Catalonia’s parliament has adopted a declaration of sovereignty, the first step towards a possible referendum on breaking away from Spain.
The nationalist resolution was passed with 85 votes for and 41 against, increasing the pressure on Madrid.
Catalonia’s two main nationalist parties signed a pact last month pledging to hold a referendum next year.
Speaking in Catalan before the vote, the president of the regional government Artur Mas said it would be historic.
“Maybe it will not resolve our problems in 24 hours, but it will lead our country towards its destiny,” he added.
A few smaller parties backed the declaration, but it was opposed by the Catalan Socialist Party and Spain’s governing centre-right People’s Party.
Alicia Sanchez, head of the People’s Party of Catalonia said:
“Most Catalonian people do not want independence, they do not want this division. What you are doing today is applying pressure in defiance of the Spanish government.”
Catalonia’s nationalists were boosted by the unexpected size of a pro-independence rally in Barcelona last September, when up to an estimated half a million people took to the streets.
The declaration voted by parliament says the path towards self-determination, which is opposed by Madrid, will involve dialogue with the Spanish state, European institutions and the international community.