Freelance Spain
Spain's Pending Business

A look at some of the perennial topics affecting Spain and its international relations.

Eta Terrorism. ETA is a Basque separatist group founded in 1968. ETA stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ("Basque Homeland and Liberty"), and the group's ultimate aim is an independent Basque country encompassing the three provinces of Euskadi, in addition to Navarre and the three French Basque departments. With the implementation of a substantial measure of home rule for the Basque country under Spain's democracy many of ETA's original members left the organization, but the group survived nevetheless, using extortion, kidnaping and murder to further its aims. Between 1968 and June 2000, ETA killed 774 people, 459 of them policemen or members of the military. The group's organization into separate cells has made it difficult for Spanish police to effectively crack down on ETA, while successive Spanish governments have failed at securing a negotiated peace, and the Basque Country's leading regional party, the PNV, has maintained an ambivalent attitude regarding ETA.

Islamic Terrorism. Until the 11th of March 2004, Spain has kept out of the islamic terrorism. As a result of these terrorist attacks in Madrid, spanish citizens are aware, that the international political situation also affects them. The current president Rodríguez Zapatero, has promised to fight against this type of terrorism, through the International cooperation, among the different secret services and police organazations. Just after gaining the elections, his government withdrew the spanish troops destined in Iraq, although, on the other hand spanish presence has enlarged in Afghanistan. The spanish parliament has opended a commission of investigation on the attacs of March the 11th, in chich the actions of the police commands and the government, is being investigated since the 11th until the 14th, day of the elections.

Population Growth. Spaniards are marrying at a later and later age and many choose not to have children. In spite of an unturn in 2000, sparked by a climate of economic security, Spain's birth rate is currently one of the lowest in the world. Spain's population is getting older, putting a great strain on the working population to finance the country's social security system and ensure the payment of old age pensions. According to a UN study published in 1999, unless Spain's population is reinforced through immigration it will drop from its present 39.6 million to 30.2 million by the year 2050, and the population will be the oldest in the world, with an average age of 54.3.

Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime. Due to its proximity to northern Africa, its close cultural and communciations ties with South America, and the historical existence of organized tobacco smuggling activity in the past, Spain has become one of the major entry points into Europe for drugs. This in turn has attracted the attention of organized crime rings, both home-grown and imported from elsewhere.

Illegal Immigration. Spain's situation on the southern flank of Europe makes it an entry point for illegal immigrants from northern Africa and elsewhere in Africa. Seeking a better life in Europe, the immigrants often risk their lives, braving strong currents in the treacherous waters between Morocco and Spain in flimsy boats called "pateras". In the recent years, immigration has enlarged considerably.

Dwelling. Spain is, in proportion to the medium salary, the western country where the dwelling is more expensive. In the recent years, the price of the dwelling has enlarged to unsuspected magnitudes.

Fishing Rights. Spain eats more fish than any nation in Europe (around 80 pounds per capita a year). Its fishing fleet is larger than those of the other European Union countries combined. As local waters became exhausted, Spanish fishing fleets have ranged further afield to satisfy the country's insatiable demand for fresh fish. Far from being picturesque fisherfolk eking a living from the sea aboard colorful boats, Spanish fishermen work on ultramodern factory ships which spend months at sea and can net 75 tons of fish a day. Their reputation for overfishing has brought them into conflict with countries in whose territorial waters they work. Spanish ships are often seized by authorities in Morocco and other African countries. In April 1995, Spain and Canada had a major row over the Canadians' seizure of the Spanish ship, the Estai, in the so-called "Halibut War".

Gibraltar. The British captured the tiny peninsula of Gibraltar on the southern tip of Spain in 1704 during the Spanish War of Succession. The 1713 Treaty of Utretch granted the colony to Britain in perpetuity, but Spain has been claiming it back every since. Attempts to take it by force at various times throughout the following centuries failed, as did the dictator Franco's bid at browbeating the Gibraltarians into submission by closing the land border between the colony and Spain in 1969 (the border re-opened in 1985). Gibraltar's population claim their legal right to remain British. Spain claims the colony is a den of smugglers and a haven for money laundering. Recent Spanish complaints focus particularly on the strip of former no-man's-land onto which the cramped colony has expanded. The Gibraltar airport runway is on this land. Britain and Spain's attempts at negotiating a compromise have failed due to the Gibraltarians' unbudging stance.

Ceuta and Melilla. The cities of Ceuta and Melilla, along with a number of small islets, are on the coast of northern Africa but are Spanish possessions. These territories are claimed by the Kingdom of Morocco. For Morocco, comparisons with Gibraltar are inevitable.

Judicial reform. Spain's legal system is outdated and sluggish. While most other areas of public activity - government, the legislature, the media, the military, taxation, health services - underwent dramatic changes following Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy, reform has been slow in reaching the Spanish courts

See also: Human Rights in Spain

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