BARCELONA.- New Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had been barely sworn in Saturday before one of the country’s most critical issues facing his fragile government was pressed upon him: ending the Catalan secession crisis.
Less than two hours after Sanchez had taken his oath to uphold the Spanish Constitution, Catalan chief Quim Torra demanded to meet with Sanchez and speak “government to government” regarding the future of the wealthy yet restive northeastern region. “Pedro Sanchez, let us talk, take risks, both you and I. Let us sit down at a table and talk, government to government,” Torra said after swearing in his regional Cabinet in Barcelona on Saturday.
Torra, who was chosen by separatist lawmakers to lead the region last month, said his government “accepts the charge to continue forward with the mandate ... to form an independent state.” Sanchez, the leader of Spain’s Socialist Party, came to power after he successfully ousted conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy, who lost a no-confidence vote in parliament on Friday.
In order to cobble together the support to cast out Rajoy, Sanchez promised to open talks with Torra in order to get the votes he needed from the Catalan pro-secession lawmakers in the national parliament. Sanchez said Thursday that one of the priorities of his government would be “rebuilding bridges” with the country’s regions and “establishing the foundations that allow us to normalize relations and start a dialogue between the Spanish government and the new government in Catalonia”.
Pedro Sanchez, however, insisted that any solutions for Catalonia must fit within Spain’s Constitution, which calls the nation “indivisible” and says national sovereignty resides in the Madrid-based parliament.