The Spanish government and the Catalonia region have resumed talks aimed at sewing up their rifts over the northeastern region’s separatist ambitions.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez took a first step by visiting Barcelona to meet Catalonia's regional leader, Pere Aragones, on Wednesday.
The dialog had been broken off by the late 2019 outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported.
Resumption of the talks, however, also came at a time when Madrid needs the support of separatist Catalan politicians to pass the next year’s budget, giving rise to speculations about any ulterior motive on the part of the central government for seeking to mend its ties with Barcelona.
Following the talks, the two sides said they were still "very far apart" on the issue of the independence of the region that unilaterally held a referendum on the issue in 2017, and briefly declared separation from the mainland afterwards in a catastrophic development that led to the arrest of many Catalan separatist leaders.
Sanchz has pardoned the leaders in a goodwill gesture. He, however, still stressed that his position regarding Catalonia's request for an authorized independence referendum remained unchanged.
"The Spanish government will always respect democratic legality, the constitutional order," Sanchez told reporters after the meeting.
He was referring to the government’s insistence that the region’s status has to be decided on in line with the country’s constitution.
Esquerra has, meanwhile, conditioned any talks about the budget on continuation of the negotiation process, putting Madrid in rather an awkward position.