The resolution approved in early 2013 stated that the people of Catalonia have a democratic right to decide on their sovereignty.
Catalonia's parliament. Photo: EFE
Spain's Constitutional Court, the highest in the Country, suspended provisionally a declaration of sovereignty approved by Catalonia's parliament last January that signaled the start of an uncertain journey towards a referendum on independence from Spain.
The ruling implies the temporary suspension of the declaration for five months until the Court issues a definitive ruling.
Wednesday's ruling marks the first time the Constitutional Court intervenes in a declaration approved by a regional parliament.
"We will not put anything on hold," Catalan president Artur Mas told the parliament Wednesday. "We will continue on the path despite the obstacles. We will continue because it is a path chosen by the people of Catalonia."
The non-binding and largely symbolic resolution approved in early 2013 stated that the people of Catalonia have a democratic right to decide on their sovereignty. It was passed with 85 votes for, 41 against and two abstentions in the 135-seat legislature.
The ruling Convergence and Union (CiU) political alliance and the leftist separatist Republican Left (ERC) party supported the declaration, which they had presented jointly.
A few smaller parties also supported it, after the ERC and CiU softened some wording and eliminated a reference to a "new state". But it was opposed by the Catalan Socialist Party and the centre-right People's Party.
The growing separatist movement in wealthy Catalonia, which has its own language, presents a major challenge for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he fights to maintain Spanish unity and steer the country out of a deep economic and fiscal crisis.
Rajoy's government said it would fight on constitutional grounds any attempt to hold a referendum on secession from Spain. It is widely believed that if Catalonia holds a referendum, the Basque Country would follow, potentially breaking up Spain.
The next step for Catalonia in the referendum process will be to form a National Transition Council which will conduct research and advise on the route towards independence.
Catalan president Mas held early elections on Nov. 25 to test support for his new drive for independence for the region. Many Catalans believe their region will be better off if it leaves Spain, saying their taxes go towards helping poorer regions.