The Catalan parliament has voted to “declare Catalonia an independent state in the form of a republic” from Spain.
The lawmakers voted in a record 70% in favour, on Friday, with thousands of pro-independence activists gathered outside the regional parliament in Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Madrid has also vowed in turn to “restore legality” and quash the region’s secessionist bid.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded immediately, urging “all Spaniards to remain calm”.
“The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia,” he tweeted immediately after controversial vote.
Under the eyes of a nervous nation, Catalonia’s regional parliament held a secret ballot, despite an opposition walkout, on a resolution the region´s authorities have no legal power to execute.
The motion was approved with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions, a result that immediately saw Spanish shares fall sharply.
Catalan opposition MPs, refusing to even consider the resolution, walked out en masse on what one described as a “dark day” for democracy.
But those who stayed behind, cheered, clapped and embraced before breaking out in the Catalan anthem as the tally was announced.
Meanwhile, Germany has declared that it does not recognise Catalonia’s unilateral declaration of independence.
“The (German) federal government does not recognise such an independence declaration,” spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Spain are and always will be inviolable,” he added.
“We hope that those involved will use all available opportunities for dialogue and de-escalation.”
On its part, the United States says it considers Catalonia an “integral part of Spain” and supports Madrid’s measures to keep Spain “strong and united,”.
“The United States enjoys a great friendship and an enduring partnership with our NATO ally Spain,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united.”