Catalan president believes meeting with Mariano Rajoy is imminent

Both leaders are willing to hold talks in the coming days

The countdown has begun for the meeting between Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy. Yesterday both leaders hinted that they will be seeing each other in the near future. During an interview on Catalunya Ràdio, the Catalan premier indicated that the meeting might happen before the end of January. Later Rajoy followed suit by stating that he “would not object” to a meeting in the coming days. Nevertheless, both presidents will turn up for the occasion having established their position on the main item of the agenda: the independence referendum in Catalonia.

While Tuesday’s meeting between Spanish vice president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and her Catalan opposite Oriol Junqueras left no hope for a negotiated referendum, yesterday the Spanish president insisted that he will not allow a vote on Catalan independence, no matter what: “I shall not authorise any referendum that affects Spain’s unity, our national sovereignty and the equal treatment of all Spaniards”, he warned after meeting Irish prime minister Enda Kenny at Palacio de la Moncloa.

Rajoy’s position clashes head-on with Puigdemont’s plan. Yesterday the Catalan president insisted that he is committed to holding a vote on independence, which he claimed will be “effective and binding, with my government’s commitment to act upon its outcome”. Following Barcelona mayor’s hint that she might support an “effective” referendum, regardless of whether it is allowed by Madrid, the Catalan premier argued that it will be the citizens who will validate the referendum and he listed some of the guarantees that his government must offer: information on the vote must be made available, all potential voters should have a chance to cast their ballot, the government should guarantee a level playing field, both camps should have the chance to be heard and everyone must vote on equal terms while being fully aware of the consequences of their vote.

Puigdemont also insisted that the referendum will be held, even if Madrid opposes it: “if we can organise the referendum, then it will happen. And that’s the end of that.”

“We will persevere”

Last night the Catalan president posted a video on Twitter thanking his cabinet for their work in the last year and he remarked that his government’s “sole purpose” is to carry out “the mandate of the Catalan people to transition our nation from its current regional status to the threshold of independence that we must conquer together. This is our goal and we will persevere. And we will achieve our objective within the promised time frame”.

Despite the chasm that separates both leaders on the subject of independence, Mariano Rajoy claimed that he is willing to discuss everything else, including “the budget, public spending and all matters that concern people’s everyday life” and, once again, he urged the Catalan president to reconsider his decision not to attend the Conference of regional presidents scheduled for next Tuesday in Madrid’s Senate.

Catalan PP leader sets conditions

Xavier García Albiol, the leader of the PP in Catalonia and in the Catalan parliament, did set some conditions for the meeting between the two presidents. During an interview with the Catalan public TV, Albiol claimed that Rajoy is willing to meet Puigdemont provided that some sort of “agreement” comes out of the meeting, be it on health care policies, regional funding or public works.

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