6th April 2020
Pedro Sánchez and Quim Torra
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Pedro Sánchez finally speaks to Quim Torra again – by telephone

Acting Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has finally spoken again to Catalan president Quim Torra – the first time since the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan pro-independence leaders to up to 13 years in prison on 14 October, sparking major protests in Barcelona.

It was a 15-minute phone call, described as ‘cordial’, which comes after two months of accusations, mutual distrust, increased political tension – as well as a Spanish General Election, the fourth in four years, held on 10 November.

The call followed on from another 15-minute call between Sánchez and the Basque Country leader Iñigo Urkullu, and also followed on from his face-to-face meetings in Madrid on Monday with Pablo Casado of the People’s Party (PP), and Inés Arrimadas of the Ciudadanos (Cs).

The meetings and discussions have been held as part of Sánchez’s bid to be officially reinstated as head of a new government, and as invited to do so by King Felipe VI.

Also on Tuesday, officials of the PSOE party met with MPs from the Mas País group – once again with officials from the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) – as well as for the first time with the Basque EH Bildu partyand the far-left Catalan CUP party.

Pedro Sánchez and Quim Torra
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (left) meeting with Catalan President Quim Torra at the Palacio de Pedralbes in Barcelona on 20 December 2018. (Javier Soriano / AFP)

ALSO READ: PSOE and ERC meet for 3rd time – one month after election

The PSOE’s 120 seats from the 10 November general election, combined with the 35 won by the left-wing Podemos party – and with whom they have already signed a pre-agreement to form a coalition government – leaves them short of the majority in the 350-seat Spanish Congress. The re-election of Sánchez as prime minister is therefore in the hands of ERC’s 13 MPs, as well as other smaller political groups.

The alternative is the possibility of a ‘plan B’ agreement between the PSOE, the PPand Cs (who together hold 221 seats) – although this is being reported as unlikely.

ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez greeted by ‘Sit and Talk’ protestors in Catalonia

After the 15-minute call between Torra and Sánchez, the Catalan government spokeswoman, Meritxell Budó, said that they had spoken ‘cordially’ and that ‘in today’s exchange, Sánchez once again recognised the political nature of the conflict.’

She also said that Torra had reminded Sánchez of the ‘harshness of his campaign’ against the independence movement in the build-up to the 10 November general election.

Torra reportedly reproached Sánchez for not answering his repeated phone calls. Despite Torra’s criticisms, however, Sánchez told the Catalan president that he is willing to meet with him face-to-face once he has been confirmed as Spanish prime minister and has formed a new government.

ALSO READ: No Catalan independence ‘offline or online’, warns Pedro Sánchez

The Catalan authorities have welcomed the news of a future meeting, even if it is within the context of a round of talks with the heads of Spain’s autonomous regions, a detail that Torra later said Sánchez had left out of their conversation.

Meritxell Budo
Catalan government spokeswoman Meritxell Budó speaking on 17 December 2019. (@catalangov / Twitter)

Meritxell Budó also explained that Torra had said that the solution to the Catalan conflict ‘should involve the exercise of Catalonia’s right to self-determination, an end to repression, and the release of the political prisoners’.

ALSO READ: Spanish PM visits Barcelona, refusing to talk or meet with Catalan president

Spanish government sources said that Sánchez’s main aim is ‘to reduce territorial tensions’ and resume dialogue, which should also include other key issues in Catalonia, such as ‘health, education, infrastructure, transport, dependency, and industry’.

ALSO READ: Torra calls for ‘immediate meeting’ with Sánchez to engage in dialogue

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