Positions that are far apart and difficult, very difficult to bring to an accord. This is the main conclusion of the first interview in the Moncloa palace between the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès. The meeting reinforces the path of dialogue and negotiation to resolve the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain, albeit from very distant positions. "The government is not renouncing independence," Aragonés said after putting forward the amnesty and the referendum. Sánchez's response was as predicted: the current status quo is fine for us.
If this meeting was the first round, the second will take place in the third week of September, when the first meeting of the dialogue table has been scheduled. A date, apparently, too far away, but in the end, it will be of little importance for the meeting to be held a few weeks later if the Spanish government finally brings some tangible proposal to the negotiating table, in the face of the amnesty, referendum and self-determination which define the Catalan position.
The Catalan president will have to put a lot of imagination into moving the intransigent position of the Spanish government, which sets out from the idea that with the pardons it has already travelled part-way down the path and now it is up to the Generalitat to make a move, which in the language of the Sánchez executive means giving up some of its demands. Perhaps for this reason, the Catalan president made it clear at the press conference that his government was already in an intermediate and non-maximalist position in emphasizing the referendum and not demanding independence directly.
The minister Montero, who spoke tactfully at the end of the meeting so as not to cause any flare-ups after it had become clear how far apart the positions are, emphasized that the road was not easy and that they had an obligation to think about the general interest of Spain. In any case, the Spanish government treated the president with deference, avoiding a point-by-point rebuttle of his affirmations and not trying to compete with him for protagonism.
That the appointment at the Moncloa coincided with the Court of Accounts' flogging of a prominent group of Catalan pro-independence leaders, including presidents Artur Mas and Carles Puigdemont, former vice president Oriol Junqueras and ex-ministers Andreu Mas-Colell, Francesc Homs, Raül Romeva, and over thirty senior government officials of the time, only stresses the fact that if agreement is already very difficult, the permanent and indiscriminate repression against the independence movement will drive it even further away.
The Spanish state, accustomed to living in repression, has its own rules of play. And its own instruments, like this body, which well deserves to be called the Court of Settling Scores and which, after turning a blind eye to countless PP cases, seems to have found its reason for existence in ruining the lives and livelihoods of the Catalan leaders in requesting 5.4 million euros from them in payments. This is what the Spanish government calls a "stone in the path". What could it possibly be like to have a whole wall in the way?