Hours after saying that dialogue with the Catalan cabinet over the independence crisis would be put on hold, the Spanish government has changed its position.
They had said that following the announcement of a snap election in Catalonia in the coming months, discussions on formal negotiation between Madrid and Barcelona executives would be off the table at the meeting between Spain’s president, Pedro Sánchez, and Catalan leader, Quim Torra, on February 6 in Barcelona.
The Socialist-led cabinet in Spain had made a statement on Thursday saying that the talks were postponed.
“Spain’s government hopes to be able to engage in this dialogue once the Catalan people have had their say and the new parliament and government have taken office. The sooner the snap election is held and the new government is formed, the sooner we will begin dialogue,” the statement read.
Madrid said that the meeting would go ahead as “urgent matters for Catalan society need to be solved,” such as the consequences of Storm Gloria.
Catalan government parties skeptical
The Catalan government did not welcome the initial statement from Madrid.
President Quim Torra said he hoped “President Sánchez will not close any door to dialogue in this meeting and will not exclude any topic.”
Torra wants that the February talk does not only touch on issues such as Storm Gloria, but also on the underlying independence crisis – he aims to ask Sánchez for “self-determination, end of repression and amnesty,” as recently agreed by all parties in favor of a Catalan Republic.
Indeed one of the two reasons given by Torra on Wednesday for not calling a snap election immediately was the will to “explore” dialogue with Madrid, with the other being approving the 2020 budget in parliament.
Esquerra: “Absolute irresponsibility”
As for Esquerra (ERC), the other government partner whose row with Torra’s Junts per Catalunya prompted the snap election, the party initially accused the Socialists of “absolute irresponsibility.”
“It is many months until elections are held,” said ERC’s spokesperson Sergi Sabrià in a statement.
The left-wing pro-independence force enabled Pedro Sánchez to stay in power in exchange for the launching of a “bilateral negotiation table between governments” on the Catalan crisis.
“Postponing the negotiation table is a blatant breach of the agreement,” said Sabrià.
Unionists call on Sánchez to “fire” Torra
The news that Sánchez still intends to meet with Torra was not welcomed by the unionist Ciutadans party (Cs), with Cs spokeswoman Lorena Roldán calling on the Spanish leader to “fire” the Catalan president from his post.
“I repeat, Mr. Torra cannot negotiate anything in the name of all Catalans because Mr. Torra is no longer an MP and no longer president,” Roldán told reporters on Thursday.
The Cs spokeswoman also said the party was against the formal talks on the independence crisis, calling it “blackmail” on behalf of the pro-independence camp, which wants to extract “more privileges.”
byACN | Barcelona