Catalonia's parliament has given the green light to a plan that will set the course for a secession from Spain. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he will file an appeal against the vote.
In a major setback for the politicians vowing to hold Spain together, Catalonian lawmakers voted to approve a bill that opens the door for the region's secession from the country by 2017.
The measure, which lays out a so-called "roadmap for independence," passed on Monday with a 72-63 vote.
"There is a growing cry for Catalonia to not merely be a country, but to be a state with everything that means," Raul Romeva, head of the pro-secession "Together for Yes" alliance, said at the start of the session. "Today we don't only open a new parliament, this marks a before and after."
Last week, representatives from Spain's three major parties - including the ruling Popular Party, as well as the Socialists and the center-right Ciudadanos - made a failed attempt to block the vote.
Following the announcement of the results, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative, said he would appeal the vote.
"Catalonia is not going anywhere, nothing is going to break," Rajoy said.
Last month, Rajoy went on television to declare his opposition to the bill, which was proposed by the "Together for Yes" alliance. In unflinching language, the prime minister called the bill an "act of provocation" and promised to "use all the political and legal means" possible to block it.
Independence from Spain has seemed more attainable than ever before for the region, which has its own distinct language and culture and was suppressed for decades under the late dictator Francisco Franco.
In September, Catalonian nationalists, led by left-wing politician Artur Mas, swept parliamentary elections. Mas said the elections served as a de facto referendum of whether or not Catalans wanted to remain part of Spain.
blc, shs/jil (AP, AFP, Reuters)