Catalan foreign minister insists on debating prisoners and referendum at bilateral summit

Ernest Maragall meets two Spanish ministers in Madrid in run-up to intergovernmental meeting likely to be held next week

Catalan minister Ernest Maragall with Spanish minister Meritxell Batet in Madrid (by ACN)
Catalan minister Ernest Maragall with Spanish minister Meritxell Batet in Madrid (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 24, 2018 11:43 AM

Catalonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernest Maragall insists that the upcoming bilateral summit between the Catalan and Spanish executives must include a “formal and explicit” discussion of the situation of the political leaders in prison or in exile, as well as the right to self-determination.

Maragall presented his government’s conditions for sitting at the negotiation table with representatives of the Spanish executive in yesterday’s meeting in Madrid with the Minister of Territorial Policy Meritxell Batet. The bilateral committee meeting will most likely take place next week, the first time it will meet for seven years.

As for Batet, before meeting with Maragall yesterday, she said that next week’s intergovernmental summit must deal with “conflictive” issues between the two executives, such as the appeals they have submitted to the Constitutional Court, the extent of reserved powers, and “strategic” investment in infrastructure.

In the meeting between the ministers to iron out the details of the summit, Maragall confirmed that it would take place next week and that it will be held in Barcelona. The presidency of the committee alternates and this year it falls to the Catalan government to officially convoke a meeting, as long as there is agreement over the agenda. In any case, such a meeting has not been held in years. 

Catalan and Spanish foreign ministers meet

Sitting down with Batet was not Maragall’s only meeting in Madrid yesterday, as earlier he met with Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, who guaranteed “institutional respect” for the Catalan government’s activities abroad. Borrell went so far as to pledge “support” for Catalonia’s foreign action, as long as it was within the legal framework.

Meanwhile, Maragall confirmed that the Catalan government’s network of foreign offices would continue to be the focus of the executive’s “presence and influence” abroad, although he conceded that before opening any new offices, his government would officially inform the state executive of its intentions, as the law requires.

Following the imposition of direct rule on Catalonia by the previous Spanish executive in response to a unilateral referendum and declaration of independence, most of the Catalan foreign offices were forcibly closed. Five offices were recently reopened, although Maragall insisted that as they already existed, there was no need to seek Madrid’s prior agreement.

As for the success of the meeting, Maragall said that the two ministers had had “intense and interesting and divergent conversations,” and that one positive outcome from the meeting was agreement over making efforts to increase the presence of the Catalan language in European institutions