Catalonia is the only place in Europa where the discussions to form a new government take place inside a prison, in Lledoners, where seven pro-independence leaders are held accused of sedition. Some of these political prsioners, like Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sànchez, are key figures of two of the political parties involved in the talks.

A lot of expectations were put on the summit held on Tuesady evening in Lledoners called to discuss a new pro-independence government. Although it has not yet proved conclusive, it seems that progress has been made. On Tuesday evening, a four-hour meeting was held in the penitentiary, which enabled some of the leaders serving decade-long prison sentences for their involvement in the 2017 referendum to engage in the talks, including Esquerra’s president, Oriol Junqueras, and Junts per Catalunya’s secretary general, Jordi Sànchez.

Both political forces issued a joint statement after 9 pm, confirming that they tackled the government structure for the first time in their talks, which have been going on for 2 months. “Both parties have agreed to continue working together to form a pro-independence government led by Pere Aragonès, which meets the electoral mandate of 52% of the ballots,” said the statement, referring to Esquerra’s presidential  frontrunner and to the fact that those in favor of a Catalan state surpassed 50% of supports for the first time in the 14 February election.

The role of the Council for the Republic

The two groups also talked about “other topics still yet to be finalized,” without providing more details. During the ongoing negotiations, disagreements have arisen over possible future strategies and the role of the Council for the Republic, for example. Esquerra and CUP have a deal that includes accepting engaging in talks over a referendum with Spain, but reviewing in 2023 whether this path is worth continuing or whether the strategy needs to change. Indeed, in 2023, the potential president, Pere Aragonès, would have to face a vote of confidence in parliament. The winners in the pro-independence bloc set a 1 May deadline for Junts per Catalunya to agree on joining an Aragonès-led cabinet or they said that they would explore other options, such as continuing with a minority government.

Unionist opposition parties reacted with fury to the plans to hold government formation talks in Lledoners prison on Monday, one day before the meeting. Far-right Vox described the summit as “shameful.” Ignacio Garriga, their leader in the Catalan parliament, said that “the fact that the government, which has to respond to Catalonia’s health, social and economic emergency, is being negotiated in a prison is pitiful.” Garriga also referred to the acting government as a “mafia.”

Nacho Martín Blanco of Ciudadanos said he considered the meeting to be “incomprehensible,” saying it “perpetuates the loop and is a return to the past.” It is “surreal” that the makeup of the next Catalan government will arise out of a meeting held in a jail, Martín Blanco added. Similarly, Lorena Roldán, formerly of Ciudadanos and now representing the conservative People’s Party, said the meeting was “another episode of nationalism’s “soap opera.” Roldán called on ERC and Junts to move forward in their negotiations but criticized them for “deciding in a cell.”

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