Last modified on November 2, 2022, at 16:27


Reino de España
Spain rel82.jpg
Spain location.png
Flag of Spain.png
Spanish arms.png
Flag Coat of Arms
Capital Madrid
Government Constitutional Monarchy
Language Spanish (official)
Monarch King Felipe VI
Prime minister Pedro Sánchez
Current Conservative Leader Santiago Abascal
Area 195,364 sq mi
Population 46,750,000 (2020)
GDP $1,400,000,000,000 (2020)
GDP per capita $29,947 (2020)
Currency Euro
Internet top-level domain .es

Spain (Spanish: España), officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España) is a country located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, bordered by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Gibraltar to the south, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and France and Andorra to the north. The Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla also border Morocco. Spain is a member of both NATO and the European Union, and a U.S. ally.

Spain has universal government-controlled health care which is virtually free to patients, at the expense of taxpayers. Its system is highly rated by liberal organizations, but fared very poorly during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 with a mortality rate much higher than every country other than Italy.


People of Spain.jpg

Spain's population density, lower than that of most European countries, is roughly equivalent to New England's. In recent years, following a longstanding pattern in the rest of Europe, rural populations are moving to cities. Urban areas are also experiencing a significant increase in immigrant populations, chiefly from North Africa, America, and Eastern Europe. Distinct ethnic groups within Spain include the Basques, Catalans, and Galicians. They compromise 91% of the population, 8% are Eastern European immigrants and North Africans number roughly 1%.

Spain has no official religion. The constitution of 1978 disestablished the Roman Catholic Church as the official state religion, while recognizing the role it plays in Spanish society. More than 70% of the population is at least nominally Catholic. Among the remaining population, there are about 1.2 million evangelical Christians and other Protestants (2006 est.), 1 million Muslims (2006 est.) and 48,000 Jews (2006 est.).

Educational system

About 70% of Spain's student population attends public schools or universities. The remainder attend private schools or universities, the great majority of which are operated by the Catholic Church. Compulsory education begins with primary school or general basic education for ages 6–16. It is free in public schools and in many private schools, most of which receive government subsidies. Following graduation, students attend either a secondary school offering a general high school diploma or a school of professional education (corresponding to grades 9-12 in the United States) offering a vocational training program. The Spanish university system offers degree and post-graduate programs in all fields—law, sciences, humanities, and medicine—and the superior technical schools offer programs in engineering and architecture.

Government and political landscape

Francisco Franco.

Parliamentary democracy was restored following the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, who had ruled since the end of the civil war in 1939. The 1978 constitution established Spain as a parliamentary monarchy, with the prime minister responsible to the bicameral Cortes (Congress of Deputies and Senate) elected every 4 years. On February 23, 1981, rebel pro-Franco elements among the security forces seized the Cortes and tried to impose a military-backed government. However, the great majority of the military forces remained loyal to King Juan Carlos, who used his personal authority to put down the bloodless coup attempt.

In October 1982, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), led by Felipe Gonzalez, swept both the Congress of Deputies and Senate, winning an absolute majority. Gonzalez and the PSOE ruled for the next 13 years. During that period, Spain joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Community.

In March 1996, Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party (PP) won a plurality of votes. Aznar moved to decentralize powers to the regions and liberalize the economy, with a program of privatization, labor market reform, and measures designed to increase competition in selected markets. During Aznar's first term, Spain fully integrated into European institutions, qualifying for the European Monetary Union. During this period, Spain participated, along with the United States and other NATO allies, in military operations in the former Yugoslavia. Prime Minister Aznar and the PP won reelection in March 2000, obtaining absolute majorities in both houses of parliament.

Santoña, Cantabria.

After the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, Prime Minister Aznar became a key ally in the fight against terrorism. Spain backed the military action against the Taliban in Afghanistan and took a leadership role within the European Union (EU) in pushing for increased international cooperation on terrorism. The Aznar government, with a rotating seat on the UN Security Council, supported the intervention in Iraq.

