the courts” for having defended freedom of expression. (by not complying with an order to remove a banner expressing support for Catalan political prisoners and exiles from the balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat). According to Torra, the sentence in this case was “written before the proceedings began” and the objective was to ban him from public office. He reminded the Spanish state that “Catalan presidents can only be appointed and removed by the Catalan Parliament because Catalan members of parliament are the only legitimate representative of citizens”, adding that he would not allow a court to “supplant the sovereignty of the Catalan people”.

Finally, the president lamented that individuals linked to the independence movement have been imprisoned “without evidence” and interrogated under conditions that have led the Catalan government to raise questions.

The president said that despite the difficulties of 2019, Catalans “have a duty to face the year ahead with as much strength as possible” in order to tackle challenges such as the climate emergency and energy poverty, ensure that the Catalan economy continues to perform well, and focus on the most vulnerable and those at risk of social exclusion.

“Policies that focus on housing, education, economic dynamism, territorial balance and health will be key priorities for the Catalan government in 2020. Catalonia is an empowered nation that’s achieved what it has despite all the obstacles put in its way by external forces. That’s why I have absolute confidence in our ability to counter the threats we face and capitalise on the opportunities.”