Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez met with the Catalan leader to try to resolve the sorting of the region.
MADRID - Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held a long-awaited meeting with his regional counterpart in Catalonia on Wednesday to end the Spanish territorial dispute, four years after a failure The attempt at Catalan secession and 18 months after a first round of negotiations was abruptly interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic .
The talks between Mr Sanchez and Pere Aragonès, the regional leader of Catalonia, mark the most significant attempt to reach an agreement on what has been at The most controversial subject of Spanish politics over the past decade: the fate of Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million inhabitants
Analysts have warned that negotiations will also be strewn with obstacles. While Mr. Aragonès, a moderate independence politician, took office this year promising dialogue, he had to face the skepticicism of the hard-line Catalan parties.
The ruptures were underway. posting on Wednesday where one of the parties, Ensemble pour la Catalogne, failed to send delegates after their first choices were rejected by Mr. Aragonès.
" The biggest obstacle will be the
The negotiations are taking place in the shadow of a conflict which reached a boiling point in 2017 and which Spain is still shaking up.
In that year, the Catalan government organized a referendum on independence in contempt of the Spanish government and its courts, which declared the vote illequal. The police confiscated the ballots and the target even beat the people who tried to vote. A number of organizers have been arrested and given long prison terms for sedition.
Both sides remain bitter, but signs of a thaw are appeared this year.
After a March election , Mr. Aragonès took office as the new regional leader. He is still seeking independence, but is committed to defusing the conflict with Spain through talks. Then in June, Mr. Sanchez pardoned the neuf separatist activists who had been convicted of sedition.
In an interview after the talks, Mr. Aragonès said his position boiled down to two main objectives: an amnesty general for the independence leaders who, according to him, had been accused of crimes linked to their political actions; and the holding of a new referendum which would be negotiated with the Spanish government, a proposal that Mr Sanchez has so far rejected as unconstitutional. Mr. Aragonès said he wanted to explore the possibility of creating legislation in Spain that would legalize such a vote. "What is important is that there is political will " to reach an agreement, he said.
The question of an amnesty can also be thorny. Such a deal would include Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan leader who fled Spain in.ur escaping the charges. He was not pardoned this year as he remains a fugitive, Spain said.
But Mr. Aragonès said that only an agreement amnesty could turn the page on the conflict.
While the Catalan separatists have failed for years to secure significant international support for their cause, especially at the level of the European Union in Brussels, separatism has also dominated the political agenda elsewhere in Europe.
Monday, Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of Scotland, called on the UK government to allow Scotland to organize another referendum on independence by the end of 2023, after that of 2014 in which the Scots rejected the split.
Just like in Scotland, there are not only
Mr. Aragonès represents the leftist party Esquerra Republicana, which edged out Ensemble pour la Catalogne - the toughest separatist party of former Catalan leader M. Puigdemont - in the last regional elections in March to become Catalonia's biggest separatist force.
These tensions resurfaced with the approach of Wednesday's meeting. Mr. Aragonès rejected the candidates of Ensemble pour la Catalogne to the Catalan delegation, because two of them were not part of the regional government, but werewere former prisoners who had been pardoned for sedition.
The quarrel between Esquerra Republicana and Ensemble pour la Catalunya shows "that there is now a very important gap between two parties which had at least managed to share the same vision and the same program until 2017, "said Lluis Orriols, professor of politics at the Carlos III University of Madrid.
Unlike Ensemble for Catalonia, he said, Esquerra Republicana has abandoned the idea that independence could be achieved unilaterally.
For Mr. Sanchez, on the other hand, the return to the negotiating table presents two short-term opportunities, Mr. Orriols said: "pacify wha Le The climate has long been hostile in Catalonia and at least prevented the conflict from returning to the streets. ”
Mr. Orriols said that this increasedalso includes Mr Sanchez 's options to remain Prime Minister if the forthcoming elections in Spain produce a result which would oblige him and his Socialist Party to continue to govern with the support of the main nationalist parties in Catalonia.
Since the last elections at the end of 2019, Mr Sanchez has led Spain 's first coalition government, alongside the smaller and more left-wing party Unidas Podemos, and with the support of Catalan and Basque the parties to have the legislation adopted by Parliament.
In terms of effective resolution of the Catalan dispute, however, the political experts see little room for maneuver for Mr Sanchez, as head of a minority government in Madrid and at a time when right-wing opposition parties, especially the ultra-nationalist Vox, are pushing for more centralization in Spain, no less.
Wednesday's meeting was the first of its kind since February 2020, when Mr Sanchez sought to relaunch negotiations to resolve the Catalan conflict, but his plan was put on hold by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that is hitting Spain with particular strength.
"There is now an intense debate on whether decentralization has worked in Spain, and it is also clear that Sanchez cannot ignore the fact that any advantage given to Catalonia will be strongly felt in all other regions of Spain, ”Mr. Orriols said.
In fact, the day before Mr. Sanchez 's trip to Barcelona, Juanma Moreno, the regional leader of Andalusia, Spain ' s largest region, called on Mr. Sanchez to open a separate bilateral negotiation with Andalusia.
"It is not reasonable that privileges be grantedso much negotiated to the detriment of the other territories of Spain ", argued Mr. Moreno.