Torra won’t attend Spain’s regional summit, requests bilateral meeting with PM Sánchez

The Catalan president emphasises that he asked to join the event remotely and claims “this is no time for photo ops”

On Thursday Catalan president Quim Torra sent a letter to Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez informing him that he won’t be attending the regional presidents’ summit that is scheduled to be held on Friday in La Rioja. At the meeting —which is supposed to address the pandemic in Spain— the Spanish government will be detailing the EU’s relief package that has recently been approved. Instead of attending the event, president Torra has asked his Spanish counterpart to hold a bilateral meeting between them and their governments next week.

“While the content of the summit interests me, the way you have pitched the event and the current situation of the pandemic in Catalonia prevent me from attending it”, the Catalan leader writes in his letter. Torra emphasises that he asked to participate in the summit remotely owing to the public health crisis in Catalonia, where the Catalan government has advised against all but essential travel.

Quim Torra believes that some preparation work was needed ahead of the summit, which hasn’t been done: according to Torra, neither his vice president nor the Catalan minister for the Presidency have been given a chance to discuss the agenda of the summit. Furthermore, the Catalan leader slams Pedro Sánchez over the regional presidents’ Sunday videoconferences held during the state of emergency, when no points were up for discussion and everything was said and done by the central government, according to Torra. “Those meetings were of little use because we were merely informed of the decisions Madrid had already made and announced the day before, with no chance of debating or negotiating any changes”, he claims in his letter. And he goes on to state that “the relationship between my government and the government of Spain must be bilateral”.

For all those reasons, Torra believes that Friday’s is not a meeting to debate and come to an agreement on how the EU aid and funds will be shared. “Now is not the time for photo opportunities but to get down to work”, he remarks.

On Wednesday the Spanish PM wrote to Torra and Basque president Urkullu encouraging them to attend the summit in person, even though both leaders had asked to join the event remotely. The Spanish PM and leader of the socialist party thinks this is a key meeting where information about the EU’s agreement for reconstruction will be shared and King Felipe will be in attendance, too.

For now the Basque leader refuses to travel to the summit unless a date is set for a meeting of the bilateral commission that discusses the Basque Country’s financial deal, according to Spanish news wire EFE, citing Basque government sources. Sánchez has said to Urkullu that he understands the Basque leader’s position, but has urged him to appreciate “the circumstances that have afflicted Spain in the last months” and he has agreed to holding a meeting of the commission at some point, without setting a date

President Torra also criticised the fact that King Felipe will be attending the event: “We cannot agree to the use of such a major public health crisis to get the Spanish monarchy involved, especially now that it’s being put into question more than ever before”.

Torra believes that the Spanish government “and every democrat” should probe the Spanish monarchy following newspaper reports [about its shady business dealings] and they should be “held to account”. “It’s not our job to whitewash the monarchy by staging an event to do with such a major crisis that has hit so many people”, he remarks, and he goes on to say that the king of Spain has been censured by the Catalan parliament.

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