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THE CATALAN QUESTION

Rajoy and Catalonia’s Mas engaged in talks on independence issue

Popular Party leader talks of his frequent contact with regional premier

The conservative Popular Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is happy about the volte-face taken by Catalan premier Artur Mas on the region’s sovereignty push but is reluctant to say so in public because it might complicate Mas’s position politically.

Mas said Thursday his center-right nationalist CiU government would not hold an independence referendum as planned next year if the Rajoy administration does not approve it. That prompted the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) leader, Oriol Junqueras, to demand the vote be held in 2014 regardless of whether Madrid approves it. The CiU needs the support of the ERC to govern.

Speaking to reporters during the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, Rajoy gave the idea that talks are underway with Mas on the self-rule issue and that the relation between the two leaders is fluent. The PP leader confirmed he had met with Mas last week. He also said they speak frequently on the telephone.

“I speak with Artur Mas and other regional premiers with certain frequency,” Rajoy said. “Sometimes the meetings are public, sometimes not. At times we speak on the phone. I won’t go into details [...] about whom I speak with, unless it’s something special.”

Referring to the self-rule issue, Rajoy went on to say: “This is an important matter for the citizens of Catalonia and of all of Spain. What I am going to do is to work so that Spain continues in a process in which together over the course of over 500 years we have been able to make this country a great country. The challenges we are facing are very important, I hope we can do reasonable things.”

When asked if he would now be willing to allow Catalonia to hold a referendum, Rajoy opted to give a philosophical response that clarified nothing. “Life shows that what is needed is common sense and it is never bad to speak about things.”

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