Catalan – Spanish presidents' summit gets underway
First meeting between Quim Torra and Pedro Sánchez in over a year
The Catalan and the Spanish presidents began their first meeting in person in over a year on Thursday at 12pm sharp.
Quim Torra and Pedro Sánchez shook hands outside the Catalan government HQ before going in, doing a quick tour through the building and starting their talk.
It is the first time in over a decade that a Spanish president has set foot in the Palau de la Generalitat – the last one who did so was José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, also a Socialist.
The meeting on Thursday was preceded by special security measures and a huge media expectation, with some 200 professionals registered for the event.
Kicking off the "bilateral negotiation table"
The Catalan and Spanish presidents will meet on Thursday for the first time in over a year and what (if any) will be the outcome remains up in the air.
Quim Torra and Pedro Sánchez sat at a table with the aim of setting up and kicking off the "bilateral negotiation table" between cabinets, which the Socialists committed to in exchange for pro-independence Esquerra's support to stay in power in Spain.
But things have been slightly blurred: last week, President Torra announced that once the 2020 budget was passed in parliament he would call a Catalan election, after tension within the pro-independence government.
Madrid reacted by saying they were going ahead with the summit between the presidents but postponed the negotiation table until the next Catalan government is in place. A few hours later they retracted; a meeting between cabinets will take place before the election, which may take place in the spring, but the fact that President Torra's days as chief of Catalonia look numbered might lead to both sides getting down to business after the election.
Content of the presidents' summit
The actual content of the meeting between leaders might be contentious. Torra reiterated last week that the pro-independence camp had agreed that he had to bring up "the exercise of the right to self-determination, the end of repression and amnesty." His cabinet's spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, added that "tackling a political solution" to the independence crisis would also be discussed.
Budó also rejected that the summit should tackle "sectorial" topics and it should rather focus on the independence issue. This was in response to Madrid saying that the meeting should deal with "urgent matters for Catalan society that need to be solved," such as the consequences of Storm Gloria.
"We'll attend the meeting as always, with a constructive spirit, to listen to what the Catalan president has to say regarding all topics affecting Catalan current political affairs, not just political aspirations, but also the day to day," said Spain's executive spokesperson, María José Montero on Tuesday.