After talking for two and a half hours, the best that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan regional premier Artur Mas were able to say was that their much-anticipated meeting did not end with anyone “slamming the door.”
The get-together at the La Moncloa prime ministerial residence in Madrid had been widely expected to conclude without any agreement on the referendum on self-rule that Catalan nationalists have set for November 9.
While Rajoy refused to yield on this issue, he did agree to analyze a document containing Catalan requests for infrastructure work in the region. Economic affairs were the only topic on which both leaders had been expected to find common ground.
“Today was not the end of anything, and that in itself is quite positive,” said Mas, of the CiU coalition, after the meeting. “We have talked about 23 issues besides the referendum: the economy, Catalan finances, dependence…”
Mas also noted that Rajoy did not offer any alternatives to the referendum, and stressed that he wished to carry on with the plans.
“We have the social and political foundation for it, and we want to do it legally and in agreement with the state,” Mas said. “Right now this cannot be, but we will keep trying.”
It had been nearly a year since Rajoy and Mas had met, and this was their first get-together since the Catalan leader announced the referendum, which Rajoy considers illegal according to the Spanish Constitution.
The Wednesday meeting was marked by two recent events: the corruption scandal engulfing Jordi Pujol, the longtime Catalan regional leader and Mas’ political mentor, and Rajoy’s meeting with Pedro Sánchez, the new secretary general of the Socialist Party, who also feels that the Catalan referendum is illegal.