Secrecy continues to shroud talks between the Spanish socialist party (PSOE) and Carles Puigdemont’s pro-independence Catalan party, Junts — with neither side offering details on the dynamics of their political agreement.
On Saturday (2 December), Junts, PSOE and an “independent moderator” will meet for the first time in Geneva, Switzerland, as reported by Spanish media. The aim? To discuss the possibility of holding a new independence referendum, as well as other economic issues related to Catalonia’s budget.
The agenda of the meeting is no more than what was already presented in the agreement signed by the PSOE in November in exchange for the parliamentary support of the Catalan separatists, which allowed the socialist Pedro Sánchez to be return as prime minister of Spain.
The party led by Puigdemont set out a series of conditions, including the amnesty law and the possibility of discussing holding of a new referendum in Catalonia, in order to offer its seven seats to Sánchez — who failed to secure a sufficient parliamentary majority to govern in the July elections.
“When we negotiate, we do so discreetly, because that is the best guarantee that agreements will be reached, and when those agreements exist, we will make them public to the last comma,” the Spanish justice minister Félix Bolaños told reporters in Brussels on Thursday (30 November).
When asked about who would pay for the international intermediary figure to supervise the negotiations or to confirm the location of the PSOE-Junts meeting, the answer was always the same: discretion.
Bolaños had travelled to Brussels on Thursday to meet with commission vice-president Vera Jourová and justice commissioner Didier Reynders.
His visit was motivated by several issues, including providing more details on the controversial amnesty law, although Bolaños told journalists that “most of the time” of the discussion was devoted to talking about the judiciary in Spain.
Yet according to Bolaños, the EU Commission has “zero concerns” about the amnesty law, while the “greatest concern” is the renewal of the judiciary, whose general council has not been renewed for five years due to a blockade by the Popular Party.
On Friday, however, a spokesman for the EU executive denied that this was the case, adding that they had informed Bolaños that “we have questions” and that “the analysis is still ongoing”, so the commission “has not yet said that the amnesty law does not raise concerns”.
The name of the person (or persons) who will assume this independent verification role, which Bolaños described on Thursday as a mere “companion” to facilitate dialogue, has not been revealed.
“In the meantime [until there is an agreement], please understand that discretion is a method that has proven to be effective,” Bolaños added.
Senior EU officials were also guarded about the content of their meetings on social media.
“We discussed the amnesty law, the national council of the judiciary and broader aspects on democracy and the rule of law”, Jourová posted.
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Reynders, for his part, published a video and a photo with Bolaños in which he spoke of a “very good meeting” and assured that “the dialogue will continue with the Spanish authorities.”
The justice commissioner already exchanged letters with Bolaños before the bill was formally presented, motivated by concerns about the rule of law in Spain highlighted by rival political parties, but also citizens.
The issue even reached the plenary session of the EU parliament in Strasbourg last week, in an angry debate between those who consider this an internal matter and those who see international implications.