Catalan president Quim Torra has appeared this Saturday to once again call for acting Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez to open negotiations immediately, without preconditions, aimed at finding a political and democratic solution to the conflict between the Spanish state and Catalonia. Later, the Catalan leader tried to telephone his counterpart in Madrid but the Spanish prime minister refused to engage in conversation without a "more emphatic" condemnation of violence from the Catalan leader and a recognition by him of the "work of the state police forces and the Mossos".
After the Catalonia general strike on Friday, and five days in a row of major protests and serious incidents since the Supreme Court's heavy sentences for nine pro-independence leaders on Monday, the Catalan president urged the acting Spanish PM "once again, to fix a day and time to sit down at a negotiation table without preconditions."
"This is your responsibility and obligation," advised Quim Torra, speaking this Saturday afternoon at the Generalitat palace in Barcelona, accompanied by government members including his vice president, Pere Aragonès, as well as the mayors of Girona, Tarragona and Lleida. The meeting was not attended by the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who claimed that she had not been formally convened.
It was an appearance without press questions in which the Catalan government recalled that it has long asked for a negotiation process to resolve the conflict and that it considers that "today it is more urgent than ever."
The text stressed that the independence movement is in a majority in terms of political representation in the Catalan institutions, and it also emphasized the transversal, massive, civic, ethical and peaceful nature of the movement, as shown by the Marches for Freedom and the huge numbers who came together in Friday afternoon's half-million-strong march. For this reason, Torra called once again for protests to be peaceful. "Jointly we make a call for responsibility in the next protests to be called, on behalf of all the mayors: No form of violence represents us".
Sánchez refuses a phone call
President Torra's office has made several attempts to talk with his counterpart Pedro Sánchez on the phone today, but without success in getting the Spanish PM to take the call. Later, Madrid made clear that such a conversation requires certain conditions to be met: first of all, the Catalan president must "emphatically condemn" violence. And as for an referendum on independence, the door was once again closed tightly on such a proposal.
Torra had wanted to personally give Sánchez the message he had stated in his institutional message: the need to sit down and talk. Sources close to the Socialist executive reiterated, in the reasons for rejecting the call, the same message that they have given in recent weeks: "First, the law, and then, dialogue." Specifically, they insisted that Torra had to "strongly condemn" violence as well as "recognizing the work of the State security forces and the Mossos police."
Message to Spanish police
In fact, the first part of the Catalan government statement, read by vice president Pere Aragonès, broached the security situation, saying that is "very serious" and calling on the Spanish government "to make its police act in Catalonia using the criteria of proportionality, congruence and opportunity that must govern the behaviour of any democratic police force". Without making any comment on the action of the Catalan Mossos police, the institutional statement demanded that the state police forces act in line with criteria set out yesterday by the Catalan Ombudsman and agreed on by the Catalan Parliament.