After a lot of toing and froing, and disagreements as to the significance of the occasion, Catalan president Quim Torra greeted the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, at the gates of the Palau de Pedralbes with a smile, they shook hands and held a meeting. Meanwhile, Vice President Pere Aragonès and the Minister of the Presidency, Elsa Artadi, gathered in another room with Spanish Vice President Carmen Calvo and Minister Meritxell Batet. Following the meetings, all six greeted each other. As a result, everyone was partially satisfied and the main objective had been achieved: to convey the message to Catalan and Spanish society that dialogue and negotiation are the only way to resolve the Catalan question. This was reflected in the joint statement declaring that "there is a conflict surrounding the future of Catalonia", which needs "a democratic response to the public’s demands, within a framework of legal security".
On Thursday, therefore, a complicated situation was safely negotiated. However, today will be key to deciding the future course of events. And faced with the likes of Ciudadanos and the PP, who are waiting for the situation on the street to get out of hand in order to justify a new and this time much more severe application of article 155 [direct rule], Catalan society must once again demonstrate that it is perfectly possible to mobilize, as it has up to now, civically and peacefully. As inappropriate as this cabinet meeting may seem, the independence movement must not welcome it in any other way. As Jordi Sànchez said in an interview with ARA: "If we lose the argument of non-violence, we lose everything".
The events of 21 D must make two things clear: the public’s outrage at the circumstances which those in jail and in exile find themselves in –on the very day four of them called a halt to the hunger strike– and the certainty that violence is not part of the culture or the methods of the majority who favour independence. And if any individuals disagree, they must be isolated and delegitimised. The situation is far too important not to be taken seriously.
Nevertheless, independence supporters must play their hand wisely. Clearly it is far better to initiate a dialogue with Pedro Sánchez and not let his government fall, than to risk a victory of the right (and the extreme right) in Spain or the change of alliances dreamt of by the more centralist faction within the PSOE: a pact with Albert Rivera’s Ciudadanos. In politics, one needs to be aware of the balance of power at all times and how the situation can be used for one’s own benefit. And now perhaps is the time to explore in a more determined and unselfconscious way the path to dialogue and negotiation with the only partner that has so far taken steps in this direction. Inadequate and with a limited horizon, it is true, but it is all about moving towards turning something that today appears impossible into something inevitable.