Spain’s Prime Minister will travel to Barcelona to reopen separatist talks in Catalonia.
Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, is in Barcelona on Wednesday to start talks with Catalonia’s separatist leadership about resolving the political crisis sparked by the region’s failed independence push in 2017.
Sanchez stated earlier this week that he will meet with Catalan leader Pere Aragones on September 15 for negotiations, which will begin about 1300 GMT.
In October 2017, the Catalan regional government held a referendum that was declared illegal by Madrid, followed by a declaration of independence that lasted only a few months, causing Spain’s worst political crisis in decades. Following the imprisonment of nine separatist leaders in Spain in 2019, violent riots erupted.
Even while hostilities have lessened, Catalonia has remained a prominent topic in Spanish politics, which Sanchez’s government has pledged to address through discussions.
On Monday, the prime minister stated, “The situation in Catalonia is substantially different, much more stable than it was in 2017 or in 2019.”
Sanchez decided to start talks in January 2020 after the ERC, Catalonia’s oldest and largest separatist party, offered his minority government essential legislative backing.
Initial discussions began a month later, but were quickly halted as the coronavirus pandemic spread.
This time, the chances of success are slim because both parties have drastically different expectations.
Separatists want amnesty for all those engaged in the failed independence bid, as well as a fresh vote on self-determination, this time with Madrid’s blessing.
Both are vehemently opposed by the Spanish government.
“If we begin with a list of maximalist demands, the conversation won’t last very long,” Sanchez said, while acknowledging that he was open to a vote on Catalonia’s status inside Spain, but only within certain parameters.
“A democrat has no difficulty calling for a vote under the constitution, but it must be through agreement, not by going it alone.”
Since the referendum in October 2017 and the accompanying upheaval, a lot has changed. The separatist movement was dismembered and bitterly divided over how to move forward after those responsible were prosecuted and imprisoned, while others went abroad to avoid prosecution.
And the topic of engagement with Madrid has been a major source of contention in this 7.8 million-strong area, which remains divided over the issue of independence.
Despite the divisions, talks are expected to have a better chance this time due to a shake-up in Catalonia’s separatist-dominated leadership, with the moderate leftist ERC taking the reigns a few months ago.
Its hard-line rival JxC was in command the last time.
The change had an immediate impact: the Spanish administration had changed within weeks. Brief News from Washington Newsday.