There were many obstacles on the way to Barcelona, ​​but the two heads of government did not want to let the appointment fail: On Wednesday, Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès sat down at the "dialogue table" again with their government delegations for the first time since February 2020.

The goal: a new attempt to resolve the Catalonia conflict.

The two sides had only met once before in this context.

Hans-Christian Roessler

Political correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb, based in Madrid.

  • Follow I follow

With his trip to Barcelona, ​​the Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez made it clear on Wednesday how important this dialogue is to him. At the same time he emphasized that this could only move “within the limits of the constitution and democratic legality”.

Sánchez and the Catalan regional president Aragonès, who has only been in office for just under three months, did not want to let the impetus from last June fizzle out: the pardon of nine leading separatists, who had been sentenced to long prison terms, had a new movement on the hardened fronts brought.

According to many Spaniards, Sanchez went too far, especially with his act of grace.

But he was not deterred and made further advances to the Catalan regional government.

In August he offered her 1.7 billion euros for the expansion of Barcelona Airport into an international hub.

However, a dispute within their own ranks over possible environmental damage led the government in Barcelona to reject the offer at the last minute.

The issues were wrestled to the last

The political fratricidal war between the Catalan separatists, who together form the government in Barcelona, ​​also endangered the dialogue table in advance: When the JxCat party of the former regional president Carles Puigdemont presented its list of participants on Tuesday, Jordi Turull and Jordi Sànchez were also on it. The two separatists were pardoned in June, but are not allowed to hold political offices. Prime Minister Aragonès agreed with Madrid's view that only members of the government can sit at the dialogue table. He was therefore accompanied on Wednesday by only two ministers from his ERC party, which is pursuing a more moderate course than JxCat's rivals.

But that did not mean that the Catalan delegation waived its most important demands.

The issues were therefore wrestled to the last.

Right from the start, Aragonès insisted on talking about a new independence referendum, the right to self-determination and an amnesty for all separatists.

A new statute of autonomy with more rights

But they don't want to know anything about that in Madrid.

Sánchez and the four ministers who accompanied him want to focus on Catalonia's economic recovery and better coexistence among the Catalans.

This should include extensive state investments in Catalonia and a new statute of autonomy with more rights for the region.

After the working meeting on Wednesday, both sides initially gave each other two years for dialogue.

The corona pandemic and its economic consequences have apparently pushed the desire for a separate state in Catalonia into the background.

This could be seen during the Diada, the traditional mass rally on the occasion of the Catalan national holiday, last Saturday.

According to the local police, the separatists were only able to mobilize a good 100,000 people.

Fewer people demonstrated under the slogan “We fight and win on the way to independence” as it has not for a long time.

Before the pandemic, according to the organizers, it was sometimes more than a million.

A recent survey showed how divided the region is: only a good 44 percent are in favor of a state of their own, 47 percent are against.