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Spanish PM wants talks on Catalan independence to resume in July with Junts

Meeting with Catalan president following Pegasus espionage scandal still pending

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04 July 2022 09:47 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez would like to meet with members of the Catalan government – including junior partner Junts, which sat out the last meeting following disagreements with senior partner Esquerra – in July in order to resume the long-stagnant talks on the issue of independence.

In an interview with 'El País' newspaper that was published on Sunday, the Socialist politician attributed improved relations between Spanish and Catalan authorities to the "progressive coalition" in Madrid's move to "safeguard cohesion and coexistence in Catalonia and Spain through dialogue."

According to Sánchez, the situation is far from that seen in 2017, when Catalonia held the referendum deemed unconstitutional by Spain and most top government officials were either imprisoned or left the country to avoid the same fate, or in 2019, when the harsh sentencing of these politicians led to a wave of violent protests in Barcelona and other major cities.

Pardons for independence leaders

Just over a year ago, when Sánchez pardoned the 9 referendum organizers who had been sentenced to up to 13 years behind bars for sedition, he was criticized by both members of the independence movement, who argued they should have been amnestied instead, and conservative unionist parties, who argued the politicians should remain in prison.

And while these pardons have been appealed before Spain's Supreme Court, Sánchez said he was confident they would not be struck down as his executive exercised a constitutional right recognized "by all of the world's democracies." 

Sánchez-Aragonès meeting

Catalan government sources stressed, however, that a meeting between Sánchez and Catalan president Pere Aragonès to address the Catalangate espionage scandal, in which at least 80 people with ties to the independence movement were targeted with government-grade Pegasus spyware, is still pending.

As Spanish government entities are likely to be behind the mass espionage, these same sources believe this meeting would be a necessary first step before the talks on independence-related issues can resume.

While Sánchez and Aragonès were seen together recently at an event at FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium, they are set to meet "before summer vacation."

Will Junts take part in talks?

President Aragonès, of Esquerra Republicana, will also be tasked with convincing junior coalition government partner, Junts per Catalunya, to participate in the so-called "dialogue table" talks on independence.

Unlike Esquerra, which convinced the Socialists to hold them in exchange for support for their minority government in Spain, Junts has taken a more skeptical and hardline approach to negotiations and was irked by the decision to only allow government members – and not party members who are not in office – to attend. 

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  • Catalan president Pere Aragonès and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez at Camp Nou on June 27, 2022 (Courtesy of PIMEC)

  • Catalan president Pere Aragonès and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez at Camp Nou on June 27, 2022 (Courtesy of PIMEC)

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