Are the Spanish government and the former Catalan authority in secret negotiations?

What exactly is Carles Puigdemont doing in Belgium? And have former Catalan officials given up their posts out of fear of the repercussions from the Spanish state, or do they know something we don't?

Are the Spanish government and the former Catalan authority in secret negotiations?
Carles Puigdmeont (l) and Mariano Rajoy (r) in a combined/collage picture. Photos: Lluis Gene, Oscar Del Pozo/AFP.

Only one former senior Catalan official turned up for work on Monday October 30th, the first working day of Spanish direct rule in Catalonia: Josep Rull i Andreu. Even then it was only to post a photo of himself at his desk on twitter, before promptly leaving.

The pro-independence Catalan administration left office with more of a whimper than a bang. 

But did Catalan officials simply peacefully abandon their posts out of fear of repercussions from Spain's public prosecutor's office and Spanish courts, or has the Spanish government offered an olive branch to Puigdemont? One influential Catalan journalist seems to think so. 

“This is my opinion, something is going on that nobody knows is happening and probably, Europe is intervening,” Ernest Marcià, a journalist wit Radio Catalunya, speculated to the BBC.

“Not publicly, they will not recognize anything. But Spain has done something that they didn't say a few weeks ago and Catalonia is accepting the authority of Spain, which is also very strange from the secessionist point of view.”

Marcià seemed to be suggesting that Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy and the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, may be secretly negotiating behind the scenes, with the EU playing a mediating role, or that talks between both sides have been secretly initiated. 

The European Union has largely spurned the independence declaration, and several EU institutions told AFP that no meetings are planned with Puigdemont in Brussels.

“I don't know if anything has happened. Nobody knows what is behind this acceptance, this agreement now. I haven't heard many people saying this, but it's obvious. Every side is renouncing the maximum position they were holding,” added Marcià

Carles Puigdemont travelled to Brussels on Monday October 30th, apparently to hold talks on asylum with a Belgian lawyer and to discuss his cause with Flemish nationalists.

El Mundo reports that Puigdemont will hold a press conference at 12.30pm to clarify “his work” in Brussels, according to one of his entourage. 

READ MORE: AS-IT-HAPPENED: Catalan administration overhauled amidst major changes