Catalonia’s regional parliament has approved a plan to set up a road map for independence from Spain by 2017, in defiance of repeated calls by the central government in Madrid, which has branded the secessionist campaign as totally illegal.
Lawmakers on Monday passed the motion by 72 to 63 votes. The proposal was initially handed in by pro-independence MPs from the Together for Yes alliance and the extreme left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy.
The two parties submitted the proposal to the parliament after gaining a majority in September's regional elections.
This was the first session of the legislature, which is based in the northeastern city of Barcelona, since the September election. Following the Monday vote, pro-secession lawmakers lauded the approval of the motion as a great victory.
“There is a growing cry for Catalonia to not merely be a country, but to be a state with everything that means,” said Raul Romeva, the head of the parliamentary majority behind the motion.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had threatened to take legal action if Catalan lawmakers opt for independence.
The government in Madrid has pledged to ask the Constitutional Court to declare the resolution void if it is passed. The Court had on Thursday ruled that the vote could go ahead. Spanish media said, however, that the body would quickly rule the plan illegal, although lawmakers have reportedly inserted a measure into the law which allows the regional government to ignore such a ruling.
The road map also gives a 30-day ultimatum to the incoming government to start drafting a new Catalan constitution, which would later be voted on in a referendum. The regional government would then begin establishing a new tax office and social security administration.
The pro-secessionists face not only internal pressure, which could seriously derail or slow down their bid to break away from Spain, but also a call from the European union which has said that an independent Catalonia will have to apply separately to join the 28-nation bloc.
Catalonia is home to 7.5 million people and accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economic output. Many Catalans have accused the government of siphoning off their tax money, saying the regional state will be more prosperous in economic terms if it gains secession.
A symbolic referendum on independence was held in 2014 with more than 80 percent voting in favor in what Madrid described as an unconstitutional move.