The president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, and former president Artur Mas today called on the state government to
Presidents Torra and Mas with Francesc Homs, Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau (Photograph: Jordi Bedmar)

The president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, and former president Artur Mas today called on the state government to “sit and talk”. “That’s the challenge, Mr Sánchez. Those are the words that mark the immediate future for the days ahead,” said President Torra. “We want to sit and talk, and we want the people of Catalonia to be able to freely decide their future,” said Artur Mas.

Presidents Torra and Mas both called on the Spanish government to engage in dialogue during a reception held to mark the fifth anniversary of a 2014 non-binding self-determination referendum. The reception, held this morning at the Palau de la Generalitat, was also attended by former Catalan Vice-President Joana Ortega, former ministers Francesc Homs and Irene Rigau, and various members of the current executive.

In his speech, the head of the government said: “Now is the time for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez – or anyone who aspires to become the Spanish PM – to sit and talk.” Torra had a clear message: “It’s time to stop hiding and start talking about real solutions to a political conflict that shouldn’t be treated with contempt, and that certainly shouldn’t be met with an authoritarian response, or no response at all.”

In the same vein, President Mas urged Spain to “put its positive proposal for Catalonia on the table so that it can be considered alongside the one we already have, which is independence”. “We’ve reached a point where we need to sit down and talk, in a democratic way, with two positive proposals that can be set side by side and considered,”  said the former president. “It’s urgent for this to happen, because it’s the only way to resolve this democratic conflict.”

During his speech, Quim Torra thanked Mas for “the sound judgement, effort, courage and personal sacrifice” of all those who made the 2014 non-binding referendum possible, “especially those who suffered repressive consequences at the hands of the Spanish state”. The president noted that those behind the initiative were “severely punished by the Spanish state, which had already begun to show the path it would follow – the only path, the path of repression that it’s continued to follow since then,”  consistently refusing to consider any proposal put forward by Catalonia.

Faced with this attitude on the part of the Spanish government, President Torra stressed that Catalonia has always pursued an approach based on “democracy, peace and civic responsibility”. “We’ve never strayed from the path of non-violence, defence of rights and freedoms, and democracy as the way to exercise our right of self-determination – and we never will,” he said.

President Mas said the 2014 vote “was the first standout experience of citizens and institutions working hand in hand”. “It was the first step on a hard, uphill path,” he added. He said this is a path on which “everything is possible, and everything remains possible, but nothing will be easy [because] the repression is severe. We need a lot of determination and clear ideas – a lot of passion and hope.”

Artur Mas also made reference to the various elections held in recent years, which he said showed that the independence movement is not going away. “It’s clear that we’re faced with a stubborn reality that remains unchanged year after year.” President Torra made the same point in reference to the Spanish general election held yesterday. “The results for the independence movement are better than ever,” he said.