Catalan government calls for 'end of repression' ahead of crucial meeting with Spanish president
Madrid says focus should be on day-to-day economic issues rather than constitutional question
The Catalan president Pere Aragonès will call for "an end to the repression" of the independence movement during his crucial meeting with Spanish president Pedro Sánchez in Madrid on Tuesday afternoon.
Aragonès also hopes that the pair can set a date for the negotiating table between the two administrations to resume, and agree on the content and methodology of those talks to make sure they prove "useful," according to Catalan government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja.
The meeting between the two leaders was announced last week, just hours after the release of nine pro-independence politicians and activists from prison after they were granted pardons by the Spanish president.
Any feelings of goodwill provoked by that gesture of what Sánchez called "reconciliation" appeared to evaporate on Tuesday morning however, as Spain's Court of Auditors announced they were demanding payments of around €5.4m from some 40 former Catalan government officials for public money allegedly spent promoting the independence push abroad between 2011 and 2017.
The timing of the court's claims could prove awkward, coming just hours ahead of the Aragonès-Sánchez meeting that the Catalan government hopes will mark a return to talks put on ice after just one summit due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
Indeed, Aragonès will broach the topic with Sánchez, demanding that the Spanish government work to find "a solution" and implement "changes" to put a halt to the court's demands, Plaja explained following a meeting of the Catalan cabinet on Tuesday morning.
"We are working to minimize the impact of the claims as much as possible," she added, saying that the Catalan government's legal services were already working on the case.
The Spanish government, meanwhile, say they want Tuesday's meeting to mark the "starting point" of a "new relationship based on shared solutions, dialogue and concord."
The focus should be on "day-to-day" and "economic" issues, according to spokesperson María Jesús Montero, who implicitly warned Catalonia against bringing up issues such as a referendum on independence or an amnesty, where everyone "knows the position of the Spanish government" and which are "red-line constitutional matters."
Court of Auditors
Spain's Court of Auditors is claiming €5.4m from around 40 former Catalan government officials for promoting the independence push abroad from 2011 to 2017.
Former Catalan president Artur Mas and former finance minister Andreu Mas-Colell face a €2.8m claim, for the public funds allegedly spent from 2011 to 2016 on international trips and government offices abroad.
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former vice president Oriol Junqueras must pay €1.98m for their tenure between 2016 and 2017, when Catalonia held a referendum that was deemed illegal.
The former secretary-general of Diplocat, Albert Royo, faces the biggest fine, a €3.63m claim related to his time as head of the semipublic consortium aimed at fostering Catalonia's interests abroad.