It has finally happened. Despite delays, breaches of the original agreement, and threats to postpone it for months, the dialogue table between the Spanish and Catalan governments held its first meeting this Wednesday at the Moncloa palace in Madrid.
At the end of their three hour meeting, and prior to press conferences by both Catalan and Spanish sides, the two governments released a joint statement. They agreed that the table will meet monthly, alternating between Madrid and Barcelona, and the two leaders, prime minister Pedro Sánchez and president Quim Torra as well as their respective number twos, will participate when they have to ratify agreements. Both Catalan and Spanish authorities gave a positive evaluation of the first meeting between the two negotiating teams.
The joint statement begins by declaring that at today's meeting "the bilateral table for dialogue, negotiation and agreement on the resolution of the political conflict has been constituted". The first meeting, it says, "has served to lay the groundwork for a dialogue, addressing some methodological aspects, and noting the political nature of the conflict, and that it requires political settlement."
The two governments agree that the "intergovernmental table is an instrument to lead to a solution". Therefore, they have agreed to "continue working to promote dialogue, negotiation and agreement."
The statement lists four agreements that were reached. The first, that the table will meet monthly. The second is that the meetings "will be held alternately in Madrid and Barcelona, at the official government locations that are agreed." The third is that the leaders (president and PM) and their respective deputies will "join the table when it is necessary to ratify political agreements, unless one of the parties decides on a different composition. Finally, they state that "any agreement adopted at the table will be formulated within the framework of legal certainty".
Before the meeting, the entire Spanish delegation symbolically came out into the gardens of the Moncloa palace to receive the Catalan government representatives, before making their way inside.
The Spanish government was represented by Sánchez, deputy PM Carmen Calvo, and ministers María Jesús Montero, Salvador Illa, Carolina Darias, José Luis Ábalos and Manuel Castells. Pablo Iglesias was absent, suffering from tonsillitis. Representing the Catalan government were Torra, vice-president Pere Aragonès, ministers Jordi Puigneró and Alfred Bosch, MPs Elsa Artadi, Marta Vilalta and Josep Maria Jové, and former head of the presidency department, Josep Rius.