Spanish parliamentary elections on March 14, 2004 came only three days after a devastating terrorist attack on Madrid commuter rail lines that killed 191 and wounded over 1,400. With large voter turnout, PSOE won the election and its leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, took office on April 17, 2004. Carrying out campaign promises, the Zapatero government immediately withdrew Spanish forces from Iraq but has continued to support Iraq reconstruction efforts. The Zapatero government has supported coalition efforts in Afghanistan, including maintaining troop support for 2004 and 2005 elections, supported reconstruction efforts in Haiti, sent troops to UNIFIL in Lebanon, and cooperated on counterterrorism issues and many other issues of importance to the U.S.

In 2005, the Spanish parliament approved a same-sex marriage bill.

The PSOE won a plurality of seats in the Congress of Deputies in the 2008 general election, leading to the second Zapatero government.

On November 20, 2011, the PP won a majority in the Congress, and its leader Mariano Rajoy Brey took office as prime minister on December 21. The subsequent general election, held on December 20, 2015, had an uncertain result, with both the PP and the PSOE falling well short of a majority. Rajoy formed a caretaker government, but negotiations among the four leading parties failed to reach an agreement. A snap election held on June 26, 2016, resulted in a better result for Rajoy's PP but it was still short of a majority. The king gave Rajoy the mandate to form a government, but there was no clear path to a majority coalition or a minority government with outside support. Finally, after Pedro Sánchez was ousted as its leader, the PSOE agreed that enough of its deputies would abstain to allow Rajoy to win approval on October 26 to lead a new government with the support of the Citizens and several minor regional parties.

The second Rajoy government lasted until June 1, 2018, when, amid numerous accusations of corruption in the PP, it lost a vote of no confidence. Pedro Sánchez, who had again become leader of the PSOE, formed a minority government with support of the left-wing Unidos Podemos alliance and minor parties.

Local Government

Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, Seville.

The 1978 constitution authorized the creation of regional autonomous governments. By 1985, 17 regions covering all of peninsular Spain, the Canaries, and the Balearic Islands had negotiated autonomy statutes with the central government. In 1979, the first autonomous elections were held in the Basque and Catalan regions, which have the strongest regional traditions by virtue of their history and separate languages. Since then, autonomous governments have been created in the remainder of the 17 regions. The central government continues to devolve powers to the regional governments, which will eventually have full responsibility for health care and education, as well as other social programs.

Spain is divided into seventeen autonomous communities and two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla, which are in north Africa next to Morocco). The seventeen autonomous communities are further divided into fifty provinces.


Mural with the anagram of Batasuna.

The Government of Spain is involved in a long-running campaign against Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), a terrorist organization founded in 1959 and dedicated to promoting Basque independence. ETA targets Spanish security forces, military personnel, Spanish Government officials, and politicians of the Popular Party and the Socialist Party (PSOE.) The group has carried out numerous bombings against Spanish Government facilities and economic targets, including a car bomb assassination attempt on then-opposition leader Aznar in 1995, in which his armored car was destroyed but he was unhurt. The Spanish Government attributes over 800 deaths to ETA terrorism since its campaign of violence began. In recent years, the government has had more success in controlling ETA, due in part to increased security cooperation with French authorities.

In November 1999, ETA ended a cease-fire it declared in September 1998. Following the end of that ceasefire, ETA conducted a campaign of violence and has been blamed for the deaths of some 46 Spanish citizens and officials. Each attack has been followed by massive anti-ETA demonstrations around the country, clearly demonstrating that the majority of Spaniards, including the majority of Spain's Basque populace, have no tolerance for continued ETA violence. In March 2006, ETA declared another ceasefire, which it ended in June 2007. The government continues to pursue vigorous counterterrorist policy and has worked closely with its international allies to foil several suspected ETA attacks.

