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Government talks advance as Spain’s Socialists and pro-independence ERC meet in Barcelona

Third encounter cools down prospects of deal before Christmas

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10 December 2019 02:32 PM

by

Alan Ruiz Terol | Barcelona

No news can be good news, as the negotiations to form a government in Spain saw another inconclusive meeting between the Socialists and their potential kingmaker Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party on Tuesday.

"We see advances in the definition of the necessary tools to channel the political conflict over Catalonia’s future, which we hope to address through mutual respect and recognition," read a joint statement after officials met in Barcelona in the third encounter since the November 10 general election.

After months of political animosity, the Socialists and pro-independence ERC must overcome their differences if they are to reach a deal that ends the deadlock in Spain and prevents a new snap election that could help the far right grow even stronger.

The Socialists’ 120 seats, combined with the 35 won by anti-austerity Podemos, leave them short of the majority in the 350-seat congress. The reelection of the Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez as Spain’s president is in the hands of ERC’s 13 lawmakers.

While the alliance between the Socialists and Esquerra was difficult enough in the past, recent developments like the conviction of ERC chief Oriol Junqueras and other leaders to lengthy prison terms make negotiations even more difficult now.

Pressure from pro-independence camp

Esquerra Republicana might be the largest pro-independence party in the Spanish congress, but that doesn't mean that the independence camp is backing the party's talks with the Socialists.

The Committees in Defense of the Republic (CDR), one of the main protest groups in Catalonia, described the negotiations as a "fraud" and an "insult." The CDRs claimed that Catalan parties should refuse any talks as long as their leaders remain behind bars. 

Esquerra officials have also been under pressure from the Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) party, their partner in the Catalan government, which has adopted a tougher approach to independence backed by the party leader, former president Carles Puigdemont.

Yet, JxCat sent a message of support to the negotiations on Tuesday by putting on hold a parliamentary motion in favor of self-determination, acknowledging that it could "make negotiations more complicated."

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  • Negotiation teams from the Socialists (right) and Esquerra meet in the surroundings of Barcelona (by Guillem Roset)

  • Negotiation teams from the Socialists (right) and Esquerra meet in the surroundings of Barcelona (by Guillem Roset)

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