Catalan leader Quim Torra says the Spanish region has no intention to give up on independence, stressing that Catalonia's right to self-rule must be respected for any political solution to take place in the future.
Torra made the remarks at a news conference after meeting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid on Monday.
In the meeting held for the first time in more than two years, the two agreed to defuse tensions after last year’s independence referendum sparked a major political crisis between Catalonia and Spain.
"Prime Minister Sanchez and I agree that it is a political problem that needs a political solution. It is very relevant for us to have reached this agreement. Secondly, we have spoken about everything with PM Sanchez. For many months a Catalan president was not able to speak about everything with a Spanish prime minister," Torra said.
"I have seen a prime minister concerned about this issue, I have seen a prime minister that took notes, a prime minister that was thoughtful and that thinks that a mature democracy can't put on with this situation. Hence I hope for a change, an immediate change," he noted.
Speaking to reporters, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo described the meeting as “truly useful,” saying that Sanchez and Torra had “agreed to re-establish a bilateral commission” that used to serve as a place for dialogue but was dropped by the previous conservative government.
Calvo added that the two leaders would also set up “work commissions” to discuss a range of issues in a next meeting in Barcelona, including work, energy, poverty, healthcare and education.
Torra became Catalonia’s new president after the regional chamber failed in its successive bids to re-appoint Carles Puigdemont, the former president who is now in Germany fighting an extradition to Spain.
Puigdemont himself picked Torra, a fierce secessionist, to follow in his footsteps to advance Catalonia’s independence cause.
Torra has vowed to build on the results of a banned referendum on independence last October, which saw more than 90 percent of the region’s half of eligible voters endorse its separation from Spain. Puigdemont made his controversial declaration of independence based on the results of that vote, a move that prompted Madrid to impose direct rule and forced Puigdemont into self-exile.
Catalonia, one of Spain’s wealthiest and most productive regions, is now theoretically under the direct control of the Spanish central government in Madrid. Pro-independence parties won a slim majority after a December 2017 election called by the Spanish government. However, they have since been locked in drawn-out negotiations on forming a government.