Spain also contends with a resistance group, commonly known as GRAPO. GRAPO is an urban left-wing terrorist group that seeks to overthrow the Spanish Government and establish a Marxist state. It opposes Spanish participation in NATO and U.S. military presence in Spain and has a long history of assassinations, bombings, and kidnappings mostly against Spanish interests during the 1970s and 1980s.

In a June 2000 communique following the explosions of two small devices in Barcelona, GRAPO claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks throughout Spain during the past year. These attacks included two failed armored car robberies, one in which two security officers died, and four bombings of political party offices during the 1999/2000 election campaign. In 2002 and 2003, Spanish and French authorities were successful in hampering the organization's activities through sweeping arrests, including some of the group's leadership.

Al Qaeda is known to operate cells in Spain. On March 11, 2004, only three days before national elections, 10 bombs were detonated on crowded commuter trains during rush hour. Three were deactivated by security forces and one was found unexploded. Evidence quickly surfaced that jihadist terrorists with possible ties to the Al Qaeda network were responsible for the attack that killed 191 people. Spanish investigative services and the judicial system have aggressively sought to arrest and prosecute suspected Al Qaeda members and actively cooperate with foreign governments to diminish the transnational terrorist threat. A Spanish court convicted 18 individuals in September 2005 for their role in supporting Al Qaeda, and Spanish police disrupted numerous Islamist extremist cells operating in the country. The trial against 29 people for their alleged participation in the Madrid March 11, 2004 terrorist attack started in February 2007, and was declared ready for judgment at the end of June. One of the 29 was absolved during the trial. The prosecutor asked for sentences as high as 30,000 years of jail for some of them. The court is expected to issue the sentence sometime in October 2007.

Principal government officials

Barack Obama and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
  • Chief of State, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces—King Felipe VI
  • President of the Government (Prime Minister)-- Pedro Sánchez
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs—Miguel Angel Moratinos
  • Ambassador to the United States—Carlos Westendorp y Cabeza

Foreign relations

After the return of democracy following the death of General Franco in 1975, Spain's foreign policy priorities were to review the status of its African colonies, expand diplomatic relations, enter the European Community, and define security relations with the West.

Monument to Alfonso XII, Madrid.

As a member of NATO since 1982, Spain has established itself as a major participant in multilateral international security activities. Spain's EU membership represents an important part of its foreign policy. Even on many international issues beyond Western Europe, Spain prefers to coordinate its efforts with its EU partners through the European political cooperation mechanism.

With the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel and Albania in 1986, Spain virtually completed the process of universalizing its diplomatic relations. The only country with which it now does not have diplomatic relations is North Korea.

Spain has maintained its special identification with Latin America. Its policy emphasizes the concept of Hispanidad, a mixture of linguistic, religious, ethnic, cultural, and historical ties binding Spanish-speaking America to Spain. Spain has been an effective example of transition from authoritarianism to democracy, as shown in the many trips that Spain's King and Prime Ministers have made to the region. Spain maintains economic and technical cooperation programs and cultural exchanges with Latin America, both bilaterally and within the EU.

Spain also continues to focus attention on North Africa, especially on Morocco. This concern is dictated by geographic proximity and long historical contacts, as well as by the two Spanish enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Africa. While Spain's departure from its former colony of Western Sahara ended direct Spanish participation in Morocco, it maintains an interest in the peaceful resolution of the conflict brought about there by decolonization. These issues were highlighted by a crisis in 2002, when Spanish forces evicted a small contingent of Moroccans from a tiny islet off Morocco's coast following that nation's attempt to assert sovereignty over the island.

Meanwhile, Spain has gradually begun to broaden its contacts with Sub-Saharan Africa. It has a particular interest in its former colony of Equatorial Guinea, where it maintains a large aid program.

