CATALONIA’S fragile pro-independence coalition government has faced its first major crisis in almost four months as representatives prepared to meet their Spanish counterparts today in Barcelona.

President Pere Aragones, from the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), yesterday snubbed three senior members of Together for Catalonia (Junts), who anticipated being part of the meeting.

However, Aragones said he would take part in the first round of talks with ministers Laura Vilagra and Roger Torrent, both ERC members.

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Junts had proposed that vice-president Jordi Puignero, party secretary-general Jordi Sanchez, Jordi Turull, the party vice-president, and congressional spokesperson Míriam Nogueras all take part.

Only Puignero is currently a member of the Catalan cabinet, and Aragones said only people “at the maximum institutional level” should participate in the talks – which meant ministers.

Pardoned prisoner Sanchez, a popular former leader of the Catalan National Assembly, disagreed, and quoted from the agreement for government which was signed in May.

It read: “The Catalan delegation in the negotiation process will be appointed through consensus and named by the government, with the aim of representing the plurality of the pro-independence project, and aims to represent and defend the large consensuses in favour of self-determination and amnesty by an 80% majority of the people.”

The National: Catalan regional president Quim Torra

Former president Quim Torra (above) sided with Sanchez, pointing out that talks he led in Madrid in 2020 included members of his government, as well as representatives of the parties that made it up. He said on Twitter: “I met earlier with the pro-independence parties and organisations to agree on the position.”

The nominations by Junts irked Aragones, who said he only learned of them through the media.

He demanded “maximum loyalty” from the coalition’s junior partner, not to one party, but to the president of the Catalan government, and warned that loyalty was “two-way”.

When he announced members of the talks team at a press conference, Aragones said he had decided to only name members of his own party.

Regardless of the make-up of the Catalan side, the talks with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez and his ministers are likely to be dominated by demands for an independence referendum.

Spain’s next election is in 2023, which is widely regarded as the point at which the negotiations will be deemed to be successful or a failure.

The Catalan cabinet has support from the far-left CUP, but only on condition that that talks with Spain must be reviewed in two years to decide if there is any point in continuing them.

Spain’s election could change the make-up of the Madrid cabinet, so delivering an outcome before the election would likely appeal to Sanchez.

Aragones has made no secret of his preferred option – he has told this newspaper on more than one occasion that he wants to see a referendum such as we had in Scotland in 2014, and which would be accepted by Spain.

However, he also wants an amnesty for all those facing court action over the previous push for indy, including the return of former president Carles Puigdemont from exile in Belgium.

Spanish minister Miquel Iceta, however, has made his government’s position clear. He said if the talks revolve exclusively around a referendum and amnesty, “they will be short and unsuccessful”.