Rajoy and Mas hold secret meeting to find middle ground

Catalan sovereignty vote remains a sticky issue, say sources

In an effort to patch up their heated differences, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalonia regional chief Artur Mas met privately earlier this week to see if they could find some middle ground in trying to loosen the deficit goals imposed by the central government for the northeast region, it emerged on Wednesday.

Sources in Barcelona confirmed that the meeting took place in La Moncloa prime ministerial palace, but declined to specify the day. Mas had told his advisors that he wanted to keep the meeting secret after speaking with his Cabinet officials about trying to reach out to Madrid to encourage dialogue.

Mas’s goal is try to convince the Popular Party (PP) administration to give Catalonia more flexibility in terms of its deficit-reduction goal of 0.7 percent of the region’s GDP by the end of the year. This would mean some 4.4 billion euros in cuts.

The Catalan nationalist CiU bloc leader believes that if Brussels has given Spain more time to reduce its own deficit, the Madrid government can also pass on some leeway to the regions, according to a source.

Talks on the Catalan government’s initiative to hold a referendum on sovereignty next year did not go so well, the same sources said. Mas wants to negotiate with the central government an enabling law – similar to an agreement between London and Scotland, which will hold a plebiscite in September 2014 – that would pave the way for the independence vote.

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