In relations with the Arab world, Spain has sought to promote European-Mediterranean dialog. Spain strongly supports the EU's "Barcelona Process" which seeks to expand dialog and trade between Europe and the nations of North Africa and the Middle East, including Israel. It is seen by some as too greatly favoring the European Union. Other proposals are on the table, including one put forward by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. The latest meeting on the Barcelona initiative was held on November 29, 2005.

Spain has been successful in managing its relations with its two European neighbors, France and Portugal. The accession of Spain and Portugal to the EU has helped ease some of their periodic trade frictions by putting these into an EU context. Franco-Spanish bilateral cooperation is enhanced by joint action against Basque ETA terrorism. Ties with the United Kingdom are generally good, although the question of Gibraltar remains a sensitive issue.

During the Russo-Ukraine war, Russian radio pranksters Vovan and Lexus called mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida of Madrid pretending to be mayor Vitali Klitschko of Kyiv. They persuaded Martinez-Almeida to organize a gay parade in honor of World War II Ukrainian Nazi war criminal Stepan Bandera. Martinez-Almeida asked if Bandera himself would attend the parade, and expressed condolences to the Ukrainian side after learning that the "icon of the gay community" had already died. Martinez-Almeida also promised to send Ukrainian refugees to fight in Ukraine: "They should not rest on the beaches of Spain. Now their task is to die on the battlefield."[1]


El Escorial, an important touristic site.

Spain's accession to the European Community—now European Union (EU) -- in January 1986 required the country to open its economy to trade and investment, modernize its industrial base, improve infrastructure, and revise economic legislation to conform to EU guidelines. In doing so, Spain increased gross domestic product (GDP) growth, reduced the national debt to GDP ratio, reduced unemployment from 23% in 1986 to 8.47% in first quarter 2007, and reduced inflation to under 3%. The fundamental challenges remaining for Spain include decreasing unemployment further, reforming labor laws lowering inflation, and raising per capita GDP. Spain is currently the thirteenth-largest economy in the world.

Following peak growth years in the late 1980s, the Spanish economy entered into recession in mid-1992. The economy recovered during the first Aznar administration (1996-2000), driven by a return of consumer confidence and increased private consumption, although growth has slowed in recent years. Unemployment remains a problem at 8.47% (2007, first quarter), but this still represents a significant improvement from previous levels. Devaluations of the peseta during the 1990s made Spanish exports more competitive, but the strength of the euro since its adoption has raised recent concerns that Spanish exports are being priced out of the range of foreign buyers.

Following the financial problems starting in the USA the economy of Spain had serious problems. Like the US, it had a huge housing bubble. Unlike the US, the banking sector relied on small Cajas de Ahorros. When the housing market collapsed, most of the Cajas de Ahorros found themselves with red balance sheets, sparking the Spanish banking crisis. The collapse of the housing market also had a devastating effect on the construction and service sector. A surplus of housing also led to the collapse of prices in the rental sector.

Spain's public sector is proportionally smaller than most, including those of the US. Nevertheless, Mariano Rajoy's government has sought to privatize most of the remaining state-run sector while increasing subsidies to banks like Santander and Bankia and cutting investment in infrastructure. The cost of these reforms has further burdened the Spanish the economy, causing considerable social unrest as cuts to education and health start to bite people find less money in their pockets.


Will of Isabel I, Queen of Castile.

See History of Spain

The Jota (Aragon) by Joaquín Sorolla

The leisure activities

The so-called national sport of Spain is the bullfighting, although real national sport is Soccer.

Melchor de Jovellanos by Francisco de Goya, 1798.
Portrait of Anita de la Ferie, 'The Spanish Dancer'

See also

Francisco de Goya, Naturaleza muerta con frutas, botellas, panes, ca. 1824-1826.
Francisco de Zurbarán, La defensa de Cádiz, 1634.
Sculpture of pope Juan Pablo II at Alcalá de Henares.

External links



Copyright Details
License: This work is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
Source: File available from the United States Federal Government.