Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he is available “to sit down and talk” with Catalan regional premier Artur Mas “as long as it is for something.”
What that something might be, however, remains unclear as Rajoy has himself admitted that he has not spoken to Mas since July 30, when the two met for over two hours at La Moncloa prime ministerial palace.
The Popular Party leader’s comments came on Sunday during an informal chat with journalists, who asked him about the article he published in the new Catalan digital edition of EL PAÍS (elpais.cat) in which he pledged to maintain “bridges of dialogue” over the sovereignty drive in the region.
The main recommendation from Mas’s top advisor is to call plebiscite elections to move the process forward
The remarks reveal that there has been no dialogue between the prime minister and the Catalan leader since Mas signed the decree calling the self-rule referendum on September 27. Contact with the Catalan regional government does exist at a lower level, say central government sources.
Rajoy also once again complained that Mas had imposed “the question and the answer” for the November 9 referendum and underlined that his position – that the vote goes against the Spanish Constitution and cannot be held – was dictated by “common sense.” Outgoing European Council President Herman Van Rompuy had also come to see it this way, he said.
There is also one further obstacle to dialogue: the doubts now circulating about Mas’s inability to renew the sovereignty process after the Constitutional Court’s suspension of both the law paving the way for the vote and the decree setting the official date, pending its decision over an appeal filed by the central government. Rajoy suggested this when, alluding to the meetings the Catalan leader had called with pro-independence parties, he dropped in: “I don’t really know who is giving the orders there.”
But the suspension has not exhausted all options for taking the independence drive forward, says Mas’s top advisor Carles Viver Pi-Sunyer. The president of the Advisory Council for the National Transition’s main recommendation is to now call plebiscite elections. “They have the advantage of being processes within the bounds of the law and it is very difficult to prohibit them,” he told Catalunya Radio. “The regional premier calls them through a decree, which cannot be impugned and in principle neither can the parties’ electoral programs be impugned.
“The Catalan parliament has a mandate to call a vote. With the plebiscite elections, it would have a new mandate, which is to make a new state,” he said.