Catalan President Quim Torra and Spanish president Pedro Sánchez sat down together in Barcelona on Thursday evening, in their second meeting since reaching power. Both leaders were trying to preserve the fragile dialogue the two sides established after the Socialist leader unexpectedly came to power last spring, with votes from pro-independence parties.
The Catalan and Spanish presidents reassured their commitment to dialogue and pledged to find a “political proposal with widespread support and with legal safety” for the Catalan independence crisis. They also confirmed a new meeting for January.
The presidents met for a first official meeting in Madrid on July 9, and while the Spanish government described the encounter as “courteous” and “cordial,” it also bluntly ruled out Torra’s key demand for a binding referendum on self-determination.
The goodwill resulting from pro-independence parties supporting Sánchez’s motion of no confidence that ousted the PP government has since been tested, and at the meeting in Barcelona’s Palau de Pedralbes on Thursday evening both men tried to undermine it further.
In an unlikely show of renewed unity in the Spanish congress, Catalan parties backed Sánchez’s deficit target for next year, regarded as a preliminary step before the upcoming crucial vote to pass the budget—which seemed a lost cause only some weeks ago.
The meeting between Torra and Sánchez is part of a ‘mini-summit’ of members of the Catalan and Spanish governments. The Catalan and Spanish vice presidents, Pere Aragonès and Carmen Calvo, as well as Torra’s minister Elsa Artadi and Sánchez’s minister Meritxell Batet, also took part in the gathering. Both Torra and Sánchez attended a business dinner after their meeting.
Protests against the Spanish government presence in Barcelona were called in front of the hotel were the business gala is expected to take place.
On Friday, the Spanish cabinet will hold its weekly meeting in Barcelona. Huge protests have been called against the meeting, that some pro-independence groups consider a “provocation” as the day marks the first year since an election imposed by Madrid.