Map of Spain
Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free Encyclopaedia.
The Kingdom of Spain is a country located in
the southwest of Europe.
It shares the Iberian Peninsula with
Portugal and Gibraltar.
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 the cities of Ceuta and
Melilla in the north of Africa.
Spain has been a constitutional monarchy and a
democracy since the Spanish Constitution of 1978
was approved, being divided into 17 autonomous
communities and 2 autonomous cities
with high degree of autonomy.
Reino de Espana (Spanish)
Regne d'Espanya (Catalan)
Reino de Espana (Galician)
Espainiako Erresuma (Basque)
National motto: Plus Ultra
Official languages Spanish
(also called Castilian)
(in some regions also Catalan,
Basque or Galician)
King Juan Carlos I of Spain
Prime minister Jose María Aznar
Area 504,782 km2
Currency Euro¹, Spanish euro
coins, Prior to 1999: Spanish peseta
Time zones Mainland: UTC+1
(Canary Islands UTC 0). DST.
National anthem Marcha Real
Internet TLD .ES
Phone Calling Code 34
Main article: History of Spain
Beginning in the 9th century BC, Celts, Phoenicians,
Greeks, and Carthaginians 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.
In 1492 Queen Isabella I of Castile began the
Spanish Inquisition, which lasted
for more than 300 years.
This was also the year in which she gave Christopher
Columbus the money for his first trip across the
Atlantic to the "New World".
By 1512, the unification of present-day
Spain was complete.
Nevertheless, the project of Castilian monarchs was
to unify all Iberia and this aim seemed almost accomplished
when Philip II became King of Portugal in 1580, as well
as of the other many Iberian Kingdoms (collectively
know as "Spain" which was not a unified State then).
In 1640, the centralist policy of the Count-Duke of
Olivares provoked wars in Portugal and Catalonia:
Portugal became an independent kingdom again and
Catalonia enjoyed some years of French-supported
independence, but was quickly returned to the Spanish Crown.
During the 16th century, Spain became the most
powerful nation in Europe, due to the immense wealth
derived from the Spanish colonisation of 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 - importantly, it was
only after this war that a centralised
Spanish state was established),
with an occupation by France during
the Napoleonic era in the early
1800s, and led to a series of armed
conflicts and revolts between Liberals
and supporters of the Ancient Regime
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; colonisation of Western Sahara,
Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea was
tried as a substitute for the loss of the Americas.
A period of dictatorial rule (1923-1931) ended with
the establishment of the Second Spanish 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 the dictator 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.
After the death of Franco, the old historic
nationalities - Basque Country, Catalonia
and Galicia - were given far-reaching autonomy,
which, in due course, was extended
to all Spanish regions.
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.
As of 2003, 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 is, at present, what is called a State of
Autonomies, formally unitary but, in fact, functioning
as a Federation of Autonomous Communities,
each one with different powers (for instances,
some have their own educational and health
systems, other don't) and laws.
There are some problems with this
system, since some autonomous governments
(those dominated by nationalist
parties) are seeking a more federalist
kind of relation with Spain, while
Central Government is trying to
restrict what some see as an excessive
autonomy of some autonomous communities
(ex. Basque Country and Catalonia).
Terrorism is a problem of present-day Spain,
since ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) is trying
to achieve Basque independence through violent means,
including the use of bombs and murders.
Although Basque Autonomous government doesn't
back such kind of violence, the different approaches
to the problem are a source of tension between
Central and Basque governments.
Spain consists of 17 autonomous communities.
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 cities, an intermediate status between cities
and communities; the islands of the Islas Chafarinas,
Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera
are under direct Spanish administration.
Mainland Spain is dominated by high
plateaux 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.
Spain can be said to be composed of many nations but
has adopted Castilian culture as the Spanish one,
although increasingly recognising other nationalities
inside its borders, such as the much older Basque.
Four major languages are spoken in Spain, which are
official languages in certain regions:
Spanish (castellano or espanol), official language throughout
Catalan (catala or valencia) in Catalonia (Catalunya),
the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears), and parts of Valencian
autonomous community (Valencia, where the language is
officially called Valencian).
Basque (euskara) in Basque Country
(Euskadi), and parts of Navarre.
Galician (galego) in Galicia (Galiza).
Catalan, Galician, and Castilian, 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 Leon, Aragonese in part of Aragon, 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.
Spain is a predominantly (94%) Roman Catholic country.
The most important minority group
in the country are the Gipsies.
This information correct in 2003. E. & O.E.
All text is available under the terms of the
GNU Free Documentation License.
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