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Spain’s main parties offer secessionists “dialogue” after referendum date

The PP and the PSOE are willing to discuss Catalonia’s role within Spain, but demand poll be called off

PSOE and PP congressional spokespeople Margarita Robles and Rafael Hernando. Ampliar foto
PSOE and PP congressional spokespeople Margarita Robles and Rafael Hernando.

Spain’s main political parties, the governing Popular Party (PP) and opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), are willing to begin talks with pro-independence forces in Catalonia, provided that the latter abandon their plans for an illegal referendum on October 1, or indeed after the said date has passed.

After a Civil Guard operation in the northeastern region on Wednesday saw arrests of top officials as well as the seizure of material being prepared for the vote, the central government believes that the poll will not have the resources needed to be able to go ahead, and that the ongoing conflict is now beginning a new phase.

The plan for Spaniards to live side-by-side must continue in Spain

Government spokesman Iñigo Méndez de Vigo

A proposal from the Socialist Party that has been registered in Congress, and which suggests changes to the regional autonomy model via a commission, could be the framework for dialogue between the two sides, although parties such as center-right group Ciudadanos and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) are likely to initially refuse to participate.

After tensions between Catalonia and Madrid reached boiling point this week, the road ahead will not be easy. But government sources now admit that it is inevitable that talks will begin about the future of the region.

Sources from La Moncloa prime ministerial palace have said that the priority remains a defense of the Constitution and the law and stopping the referendum from going ahead, after the Constitutional Court suspended it. But the same sources admit that, as the PSOE is calling for, there can be dialogue.

When they drop their plans for independence, we can talk

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos

“On [October] 2 we will talk, and the dynamic will lead us to seek solutions because the plan for Spaniards to live side-by-side must continue in Spain,” said government spokesperson Íñigo Méndez de Vigo today in an interview on the Onda Cero radio network.

The minister, along with the rest of the government, insisted that the administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “has always been willing to talk,” but that “the other side only wanted to talk about a referendum.” After October 1, he said, talks can begin about a better way for Catalonia to fit in the rest of Spain.

“When they drop their plans for independence, we can talk,” Economy Minister Luis de Guindos told the British daily Financial Times. “Catalonia already has a high level of autonomy, but we can discuss a reform of the financing system along with other issues. In 2012 we were in the midst of an economic crisis,” he continued, in reference to the demands of then-regional premier Artur Mas for greater autonomy and control of Catalonia’s finances. “Now the situation has changed, we have more of a fiscal margin, an [economic] recovery, and that opens new opportunities for debate.”

In this context, the commission for the territorial model proposed by the PSOE in Congress – and supported by the PP – is shaping up to be one of the possible scenarios for such talks.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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