21, December 2018
Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the regional leader of Catalonia agreed Thursday to find a solution to the political crisis that has been festering since a failed secession attempt by the region last year.
The agreement was reached in a meeting in Barcelona between Catalan regional President Quim Torra and PM Sánchez, whose Socialist administration has taken a more conciliatory approach to the independence issue than its conservative predecessor.
Following the meeting, their governments issued a joint statement calling for a “commitment for effective dialogue that leads to a political proposal that has the backing of large part of Catalan society.” The statement, which The Associated Press has seen, was read out by the spokeswoman of the Catalan government, Elsa Artadi, after the meeting.
Artadi says that members of the two governments have agreed to meet again in January. The PM plans to hold a Cabinet meeting of his government on Friday in Barcelona, which radical separatist groups are expected to protest.
Sanchez, who also seeks to secure support for his minority government in the northeastern region, will gather his ministers in Barcelona in an attempt to help resolve a political conflict over Catalonia’s independence drive.
National police will be deployed in Barcelona to guard the cabinet meeting amid fears that extreme elements of the independence movement could stoke violence.
Jailed Catalan independence leaders however have called on protesters to demonstrate peacefully. Nine Catalan separatists, who have been jailed and await trial for rebellion, call for a “peaceful protest” during an upcoming cabinet meeting.
A lawyer representing former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and five other Catalan politicians who have been charged in Spain for violent rebellion has appealed to the UN’s Human Rights Committee to help defend their democratic rights.
Nico Krisch denounced a “grave interference in the democratic order” linked to the charges against Puigdemont, who lives in exile in Belgium, as well as Oriol Junqueras, Raul Romeva, Josep Rull, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Turull. The five are being held in pre-trial detention in Spain.
The Catalan politicians have been charged and suspended from office by Spain’s Supreme Court for their roles in organizing an independence referendum in Catalonia 14 months ago. The Spanish and Catalan governments have been at odds since the Catalan Parliament issued an illegal and ineffective declaration of independence last year.
In October 2017, Catalonia unilaterally declared independence, prompting Madrid to take control of the region – which has 7.5 million people and accounts for about a fifth of Spain’s economy – and arrested secessionist leaders.