The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès i Garcia, in the traditional institutional Christmas message this evening, stated that “2024 will be whatever we decide we want it to be”, and called to make it “the year in which we achieve the future we deserve”. “2024 must be the year in which we tackle the second phase of the negotiation process with Spain, in which Catalonia must be able to freely decide its future,” he stated.
From the Rei Marti Cistern, the site chosen for this year’s address to the citizens, the head of the Executive described the achievements of 2023 and the challenges remaining for 2024, including education, the drought and the budget.
“Looking back, we can feel satisfied with how far we have come as a country. This should give us the confidence, strength and conviction to overcome the challenges we face,” he stated.
The 2024 budget is “essential to continue moving forward”, the president stressed, and he claimed that “it will require the responsibility and commitment of a majority in the Catalan Parliament”. “I am determined to build such as majority to make this possible. I ask this of the parliamentary groups and I am convinced we will all be up to the task,” he stated.
With regard to the drought, Aragonès stressed that “it will require an effort” from society as a whole, beyond the “extraordinary commitment” that farmers have already made, as well as “continuing investment in water infrastructures” to overcome its effects and become more resilient to global climate change.
The year 2024 will also be a key one for education, an area where the president said that “it is vital to continue focussing even greater efforts”, and “continue working together with the educational community, because our children and young people are the present and the future of the country”, a further challenge, along with “public health, housing and the fight against gender-based violence, all of which require the best from us, using all the tools available”.
In reference to Catalonia’s self-government, the president stated that “2024 must be the year in which we focus on the path to make this the decade of prosperity and freedom”. He also pointed to the new year as the year in which “we start implementing the handover of the local train service” and in which “we agree on a unique financing system with Spain that puts an end to an unbearable fiscal deficit”.
On the eve of 2024, Aragonès also stressed that the year about to begin will be the year in which “the amnesty law is passed, fully implemented, and allows the people who have been persecuted to recover their freedom and return to Catalonia”.
He also urged “a new commitment to Catalan from all of us”, with the aim of giving it “greater presence than ever before, everywhere” and strengthening the language. On this subject, he noted that today “we have more audiovisuals in Catalan than ever”, Catalan can be used in the Congress of Deputies and the first steps have been taken for it to become an official language in the European Union.
The speech also served to take stock of 2023. President Aragonès reminded citizens of the great achievements in the year, starting with “the lowest unemployment rate in the last fifteen years”, which has allowed many people to find work.
“This year we strengthened the welfare state, with more teachers, more healthcare personnel and more police than ever before,” he pointed out, while at the same time noting the major investment in industry, research and science, “which means new opportunities for today and the Catalonia of tomorrow”.
On the subject of infrastructures, he highlighted the agreement on the complete handover of the local train service and the transfer of the minimum subsistence income. And, on a political level, he welcomed the agreement on the amnesty law, “which not so long ago we were told was impossible” and which “will allow the end of repression and the recovery of rights”. A necessary step, he said, in tackling the next phase of negotiations with Spain: “for Catalonia to freely decide its future, by voting on independence”.
The Rei Martí Cistern
This year, the head of the Executive chose the Rei Martí Cistern as the setting for his Christmas speech to highlight the Government’s commitment to tackling the drought, one of the most immediate emergencies facing the country.
The Rei Martí Cistern is a hypostyle hall, with seven naves running lengthways, filled with arches and 30 pillars, covering 585 m2. It is situated between the streets Jaume Càncer and Bellesguard, in the Sant Gervasi-Bonanova district of Barcelona, and was constructed as part of an underground water collector under the old Torre Bellesguard building, the work of the architect Antoni Gaudí, which had been built on the remains of the last fortress in which Martin the Humane lived, between 1408 and 1410.
Documents dating from 1361 state that the Crown ceded its ownership and use of the water from a “stream” to Bartomeu de Climent and then, at the beginning of the 19th century, a royal concession granted it to Jacint Roig. Later, in 1876, it was acquired by Salvador Homs i Roca, with the obligation of improving the estate.