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Spain: cabinet meeting in Barcelona ‘show of affection’ towards Catalonia

Heavy security measures while gathering sparks pro-independence protests

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21 December 2018 03:24 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

The Spanish government described its controversial cabinet meeting in Barcelona a "show of affection" towards Catalonia, while the gathering sparked protests by pro-independence groups and brought with it tight security measures in the city.

"It’s good that a cabinet meeting can take place in any part of Spain—and Barcelona is my city," said Meritxell Batet, the Spanish minister for public administrations. "This is compatible with protests and citizens’ freedom of expression."

Pro-independence groups saw the meeting as a provocation and called on supporters to take to the streets. Yet, negotiations from both governments eventually served to cool tensions down. Catalan and Spanish presidents held a meeting on Thursday, in an effort to preserve the fragile alliance that allowed the latter’s unexpected rise to power last spring.

  • "The government is always seeking spaces for dialogue—that’s the only recipe"

    Isabel Celáa · Spanish government spokesperson

The presidential meeting was regarded as "very positive" by the Spanish government spokesperson Isabel Celáa. "The government is always seeking spaces for dialogue—that’s the only recipe."

Celáa took on opposition parties which accuse the government of being too lenient on pro-independence parties and want Madrid to trigger Article 155 of the constitution again to suspend Catalonia’s self-rule: "The perpetual application of Article 155 will not serve to find efficient solutions—only dialogue within the constitutional framework will allow us to solve the conflict."

Measures adopted

The Spanish cabinet meeting in Barcelona approved a €112 million funding plan for major highways and roads in Catalonia, which Madrid says will help boost economic growth.

Spanish ministers also approved a 22% raise of the minimum wage, which will be set at €900 per month, as well as a 2.25% salary increase which will benefit some two million public workers.

In a controversial decision, the Spanish government also decided to change the name of Barcelona-El Prat airport to Josep Tarradellas, Catalonia’s first president after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

The Catalan government claimed Madrid authorities didn’t consult them before changing the airport’s name, but minister Batet refuted the accusations.

Condemning execution of Companys

The Spanish government also condemned the trial and execution of former Catalan President Lluís Companys and proclaimed “its recognition and the restitution of its dignity”. Companys, who was president during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), was executed by firing squad on Montjuïc by the Franco regime on October 15, 1940, some 78 years ago.

This recognition by the Sánchez Cabinet is only a political declaration without legal value as, according to them, the Spanish Congress must first pass a law that officially invalidates Companys’ trial. Currently, there is a proposal waiting for approval at the chamber.

The Catalan government was aware of the stance on Companys adopted today by Madrid authorities, according to official sources.

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  • Spanish minister for public administration Meritxell Batet (left) and government spokesperson Isabel Celáa at a press conference in Barcelona (by Roger Pi de Cabanyes)

  • Spanish minister for public administration Meritxell Batet (left) and government spokesperson Isabel Celáa at a press conference in Barcelona (by Roger Pi de Cabanyes)