CATALAN and Spanish government ministers were last night huddled in the first meeting of their bilateral commission for seven years with little indication of what might transpire.

Self-determination for the wealthy north-eastern state was on the agenda, but only in the form of a presentation meaning that there would be no negotiation – an important distinction given Spain’s position throughout the independence crisis.

Ahead of the meeting, however, Catalan President Quim Torra urged the Spanish government to offer Catalonia “specific solutions” to its independence aspirations.

He also called for Madrid to address the issue of the pro-indy political prisoners who have been in prison without trial – some for more than nine months – as well as those in exile, including St Andrews Professor Clara Ponsati, in Scotland and deposed president Carles Puigdemont, in Belgium.

Torra told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) the dialogue had to provide answers: “We are in an extraordinarily serious and exceptional political situation, so it is obvious that dialogue will become just a smokescreen if it doesn’t offer answers on these issues.”

The president said Spain should make decisions on these issues as well as the broader political conflict in Catalonia for the talks to end on a positive note.

He said the Spanish government’s willingness to air the issues was important, as it showed “dialogue can go ahead without preconditions”.

However, he said they should result in actual negotiations on Catalonia’s future and to “actions, not only words”.

Torra said: “We need decisions by the Spanish government, in a lot of issues, not only those addressed in the bilateral meeting.”

Catalan government spokesperson, Elsa Artadi, who is part of the Catalan delegation, played down expectations of any breakthrough from the summit, which she said would give Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez a margin of wriggle room to move from “dialogue to negotiation”.

She said the gathering should prioritise issues, establish working groups and schedule them for a future meeting in Madrid in the autumn. Only then did she expect anything to materialise from the talks.

Artadi said patience was needed to resolve the lengthy political conflict, although she stressed that Torra’s government would not relinquish the cause of self-determination for the Catalan people.

“The right of self-determination is for all citizens of Catalonia and we cannot give up,” she said.

Spanish Vice-President Carmen Calvo welcomed the image of normality, adding: “We are faced with a normal fact that had become abnormal, and we have to value it.

“Democratic normality is the norm of constant behaviour with all the autonomous governments, including Catalonia,” he added.