Facts about Spain

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SpainSpain'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). A peaceful transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco FRANCO in 1975, and rapid economic modernization (Spain joined the EU in 1986) have given Spain one of the most dynamic economies in Europe and made it a global champion of freedom. Continuing challenges include Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorism, illegal immigration, and slowing economic growth.

Geography of Spain

Southwestern Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France
40 00 N, 4 00 W
total: 504,782 sq km
water: 5,240 sq km
note: there are 19 autonomous communities including Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, and three small Spanish possessions off the coast of Morocco - Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera
land: 499,542 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly more than twice the size of Oregon
Land boundaries:
total: 1,917.8 km
border countries: Andorra 63.7 km, France 623 km, Gibraltar 1.2 km, Portugal 1,214 km, Morocco (Ceuta) 6.3 km, Morocco (Melilla) 9.6 km
4,964 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM (applies only to the Atlantic Ocean)
territorial sea: 12 NM
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
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Teide (Tenerife) on Canary Islands 3,718 m
Natural resources:
coal, lignite, iron ore, uranium, mercury, pyrites, fluorspar, gypsum, zinc, lead, tungsten, copper, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land
Natural hazards:
periodic droughts
Environment current issues:
pollution of the Mediterranean Sea from raw sewage and effluents from the offshore production of oil and gas; water quality and quantity nationwide; air pollution; deforestation; desertification
Geography - note:
strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar

More Geography

Population of Spain

40,491,052 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 14.4% (male 3,000,686/female 2,821,325)
15-64 years: 67.8% (male 13,751,963/female 13,653,426)
65 years and over: 17.7% (male 2,993,496/female 4,176,946)
Median age:
39.9 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
4.37 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.65 years
male: 76.32 years
female: 83.2 years
Fertility rate:
1.28 children born/woman
noun: Spaniard(s)
adjective: Spanish
Ethnic groups:
composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types
Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Castilian Spanish 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%
note: Castilian is the official language nationwide; the other languages are official regionally
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 98.7%
female: 97.2% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Spain
local short form: Espana
Government type:
parliamentary monarchy
Administrative divisions:
17 autonomous communities (comunidades autonomas, singular - comunidad autonoma)and 2 autonomous cities
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
National holiday:
National Day, 12 October
6 December 1978, effective 29 December 1978
Legal system:
civil law system, with regional applications; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: King JUAN CARLOS I (since 22 November 1975); Heir Apparent Prince FELIPE, son of the monarch, born 30 January 1968
head of government: President of the Government (Prime Minister equivalent) Jose Luis RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO (since 17 April 2004); First Vice President (and Minister of the Presidency) Maria Teresa FERNANDEZ DE LA VEGA (since 18 April 2004) and Second Vice President (and Minister of Economy and Finance) Pedro SOLBES (since 18 April 2004)
cabinet: Council of Ministers designated by the president
note: there is also a Council of State that is the supreme consultative organ of the government, but its recommendations are non-binding
elections: the monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually proposed president by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly; election last held on 9 and 11 April 2008 (next to be held in March 2012); vice presidents appointed by the monarch on the proposal of the president.
Legislative branch:
bicameral; General Courts or National Assembly or Las Cortes Generales consists of the Senate or Senado (259 seats - 208 members directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to serve four-year terms) and the Congress of Deputies or Congreso de los Diputados (350 seats; members are elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo


The Spanish economy boomed from 1986 to 1990 averaging 5% annual growth. After a European-wide recession in the early 1990s, the Spanish economy resumed moderate growth starting in 1994. Spain's mixed capitalist economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is equal to that of the leading West European economies. The center-right government of former President Jose Maria 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 7.6%. Growth averaging more than 3% annually during 2003-07 was satisfactory given the background of a faltering European economy. The Socialist president, RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO, has made mixed progress in carrying out key structural reforms, which need to be accelerated and deepened to sustain Spain's economic growth. Despite the economy's relative solid footing significant downside risks remain including Spain's continued loss of competitiveness, the potential for a housing market collapse, the country's changing demographic profile, and a decline in EU structural funds.

$1.361 trillion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 29.5%
services: 66.5%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
20.67 million
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 5.3%
industry: 30.1%
services: 64.6%
revenues: $440.9 billion
expenditures: $448.4 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 50.4%
hydro: 18.2%
other: 4.1% 
nuclear: 27.2%
textiles and apparel (including footwear), food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles, machine tools, tourism
grain, vegetables, olives, wine grapes, sugar beets, citrus; beef, pork, poultry, dairy products; fish
machinery, motor vehicles; foodstuffs, other consumer goods
Export partners:
France 19.4%, Germany 11.4%, Portugal 9.5%, UK 8.5%, Italy 8.4% 
machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, semifinished goods; foodstuffs, consumer goods
Import partners:
Germany 15%, France 14.4%, Italy 8.5%, UK 5.8%, Netherlands 5%, China 4.3%
euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by the financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions with the member countries

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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