The Spanish government and the separatist leaders of Catalonia formally opened talks this week about how to resolve the festering political crisis provoked by the region’s separatist movement - but there is very little the Spanish Prime Minister can do to meet the demands of the Catalan government.

As expected, the three-hour meeting between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan regional chief Quim Torra and their teams did not lead to any major breakthroughs. Torra repeated his demands for northeastern Catalonia to be allowed to hold an independence referendum and for the release of nine separatist leaders who are serving prison sentences for their role in an illegal 2017 secession attempt.

That’s all very good for the estimated 50 percent of Catalans who want independence, but there is very little, if anything Sanchez can do because his hands are tied by the constitution and the judiciary.

The two governments issued a joint statement afterward that they had agreed to continue meeting every month, alternating between Madrid and Barcelona, but unless something gives on one side or the other, they will continue talking until they are blue if the face. Sanchez hopes that regular talks will help ease tensions between the two governments, but at some point he is going to have to do something.

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