Never before had a Catalan president given the annual New Year's message while pending the confirmation of a ban on his holding the office, after being convicted of disobedience. Yet another case of the vertiginous evolution of events in Catalan politics. Quim Torra used the traditional end of year speech to call for the immediate release of the imprisoned Oriol Junqueras and the annulment of the Supreme Court's sentences against the pro-independence leaders, and he also challenged the state, warning that he will neither allow nor accept "that a court could usurp the sovereignty of Catalans."
If last year the president urged Catalans to "be prepared for the year of freedom that is approaching," he now looked backed with the observation that "2019 was the year of abducted democracy", "of a permanent judicialization of the decisions of the people and their representatives." On this issue, he addressed "the Spanish state" directly, warning that "you should know that presidents are appointed and dismissed by Parliament". These words were spoken in the context of the recent Catalan High Court verdict that went against him, which, from his point of view, "was already written when the judicial process began". "They didn't want to disqualify me, they wanted to disqualify the president of Catalonia," he said.
Also on the theme of the Spanish state's approach of judicialization to combat the independence process, he lamented that "people linked to the independence movement have been jailed with no evidence" and quoted the critical positions taken by "the most important human rights organizations" on the Supreme Court trial of the pro-independence leaders. And, in response, he called for 2020 to be "the year of rediscovered democracy".
A veiled message to ERC
Torra also made a reference to the negotiations between ERC and the PSOE for the formation of a new Spanish government under Pedro Sánchez. Without directly mentioning his government partners' talks with the Socialists, he made it clear that his "readiness for dialogue" as president was "absolute." And he refined this. "Without a commitment to give the public a say on the political future of Catalonia, there is no honest dialogue, but only a desire to put a patch on the problem," he said.
As he has done in recent months in speeches in Parliament, the president emphasized that any "solution for Catalonia involves recognizing the right to self-determination and its exercise". Before finishing, he sent a veiled message to ERC: "We cannot fall back into the trap of deceiving ourselves". He added that "this new year must be the year of telling ourselves the truth." Torra concluded with an invitation to "take up the path again and map out a direction that gives hope for everyone". To do so, he affirmed, "I will not tire of insisting that the sense of unity that allowed us to conduct the referendum of 1st October must be restored."
Although his main theme was Catalonia's national debate, Torra reserved the first part of his speech to speak of the importance of "continuing to maintain the good level of economic indicators on the creation of wealth, growth of exports and the reduction of unemployment." And, in parallel, "to give attention to the most vulnerable and those at risk of social exclusion".
To meet these challenges, he placed "housing, education, economic dynamism, territorial balance and health policies" at the centre of his government's priorities. In making this reflection, he also took the opportunity to denounce the "financial and investment suffocation and infrastructure deficit" that Catalonia has suffered.
The Catalan president's full speech is below: