Talks between Catalan and Spanish governments to start this February
Pedro Sánchez unveils 44-point document responding to demands put forward by last three Catalan leaders in meeting with Quim Torra
The Catalan and Spanish governments will kick off talks over the independence crisis as soon as this February.
This is the main outcome of the meeting between the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, and the Catalan leader, Quim Torra, who met on Thursday in person for the first time in over a year.
Both leaders agreed that the first summit between cabinets in February will be chaired by both heads of government.
Sánchez and Torra expressed openness to engage in dialogue during their press conferences after their talk – however, they made clear that their positions are very distant on self-determination for Catalonia and an amnesty for the pro-independence jailed leaders. The opposing stances remain the same.
Both leaders met for an hour and a half on Thursday in the Catalan government headquarters, located in Barcelona.
It was the first time in over a year that Sánchez and Torra have met in person, after talks failed in early 2019 when Catalonia proposed a mediator to oversee the negotiations.
Sánchez: 'Agenda for rekindling ties'
Sánchez put forward that a "bilateral committee" including ministers meet before March, as part of a four-page document he handed Torra called 'Agenda for rekindling ties.'
Thus the document aims to begin the "bilateral negotiation table," which was agreed between the Socialists and Esquerra in exchange for keeping Pedro Sánchez in power, this month.
The document mentions the need to find a way out of the independence crisis through "solutions within the legal framework and with legal security."
According to Sánchez, the paper responds "constructively" to 44 demands put forward by the three most recent Catalan presidents, suggesting that the negotiation table should revolve around six points: political dialogue and institutional regeneration, regional funding, improvement of cooperation among administrations, social policies, support to infrastructures, and backing in natural disasters.
Torra: 'We don't know Spanish government's proposal
As for Torra, he welcomed the readiness of Sánchez to engage in dialogue, and said the Catalan government's proposal to find a way out of the independence crisis is clear: self-determination and "end of repression," including an amnesty for the jailed leaders.
Yet, he cast doubt on Madrid's idea of resolving the conflict: "We don't know what the Spanish government's proposal is."
The Catalan leader also talked about the root causes of the independence issue, and the traditional goals of the Catalan feeling, including "bilateralism" and "being recognized as a political actor," he said.
For Torra, the main outcome of the meeting was "the mandate to specify solutions."
The top authority in Catalonia insisted on the idea of self-determination, but revealed Sánchez's response: "He answered their stance remains the same: self-government [of Catalonia] within Spain's constitution."
Sánchez, addressing the press, said that the fact that Torra proposed a referendum shows "how far both stances are from each other," thus denying the possibility of such a vote for now.
"I didn’t get an answer about the end of repression," said Quim Torra on his proposal for an amnesty for the jailed leaders.
Meanwhile the Socialist leader has not accepted this idea for the time being, but remained open to future agreements during the talks.
"We are facing a long talks process, it won't be easy, it will be complex, this is a path we have to walk."
Sánchez also referred to the possibility of including a mediator in the talks – this was the tipping point of disagreement that made the negotiations between government crash in early 2019.
Asked about such possibility now, he said the talks will be "absolutely transparent, with total clarity," implicitly suggesting there is no need for a neutral mediator.