The Kingdom of Spain is a country located in the southwest of Europe. It shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal. In the northeast it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra, along the Pyrenees mountain range. It also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Ceuta and Melilla in the north of Africa.
|National motto: Plus Ultra (further beyond)|
(Catalan, Basque, Galician)
|King||Juan Carlos I of Spain|
|Prime minister||José María Aznar|
- % water
|Ranked 50th |
- Total (2000)
|Currency||Euro¹, Spanish euro coins|
|Time zones||UTC 0 to +1|
|National anthem||Marcha Real|
|(1) Prior to 1999: Spanish peseta|
Beginning in the 9th century BC, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Celts entered the Iberian Peninsula, followed by the Roman Republic, who arrived in the 2nd century BC. Spain's present language, religion, and laws stem from the Roman period. Conquered by the Visigoths in the 5th century AD and subsequently in 711 by Islamic North African Moors, modern Spain began to take form in the Reconquista, the efforts to drive out the Moors, which lasted until 1492. By 1512, the unification of present-day Spain was complete.
During the 16th century, Spain became the most powerful nation in Europe, due to the immense wealth derived from its presence in the Americas. But a series of long, costly wars and revolts began a steady decline of Spanish power in Europe. Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the country during the 18th century (see War of Spanish Succession), with an occupation by France during the Napoleonic era in the early 1800s, and led to a series of armed conflicts and revolts throughout much of the 19th century; a century that also saw the loss of most of Spain's colonies in the Americas, culminating in the Spanish-American War of 1898.
The 20th century initially brought little peace; a period of dictatorial rule (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Republic. Dominated by increasing political polarisation, combined with pressures from all sides, coupled with growing and unchecked violence, led to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. Following the victory of his nationalist forces in 1939, General Francisco Franco ruled a nation exhausted politically and economically.
Nevertheless, in the 1960s and 1970s, Spain was gradually transformed into a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector. Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, his personally designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the titles of king and head of state. He played a key role in guiding Spain further to a modern democratic state, notably in opposing an attempted coup d'etat in 1981. Spain joined NATO in 1982 and became a member of the European Union in 1986.
See also: List of Spanish monarchs
Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes or National Assembly. The executive branch consists of a Council of Minister presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.
The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate or Senado with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.
Spain is currently holding talks with the United Kingdom about Gibraltar, a tiny peninsula that changed hands during the War of Spanish Succession in 1714. The discussion is about "total shared sovereignty" over Gibraltar, subject to a constitutional referendum by Gibraltarians, who have largely expressed opposition to any form of cession to Spain.
Spain consists of 19 autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas, singular - comunidad autónoma),
The communities are in turn divided into fifty provinces (provincias). There are also five places of sovereignty (plazas de soberanía) on and off the African coast: the cities of Ceuta and Melilla are administered as autonomous communities; the islands of the Islas Chafarinas, Peñón de Alhucemas, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera are under direct Spanish administration.
Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees or the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia. Spain is bound to the east by Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic Islands), to the north by the Bay of Biscay and to its west by the Atlantic Ocean, where the Canary Islands off the African coast are found.
Spain's climate is mostly temperate and mediterranean; there are clear hot summers in the interior, with more moderate and cloudy conditions along the coast. Winters are cloudy and cold in the interior, with the coastal regions being relatively temperate.
Spain's mixed capitalist economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is 80% that of the four leading West European economies. Its center-right government successfully worked to gain admission to the first group of countries launching the European single currency on January 1, 1999. The administration of Jose Maria Aznar has continued to advocate liberalisation, privatisation, and deregulation of the economy and has introduced some tax reforms to that end. Unemployment has been steadily falling under the Aznar administration but remains the highest in the EU at 13%. The government intends to make further progress in changing labour laws and reforming pension schemes, which are key to the sustainability of both Spain's internal economic advances and its competitiveness in a single currency area.
See also: List of Spanish companies
Four major languages are spoken in Spain, which are official languages in certain regions:
Catalan, Galician, and Castillian, the latter commonly called "Spanish", are all descended from Latin and have their own dialects; there are also some other surviving Romance dialects such as Asturian or Bable in Asturias and part of León, Aragonese in part of Aragón, and Aranese (a Gascon Occitan variant) in the Val d'Aran on the northwest tip of Catalonia. The Spanish spoken in America is descended from the dialect of Spanish spoken in southwestern Spain.