A difficult, but necessary meeting

Pedro Sánchez must provide content for the meeting with President Torra

Jordi Sànchez, president of the JxCat group in Parliament, sent a letter to Catalunya Ràdio on Monday, in which he encouraged President Quim Torra, Vice President Pere Aragonès, and Minister of the Presidency Elsa Artadi, to "facilitate a meeting with a delegation from the Spanish government" on Thursday the 20th, taking advantage of the dinner organized by Foment, or on Friday the 21st, coinciding with the controversial Council of Ministers being held at the Llotja de Mar building in downtown Barcelona. Sánchez, who has been on a hunger strike for 17 days, is worried that protests on Friday could end with images of violence that would negatively affect Catalan independence. Last Saturday, in an interview with ARA, the ex-leader of the ANC was very explicit: "If we lose the story of non-violence, we lose everything."

It would be a paradox, and ominous news for the independence movement, if with four prisoners on hunger strike the news were not of this non-violent yet forceful and impactful form of protest, but rather of street violence, the instigators of which are very hard to identify. For that reason, it is urgent, as Sánchez asks, that the two administrations lower the tension and agree on a meeting format that will allow them to calm their tempers and broadcast the message that dialogue and negotiation is the only way to resolve the Catalan question.

From this point of view, it is the Spanish President who has to take the most important steps. Especially to demonstrate to Catalan public opinion that the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Barcelona is not, as it might seem, a provocation, but a sincere attempt to continue advancing on the path of détente and dialogue between administrations. It certainly does not help that it coincides with the first anniversary of the 21-D elections, convened for the first time from Madrid by Mariano Rajoy thanks to the application of Article 155.

That is why it is important that the meeting is not a simple photo opportunity, but that it has concrete and tangible content, an agenda of topics to address that shows that the PSOE's calls for dialogue are more than empty statements. For example, why not give the Generalitat more leeway in its finances by changing the spending rules in the budgetary stability law?

What Sanchez cannot aspire to is that those in favor of independence applaud him only because his character is different from that of Rajoy. Fortunately, it seems that both presidents' teams are working in these final hours to find a format that satisfies both sides. Pedro Sánchez has the right to hold a Council of Ministers in Barcelona, but he must accept that thousands of people, in their legitimate right to freedom of expression, can protest about what they consider to be a serious injustice: forced exile of the pro-independence leaders who organized the 1-Oct referendum. And the Catalan government is obliged to guarantee public order and security for the meeting, but it also has the right and the obligation to demand that it serve for something more than to speak in vague generalities or about the gothic architecture of the Palau de la Generalitat. A difficult meeting, as can be seen, but necessary.

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