Although no date is as yet fixed, prime minister Pedro Sánchez and Quim Torra, regional president of Catalonia, agreed on Thursday to start formal roundtable meetings between the national and regional governments to discuss the political future of Catalonia.
In an eagerly awaited one-to-one meeting between the two politicians in Barcelona, the first for some time, agreement was reached to begin the series of meetings which had been a condition of ERC, the Catalan republican party, abstaining in Madrid's parliament earlier this month to allow Sánchez back into power nationally.
For the first, opening session of the meetings at least, due to be in February, both Sánchez and Torra will be in the chair.
After their one-to-one meeting in Barcelona on Thursday, Sánchez said, "We need time and effort. That is a reason to begin the dialogue between the institutions as soon as possible."
Amid a storm of criticism from opposition parties, Sánchez defended the need to sit down and break up a ten year process that had had "lamentable results". However there was surprise as the agenda items for the forthcoming meetings aren't as controversial as some feared in terms of separatist demands.
While Torra has agreed to the content of the discussions for now, he lamented that he still didn't know Madrid's real position on the Catalan independence issue. "We're only asking to get to the root, which is sovereignty," he said. " How much democracy is the Spanish state ready to take on board?"
Torra may soon be removed as president if an appeal to a case goes against him and Catalan elections are expected as his ruling coalition of JxCat and ERC has broken down.