CATALAN President Pere Aragones has stated his intent to end the political gridlock between Catalonia and Spain and re-start negotiations between the two nations, despite what he described as the Spanish Government’s “authoritarianism”.

In a speech at Catalonia’s National Art Museum marking the first anniversary of his election as president on Monday, Aragones said that he is committed to “new opportunities for negotiations”, but warned that he may take further steps if the dialogue does not move forward.

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Following the victory of Aragones’ Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya last year, which saw the pro-independence majority in Catalonia’s parliament boosted and a coalition formed with Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), Aragones has repeatedly urged Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez to enter into talks with the Catalan Government.

The two leaders met in September last year, the first time such a meeting had taken place since before the Covid-19 pandemic. Following their meeting, Aragones told press that his two chief goals in the talks were the negotiation of a fresh independence referendum and a general amnesty for Catalan independence leaders pursued or imprisoned for their political actions by Spanish authorities. Sanchez has so far refused to yield on either of these issues, and the Spanish Government has since avoided arranging any further meeting.

The National:

Addressing four hundred guests from various Catalan political parties, Aragones yesterday said that he wished to “strengthen” Catalonia and its institutions, and called upon the Catalan independence movement to restart its mass mobilisations in order to make both an amnesty law and self-determination “inevitable.”

Aragone said: “We have to share with the whole country that the negotiation process is going through difficulties. But to overcome these, it is necessary to change the correlation of forces to strengthen the Catalan position.

“For this, we need to reactivate all strengths of those who want to see a democratic solution to this conflict - all our institutional strength, and the political mobilisation of all actors. Because when we have shown all our strength in a unified way, Spain is forced to act.”

Response to the president’s speech from other Catalan pro-independence parties was mixed, however. JxCat party secretary Jordi Sanchez, who was formerly imprisoned for his role in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum, speculated in an interview with Catalunya Radio that the president’s reference to pardons for independence leaders indicated “the first evidence of dialogue with Spain.”

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“If this is the case,” Sanchez commented, “ERC negotiators should have provided us with the details.”

Responding to this, a Catalan Government spokesperson emphasised that Aragones “at no point” suggested that pardons already won for independence leaders were the result of negotiations with Spain, but were instead the result of victory for pro-independence parties in Catalan elections.

The left-wing, pro-independence CUP also criticised Aragones’s speech, saying it "failed to say anything that would make it seem like something will happen."

"We're at the same place we were a year ago," remarked CUP parliamentary spokesperson Dolors Sabater. "We need less talk and more action."