Spanish Prime Minister travels to Barcelona to reopen Catalan separatist talks – expat guide to Spain
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is traveling to Barcelona on Wednesday to resume dialogue with Catalan separatist leaders on resolving the political crisis triggered by the failure of the region’s independence bid in 2017.
Sanchez confirmed earlier this week that he will meet with Catalan leader Pere Aragones on September 15 for talks, which are expected to start around 13:00 GMT.
In October 2017, the Catalan regional government organized a referendum banned by Madrid, then issued a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering the worst political crisis Spain has seen in decades. In 2019, violent protests followed Spain’s imprisonment of nine separatist leaders.
Since then, Catalonia has remained a major problem in Spanish politics and one that Sanchez’s government has pledged to resolve through negotiations, even as tensions have eased.
“The situation in Catalonia is very different, much more stable than in 2017 or 2019,” the Prime Minister said on Monday.
In January 2020, Sanchez agreed to open talks after the ERC – Catalonia’s oldest and largest separatist party – offered crucial parliamentary support to his minority government.
Initial talks began a month later, but were quickly put on hold as the coronavirus pandemic set in.
The chances of success this time around are low as the two parties have drastically different expectations.
The separatists have two main goals: an amnesty for all those involved in the failed independence bid and a new referendum on self-determination, this time with Madrid’s approval.
The Spanish government is implacably opposed to both.
“If we start from a list of maximalist demands, the conversation will not last very long,” said Sanchez, while admitting he was open to a possible vote on the place of Catalonia in Spain, but within limits .
“In the constitution, a Democrat has no problem calling for a vote, but it will have to be by agreement, not by going it alone.”
– More flexible leadership? –
Much has changed since the referendum in October 2017 and the crisis that followed. Those responsible were tried and jailed while others fled abroad to avoid prosecution, leaving the separatist movement beheaded and deeply at odds on how to move forward.
And the issue of dialogue with Madrid has been a huge sticking point in this region of 7.8 million people who remain divided on the issue of independence.
Despite the differences, negotiations would have a better chance this time around thanks to the reshuffle within the separatist-dominated leadership of Catalonia, with the moderate left-wing ERC having taken the reins several months ago.
Last time around, his hard-core JxC counterpart was in charge.
The change had an immediate effect: within weeks, the Spanish government pardoned jailed separatist leaders and agreed to resume high-level talks on the Catalan crisis.
ERC favors a negotiated strategy to achieve independence through dialogue with Madrid, while JxC, now a junior coalition partner, wishes to maintain a confrontational approach.
JxC had wanted to send two pardoned prisoners as his representatives to the talks, but Aragones refused, saying they were not elected representatives in a last-minute confrontation that shed unwelcome light on tensions within the Generalitat, or Catalan government.
“It does not seem to start well for the Generalitat … even the most loyal separatists complain about this ridiculous spectacle”, declared Josep Borrell, head of foreign policy of the EU and Catalan who does not want the region to separate. from Spain.
“I hope that doesn’t stop the talks. We must recognize Pedro Sanchez’s enormous willingness to seek a way to resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiation, which is the only way in a democratic country.