For people who are in a hurry, here are the hard FAQs about Spain. (For more extensive coverage of Spanish topics, check our Insight section)
Spain, covering 194,898 square miles (504,782 square kilometers), is the second largest country in western Europe, after France. It occupies most of the Iberian peninsula, in south-western Europe. Aside from mainland Spain, its territory includes the Balearic Islands, off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of northern Africa. Spain has two cities on the northern coast of Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla (both claimed by Morocco).
Spain's neighbors are France, Portugal and - across the Strait of Gibraltar in northern Africa - Morocco. The British colony of Gibraltar is on the southern coast of Spain. In the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France is the tiny Principality of Andorra.
The capital of Spain is Madrid (pop. 2,900,000). Spanish cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants include Barcelona, Málaga, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza.
The population of Spain is 42 million. Its growth rate is one of the lowest in the world. Life expectancy in Spain is 74.3 years for men and 81.6 years for women. Seventy-seven percent of the population is urban. Density of population is 79 inhabitants per square kilometer (205 per square mile).
Most of the population is nominally Roman Catholic. Religious freedom is guaranteed by the 1978 Constitution.
Spanish (Español or Castellano) is the official language in Spain. Some regions have a second language. Like Spanish, Catalan (spoken in Catalonia, with dialects used in Valencia and the Balearic islands) and Gallego (spoken in Galicia) are Romance languages, derived from Latin. The origins of the Basque language (Euskera) continue to be a mystery for linguists.
Spain is a constitutional monarchy. Its head of State since 1975 has been King Juan Carlos I.
Legislation is passed by the Cortes, consisting of the Congreso de Diputados (lower house of parliament) and Senado (senate). The Cortes also elect the President of Government, or premier, following parliamentary elections.
Governments serve a maximum of four years before a general election is called. Las próximas elecciones generales serán, si todo va según lo previsto, en marzo de 2008.
Spain is divided into 17 autonomous regions, including the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands. They enjoy a degree of home rule.
Spain is a member of NATO and of the European Union.
Spain is part of the European Monetary Union, and the official currency is the Euro.
Although often seen as an agricultural society, agriculture accounts for less than 5% of the GDP. One-third of the economy is industrial, while over half is in the services sector.
Spain is a major producer of edible oils (especially olive), wine and cereal crops. Though still small, organic agriculture is a growth industry in Spain: acreage devoted to organic farming increased from 4,235 hectares (10,500 acres) in 1991 to 152,105 (376,000) in 1997. Practically all organic produce is destined for export.
Spain is a leading car manufacturer. Other exports include machinery, tools, textiles and refined petroleum products. Spain's principal trading partners are other European Union countries, which account for more than 70% of Spanish exports.
Tourism is a major source of foreign income. Spain is the world's second most popular travel destination, after France. In 2003 there were 52.4 million visitors to the country.
Unemployment is Spain is approximately 19.1%, almost double the European Union average of 10.6.
Copyright © Mark Litte.
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