Europe

Spain country profile

  • 28 April 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Spain

Located at the crossroads of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Europe and Africa, Spain's history and culture are made up of a rich mix of diverse elements.

Through exploration and conquest, Spain became a world power in the 16th century, and it maintained a vast overseas empire until the early 19th century.

Spain's modern history is marked by the bitterly fought Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, and the ensuing 36-year dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

After Franco's death in 1975, Spain made the transition to a democratic state and built a successful economy, with King Juan Carlos as head of state.

The constitution of 1978 enshrines respect for linguistic and cultural diversity within a united Spain. The country is divided into 17 regions which all have their own directly elected authorities.

FACTS

Kingdom of Spain

Capital: Madrid

  • Population 46.7 million

  • Area 505,988 sq km (195,363 sq miles)

  • Languages Spanish (Castilian), Catalan and its variant Valencian, Gallego (Galician), Euskera (Basque)

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 79 years (men), 85 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images

LEADERS

Head of state: King Felipe VI

Image copyright Getty Images

King Felipe succeeded to the throne on the abdication of his father Juan Carlos in June 2014. Born in 1968 when his father was heir-apparent to the vacant throne during the Franco dictatorship, Prince Felipe was educated for his future royal role, and undertook official engagements on behalf of the king from 1995.

Despite retaining considerable constitutional power as chief executive and commander-in-chief, King Felipe has pledged to continue his father's legacy of supporting the primacy of parliament.

Acting prime minister: Mariano Rajoy

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Mariano Rajoy, who became prime minister in December 2011, took on the role of acting prime minister of a caretaker government after elections in December 2015 failed to produce a clear winner.

He first became premier after his conservative Popular Party won a resounding victory in parliamentary elections in 2011.

The election campaign was dominated by Spain's deep debt crisis and sky-high unemployment, and the governing Socialists' defeat was widely expected.

Mr Rajoy, who has long been known as a cautious public administrator, warned the Spanish people that there is no miracle cure to restore the country to economic health.

The son of a lawyer, Mariano Rajoy grew up in a socially conservative Catholic environment, studied law and began his career as a land registrar.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Broadcasting in Spain has witnessed a significant expansion in recent years with the emergence of new commercial operators and the launch of digital services.

The cable and satellite TV markets have grown and Spain has made the switch to digital terrestrial TV (DTT).

Home-produced dramas, reality shows and long-running "telenovelas" are staple fare on primetime TV.

RadioTelevision Espanola (RTVE) is the public broadcaster. There are numerous regional TV stations backed by regional governments and many local stations. Multichannel TV is offered by satellite platform Digital Plus.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Spain's history:

16th-17th centuries - Spanish Empire at its height, with Spain the predominant European power. The rise of Protestant states in northern Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean begin the country's gradual decline.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Madrid's Plaza Mayor

18th century - The War of the Spanish Succession loses Spain its European possessions outside the Iberian Peninsula. Bourbon dynasty, originally from France, centralises the Spanish state, shutting down many regional autonomous assemblies and modernising government and the military.

1807-1814 - Napoleon's France occupies Spain, which has been a French satellite since 1795. Fierce nationalist resistance and British intervention in the Peninsular War gradually force French troops out.

19th century - Napoleonic legacy of political division and economic dislocation leaves Spain weak and unstable, with frequent changes of government and a low-level insurgency by Carlist supporters of a rival branch of the royal family. All Latin American colonies win their independence, with Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in Asia lost during a disastrous war with the United States in 1898.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption View of Barcelona dominated by Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia church

1936-39 - Spanish Civil War pits left-wing Republicans against right-wing Nationalists, with both sides receiving foreign support. General Francisco Franco leads the Nationalists to victory and remains in power till his death in 1975.

1939-45 - Spain remains neutral throughout the Second World War, although the government's sympathies clearly lie with the Axis powers.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bullfighting - part of Spain's cultural heritage, but controversial in some quarters

1975 - Franco dies. Succeeded as head of state by King Juan Carlos. With Juan Carlos on the throne, Spain makes transition from dictatorship to democracy. Spain withdraws from the Spanish Sahara, ending its colonial empire.

1978 - New constitution confirms Spain as a parliamentary monarchy.

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