The National:

IT is almost four years since the nine Catalan political prisoners went to jail, they have been finally released. This is a small victory for Catalonia, and for democracy.

The EU has been disappointing to say the least in regards to the “Catalan situation”. This pardon comes after the Spanish Government came under pressure following a report from the Council of Europe on the prosecution of elected politicians. Finally, Spanish President Pedro Sanchez was forced to release them.

But the release of the Calatan politicians comes not only because of the Council of Europe, but thanks to the work of the European Free Alliance (EFA) group and its MEPs who fought for justice in the chamber.

It comes thanks to the work of exiled politicians like Clara Ponsati, Carles Puigdemont, and Toni Comin, who continued to fight for their imprisoned colleagues.

READ MORE: Pardons for Catalan indy prisoners 'a trap' says Aamer Anwar

And it comes thanks to the millions of activists who, rather than being scared by threats from Spain, kept being bold, protesting, raising their voice for those who couldn’t. That is one of the reasons that our movement is so great.

What the nine leaders had to go through, from missing the birth of their own children, losing parents and loved ones without the chance to say goodbye, the eight-month-long sham trial, to all the time missed with their families, is something the Catalan people will never be able to repay.

The sacrifice they have made for the country goes beyond what any activist or politician signs up for.

The National: Dolors Bassa coming out of prisonDolors Bassa coming out of prison

Since the referendum, the Catalan independence movement has been hurting. It has been difficult to fight for our freedom when so many of our own had theirs taken away.

The nine prisoners are only the tip of the iceberg. More than 3000 Catalans are still being prosecuted just for supporting independence, more than 3000 families being torn apart by the Spanish state.

I have young friends being sent to prison. Some are only 18 or 19 and have sentences of over eight years, just for protesting.

We know this release is a breath of fresh air, but we still have so much to fight for. With Pere Aragones now as the President of Catalonia, we are moving towards a more equal country, building the foundation of what the Catalan Republic will stand on, and that feels hopeful.

As much as the release of our leaders is good news, I can’t help but feel it is just some PR move.

READ MORE: 'Freedom for Catalonia!': Political prisoners freed after three and a half years

Imagine you are Pedro Sanchez. You have the EU putting pressure on you, you have inherited a mess from the previous right-wing government, and you know Spain is a laughing stock on the international stage. Of course you are going to release them.

It makes the government look progressive, it makes the EU happy, and it will shut up the Catalans for a while.

The reality is that the Spanish government is not ready to sit and talk. It is not ready to apologize for what they have done to the Catalan people, and the prosecution pf others continues.

The pardons are just an empty gesture. Until they seriously start to listen, to offer dialogue and options, the root of the problem, the reason why all these started, is not going to go away.

I can’t praise Spain for these releases when there are still so many Catalans unfairly prosecuted, when there is still no intention of granting us a referendum.

And while yes, I couldn’t be happier they are out, we all know this is far from over.

We won’t settle for crumbs, we want the whole pie. We won't stop until Catalonia is free.

Visca Catalunya lliure!