(Source: CIA - The World Factbook 2003)
Country name (long form): Kingdom of Spain.
Government type: Parliamentary monarchy. Constitution: 6 December 1978, effective 29 December 1978.
Total area: 504,782 km².
Coastline: 4,964 km.
Highest point: Pico de Teide (Tenerife) on Canary Islands 3,718 m.
Population: 40,217,000 (July 2003 est).
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6% .
Languages: Castilian Spanish 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%,
Basque 2%. Note: Castilian is the official language nationwide; the other languages are official regionally.
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; it joined the EU in 1986. Continuing concerns are Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorism and further reductions in unemployment.
The Iberian peninsula was characterized by a variety of independent kingdoms prior to the Moslem occupation that began in the early 8th Century A. D. and lasted nearly seven centuries; the small Christian redoubts of the north began the reconquest almost immediately, culminating in the seizure of Granada in 1492; this event completed the unification of several kingdoms and is traditionally considered the forging of present-day Spain.
Temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast .
Large, flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills; Pyrenees in north.
Economy - 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 (the euro) on 1 January 1999. The AZNAR administration has continued to advocate liberalization, privatization, 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 high at 11.7%. The government intends to make further progress in changing labor 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. A general strike in mid-2002 reduced cooperation between labor and government. Growth of 2.4% in 2003 was satisfactory given the background of a faltering European economy. 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.
Disputes - international
Gibraltar residents vote overwhelmingly in referendum against "total shared sovereignty" arrangement worked out between Spain and UK to change 300-year rule over colony; Morocco protests Spain's control over the coastal enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera, the islands of Penon de Alhucemas and Islas Chafarinas, and surrounding waters; Morocco also rejected Spain's unilateral designation of a median line from the Canary Islands in 2002 to set limits to undersea resource exploration and refugee interdiction; Morocco allowed Spanish fishermen to fish temporarily off the coast of Western Sahara after an oil spill soiled Spanish fishing grounds; Portugal has periodically reasserted claims to territories around the town of Olivenza, Spain.
Segovia Cathedral, Spain. Constructed from 1522 to 1577 in late Gothic style, by Juan Gil de Hontanon architect, which is buried inside the cloister. The city of Segovia was added to the World Heritage List in 1985.
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