Political figures give Catalan-Spanish talks a cautious welcome

While some parties positive about start of dialogue on Catalonia crisis, right-wing unionists warn about "concessions" to "separatists"

Catalan and Spanish delegations sit at the first negotiation table in February 2020 (by Jordi Bedmar)
Catalan and Spanish delegations sit at the first negotiation table in February 2020 (by Jordi Bedmar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 27, 2020 12:38 PM

The start of talks on Wednesday between representatives of the Catalan and Spanish governments to explore solutions to the political crisis received a mixed reception on Thursday from political figures in Spain and Catalonia. 

The vice president of the Spanish government, Carmen Calvo, was optimistic that the talks could bring about new ways of tackling the conflict, but she ruled out any "recognition of the right to break up Spain's territorial unity, which for us does not exist."

Pablo Iglesias, one of Spain's vice presidents and head of the Socialist party's coalition partner, Podemos, had to miss the talks due to illness, but said both governments are "showing the willingness needed to find sensible solutions to the conflict."

Jaume Asens, the head of Unides Podem, Podemos' Catalan partner in the Spanish parliament, called the talks "a very important step forward" and suggested that "for the first time there is no wall on the other side, but rather a government ready to listen."

Naturally, the talks were welcomed by the pro-independence ERC party, as the bilateral summit was one of the party's main demands when it agreed not to block Socialist party leader Pedro Sánchez's bid to become Spanish president. 

ERC's spokesman in the Spanish parliament, Gabriel Rufián, said that the start of the talks was enough to make "any democrat proud," and he added that "it's good news to see people talking, in dialogue, and not threatening or imprisoning each other."

PP pledges "all measures" in opposing talks

However, the unionist PP party was far from happy with the start of the talks, promising to take "all measures" to make sure that the "concessions" granted by Sánchez to the pro-independence camp "are not worth the paper they are written on."

Accusing the talks of "fracturing the equality between Spaniards," the conservative opposition party said that by agreeing to sit down with the Catalan pro-independence government, Sánchez had chosen "extremism over moderation."

In Catalonia, president Quim Torra welcomed that the start of the talks on Wednesday had opened up the "path of dialogue," but regretted that the Spanish government will not consider "amnesty [for the jailed independence leaders] and self-determination."

As for the head of the Catalan Socialists, Miquel Iceta, he said that his party was "very satisfied" that the talks had gone ahead, bringing to an end to "seven years without political dialogue between the [the Spanish and Catalan] governments."

Right-wing unionist fears about Spain's unity

Yet, the right-wing unionist parties in Catalonia were as unhappy with the talks as their Spanish counterparts, with head of the Catalan PP party, Alejandro Fernández, saying his party is "vigilant and above all worried" about how far the talks might undermine Spain's unity.

As for Ciutadans, the largest unionist party in Catalonia, its leader, Lorena Roldán, insisted that Wednesday's talks were not about "solving the problems of Catalans, but about negotiating privileges for the separatists."

For Roldán, it was "pitiful" to see Sánchez's government "on its knees before Torra's blackmail," and she added that Ciutadans will continue to defend "the majority of Catalans who Sánchez disregards."