A reconstructing Catalonia Day

After years marked by the pandemic and repression, the country is looking for ways to recover

Gerard Pruna
4 min
The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, yesterday greeting the Mossos d'Esquadra of gala at the gates of Parliament.

BarcelonaThis academic year will mark four years since the events of autumn 2017. In less accelerated times we would be talking about a legislature, but this unit of measurement has long since become obsolete as a result of the electoral advance. Even so, four years have passed. More than a thousand days in which Catalonia, the State and the independence movement itself have had to relocate after the train crash of 1-O shattered the pieces of the chessboard. Now that the epic has disappeared and the harshest phase of the repression has been softened - but not overcome - with the granting of pardons, this soulless Catalonia Day, far removed from the atmosphere that has marked the Days of the last decade, appears as an opportunity to rebuild not only the independence movement but also the country.

Because in these four years there has been time for almost everything, including going through a pandemic that has damaged the social shield and that has displaced the Catalan independence bid - the absolute protagonist of the last political decade in Catalonia - to a less central position in the debate. Piloting the country's recovery with the help of European funds, defining the model of the country we want and fighting to ensure that no one is left behind are the undisputed priorities of a government that also faces the other major challenge of negotiating with the Spanish government to find a way out of the conflict. Precisely yesterday, in his first speech of Catalonia Day, the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, reiterated that the solution involves holding an agreed referendum.

The dialogue table is now the only horizon of the independence movement, but there is no unity around it either. In the four years since 1-O it has not been possible to re-establish unity among supporters of independence, who have made different interpretations of what the referendum meant and what the next steps should be. The disorientation has resulted in demobilisation and a point of frustration that we will have to see today if it turns into bitterness of the demonstrators towards the political parties, as it happened slightly on 11 September two years ago, before covid-19 broke the tone of the mass demonstrations for Catalonia Day.

HAragonès, who plans to attend the demonstration, as well as the rest of the members of Catalan Government, with the exception of the Aragonès, who plans to attend the demonstration, as well as the rest of the members of the Government, with the exception of the Home Affairs minister, Joan Ignasi Elena, used his institutional speech last night to call for the strength of Catalonia Day to be brought to the meeting of the dialogue table scheduled for next Thursday or Friday. But in yet another sign that strategic unity is still a long way off, the vigil brought a new clash between partners over the negotiations with the state. After the head of the Catalan executive challenged those sceptical of the negotiations to present an alternative in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio, the president of the Catalan parliament, Laura Borràs, responded by criticising the fact that a year and a half after their first meeting at the dialogue table, there has been no concrete action either.

With the ANC itself setting itself the target of over 100,000 demonstrators - far from the numbers of a few years ago - the message of Catalonia Day will be less about the mobilisation than about the climate in which it takes place. Yesterday, the presentation of the Parliamentary Medal of Honor to the victims of repression due to the Catalan independence bid was lavished with criticism of the institutions and parties for how they have managed the hangover the referendum, and among the ranks of the Government there is fear about what attitudes might be seen in the demonstration, which finally will not end at the door of the Parliament as planned at the beginning.

A turning point

Four years later, therefore, Catalonia Day aims to be a turning point in the disorientation of recent years and the transition from a period marked basically by mourning for the repression - which still continues with bloody examples such as the exile or the case of the Court of Auditors - to a period of reconstruction of the country and the movement.

Four years have been enough time to see pro-independence leaders in and out of prison; to live through a historic trial in the Supreme Court with sentences of more than a decade; to see a president go into exile and put Spanish justice under the European magnifying glass through the struggle abroad; to experience the first riots after years of peaceful and massive demonstrations; to bring down the Spanish president who intervened in the institutions through a vote of no confidence; to lose the Generalitat through the end of self-rule, and to recover it at the polls; to see a president disqualified from office for the first time in history; to open a one-on-one negotiation process with the State; to see a king flee; to go through a pandemic, and even to see the presidency of the Generalitat change hands.

However, what happens from today onwards will depend on whether four years have been enough to finish picking up the pieces that broke as a result of the 2017 shock, understand what the October 2017 referendum meant, determine what can be done to recover the institutions, the country and the independence movement and start, one legislature later, the path of reconstruction.