After an interruption of one and a half years, the Spanish central government and the separatist government of Catalonia have officially resumed talks to settle the dispute over the region's moves towards independence.
To kick off the talks, Catalan regional President Pere Aragones received Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the government palace in Barcelona on Wednesday.
Both wanted to discuss the "roadmap" for the talks in the coming months in the presence of several ministers.
Before the meeting, Aragones reiterated that he would stick to the demand for self-determination for the 7.5 million inhabitants of Catalonia. The central government, however, explicitly rejects this demand.
Only on Saturday, thousands demonstrated in Barcelona for the independence of the region. According to the separatist citzens' movement ANC, around 400,000 people were on the streets. The police, however, estimated the number at only 108,000.
The leftist central government wants to settle the conflict through dialogue. In June, it pardoned nine imprisoned separatist leaders, despite criticism from the conservative opposition.
The measure was necessary "to restore harmony and coexistence," Sanchez said at the time. The separatists had been sentenced in 2019 to prison terms of up to 13 years in connection with the illegal independence referendum of 2017 on charges including sedition and misuse of public funds.
After the referendum on 1 October 2017, and a subsequent decision to separate from Spain, Catalonia was placed under administration by the then conservative central government of Mariano Rajoy.
The regional president at the time, Carles Puigdemont, evaded the grasp of the Spanish judiciary by hiding in an SUV and fleeing to France to reach Belgium.