Official Name Kingdom of Spain
Capital City Madrid (5.13 million)
Languages Castilian (official), plus the (3) recognized regional languages of Basque, Catalan and Galecian
Official Currency: the Euro
Land Area 499,440 sq km (192,584 sq miles)
The Kingdom of Spain or Spain (Spanish and Galician: Reino de Espana or Espa'a; Catalan: Regne d'Espanya; Basque: Espainiako Erresuma) is a country located in the southwest of Europe. It shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra. To the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra. It is adjacent to the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla in north Africa, and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberana, such as the Chafarine islands, the "rocks" (es: peones) of Vlez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Parsley Island (disputed). Due to the Spanish colonisation of the Americas, the Spanish language remains widely spoken outside of the country, and is the official language of nearly all Central and South American countries.
Politics: Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales or National Assembly. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers 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, 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 instance, some have their own educational and health systems, others do not) and laws. There are some problems with this system, since some autonomous governments (especially those dominated by nationalist parties) are seeking a more federalist or even confederate kind of relationship with Spain, while the Central Government is trying to restrict what some see as excessive autonomy of some autonomous communities (e.g. Basque Country and Catalonia).
Economy: Spain's mixed capitalist economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is 87% that of the four leading West European economies. The centre-right government of former Prime Minister Aznar successfully worked to gain admission to the first group of countries launching the European single currency, the euro, on 1 January 1999. The Aznar administration continued to advocate liberalization, privatization, and deregulation of the economy and introduced some tax reforms to that end.
Unemployment fell steadily under the Aznar administration but remains high at 11.7%. Growth of 2.4% in 2003 was satisfactory given the background of a faltering European economy. Incoming Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero, whose party won the election three days after the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, plans to reduce government intervention in business, combat tax fraud, and support innovation, research and development, but also intends to reintroduce labour market regulations that had been scrapped by the Aznar government. Adjusting to the monetary and other economic policies of an integrated Europe - and reducing unemployment - will pose challenges to Spain over the next few years. Spain is nowdays considered as the 8th economic World power.