|General background: Spain's powerful
world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately
yielded command of the seas to England. Subsequent failure
to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions
caused the country to fall behind Britain, France, and
Germany in economic and political power. Spain remained
neutral in World Wars I and II, but suffered through
a devastating civil war (1936-39). In the second half
of the 20th century, Spain has played a catch-up role
in the western international community. Continuing concerns
are Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorism and
further reductions in unemployment.
comparative: Slightly more than twice the size of
Climate: Temperate; clear, hot
summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along
coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy
and cool along coast.
flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills;
Pyrenees in north.
Population: 40,077,100 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Composite of Mediterranean
and Nordic types.
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Language: Castilian Spanish (official) 74%,
Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%
Government type: Parliamentary monarchy
Legal system: Civil law system, with regional
applications; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Economic overview: 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 1 January 1999. The
AZNAR administration has continued to advocate liberalization,
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. Adjusting to the monetary and other economic
policies of an integrated Europe - and further reducing
unemployment - will pose challenges to Spain over
the next few years.
Communication/Telephone system: Generally adequate,
Places of interest: Spain is drenched in the
historical pageantry of empire and conquistadors,
the artistic legacy of Goya, Velázquez, Picasso
and Dalí, and the romance of Don Quijote, Papa
Hemingway and the International Brigades.