Catalan leaders, including President Carles Puigdemont, have signed a declaration of independence from Spain, following the October 1 disputed referendum.
However, the Catalan leaders say the move will not be implemented immediately to allow talks with the Spanish central government.
It is unclear whether the document – calling for Catalonia to be recognized as an “independent and sovereign state” – has any legal status.
The move was immediately dismissed by the Spain’s government.
Catalonia independence referendum – which Catalan leaders say resulted in a Yes vote for independence – was declared invalid by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Earlier in the day, Carles Puigdemont told the Catalan parliament in Barcelona that the region had won the right to be independent as a result of the referendum.
According to Catalan officials, the referendum resulted in almost 90% of voters backing independence. However, anti-independence voters largely boycotted the ballot – which had a reported turnout of 43% – and there were several reports of irregularities.
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National police were involved in violent scenes as they manhandled voters while implementing the legal ruling banning the referendum.
The declaration reads: “We call on all states and international organizations to recognize the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state.”
Carles Puigdemont told the regional parliament that the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid, but he also said he wanted to “de-escalate” the tension around the issue.
“We are all part of the same community and we need to go forward together. The only way forward is democracy and peace,” the Catalan president told deputies.
He also said Catalonia was being denied the right to self-determination, and paying too much in taxes to the central government in Madrid.
Spain’s Deputy PM Soraya Saenz de Santamaria responded to the declaration by saying: “Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim… to impose mediation.
“Any dialogue between democrats has to take place within the law.”
Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy has called an extraordinary cabinet meeting for October 11 to address the latest moves in the crisis.
Independence supporters had been sharing the Catalan hashtag #10ODeclaració (10 October Declaration) on Twitter, amid expectations that Carles Puigdemont would ask parliament to declare independence on the basis of the referendum law it passed last month.
However, influential figures including Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau and European Council President Donald Tusk had urged Carles Puigdemont to step back from declaring independence.
Catalonia, a region of Spain for centuries but with its own distinct language and culture, enjoys broad autonomy under the Spanish constitution.
However, a 2005 amendment redefining the region as a “nation”, boosting the status of the Catalan language and increasing local control over taxes and the judiciary, was reversed by the Constitutional Court in 2010.
The economic crisis further fuelled discontent and pro-independence parties took power in the region in the 2015 elections.
Catalonia is one of Spain’s wealthiest regions, accounting for a quarter of the country’s exports. However, a stream of companies have announced plans to move their head offices out of Catalonia in response to the crisis.
The EU has made clear that should Catalonia split from Spain, the region would cease to be part of the European Union.