PM's decision to use an intermediary in Catalonia talks attracts opposition

Facing pressure - Sánchez on Thursday at his official residence.
Facing pressure - Sánchez on Thursday at his official residence. / EFE
  • The government has agreed that the parties will sit down with a neutral "rapporteur" in a bid to stop separatists blocking its 2019 budget

There was wide-ranging criticism this week on all sides of the political spectrum after the decision by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to agree to a third party sitting in on any future cross-party talks over the political future of Catalonia.

Even within Sánchez's own party, the Socialist PSOE, there was disagreement over the move, and right-of-centre political parties announced a protest march in a bid to "throw out" the prime minister.

The move to use an intermediary, described in Spanish as a ''relator'', rapporteur or notetaker, is viewed by opponents as validating part of the Catalan secessionists' argument that they are equal to central government and also implying that Madrid isn't able to sort out internal political problems on its own.

It is being widely seen as well as a concession to separatist parties who have demanded a powerful international mediator for talks on Catalonia's future. The PSOE needs the support of their MPs in the national Congreso to approve Spain's 2019 budget in a vote due next week.

The government sought to play down its move this week as it was pointed out that former prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has also used intermediaries in Catalonia in the past. Supporters of Pedro Sánchez said his strategy was meant to be less confrontational than his predecessor's. But critics, even in the PSOE, claimed that the policy could force a no-confidence vote and usher in a hard-line right-wing government, which could increase pro-independence support in Catalonia.

List of 21 demands

This week the Catalan regional government released a list of 21 demands they had given to Sánchez last December, piling extra pressure on the PM for not having made it public himself at the time. Top of the wishlist is recognition by Madrid of the right of Catalonia to self-determination.

The PP, Ciudadanos and Vox parties have called a march for Sunday in Madrid under the slogan, 'A united Spain. Elections now'.

The trial of separatist leaders arrested in 2017 is due to start next Tuesday, 12 February, in Madrid, further adding to the political tension with Catalonia.