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Reino de España
Kingdom of Spain
Flag of Spain
Coat of arms of Spain
flag coat of arms
Motto : Plus Ultra
( Latin for Beyond )
Official language Spanish 1
capital city Madrid
State and form of government parliamentary monarchy
Head of state King Felipe VI.
Head of government District President Pedro Sánchez
surface 505,970 km²
population 47.1 million ( 30th ) (2019; estimate)
Population density 94 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 0.6% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 1.3 trillion ( 8. )
  • $ 1.8 trillion ( 15. )
  • 27,132 USD ( 32. )
  • 38,392 USD ( 34. )
Human Development Index 0.904 ( 25th ) (2019)
currency Euro (EUR)
National anthem Marcha Real
Time zone UTC + 1 CET
UTC + 2 CEST (March to October)

Canary Islands :
UTC ± 0
UTC + 1 (March to October)
License Plate E.
ISO 3166 ES , ESP, 724
Internet TLD .it
Phone code +34
1The regional official languages ​​also include Aragonese , Aranese , Asturian , Basque , Galician and Catalan .
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Spain ( Spanish España ? / I [ esˈpaɲa ], officially Kingdom of Spain , Spanish Reino de España [ ˈrejno ð (e) esˈpaɲa ]) is a state on the Iberian Peninsula in southwest Europe , with the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands in Atlantic and two exclaves in North Africa . Audio file / audio sample

The form of government is a parliamentary hereditary monarchy . Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities ( Spanish ciudades autónomas ), Ceuta and Melilla . The capital and largest metropolis is Madrid , other metropolitan areas are Barcelona , Valencia , Seville , Bilbao , Zaragoza and Málaga .

Spain is a member of the UN , the EU , the OECD and NATO . It is one of the very highly developed countries and one of the 20 largest export and import nations (2017). Spain is the second most visited country in the world after France and also after France the second largest country in the EU in terms of area.


National territory

Spain is located, as well as Portugal (in the West) and the United Kingdom belonging Gibraltar (south), on the Iberian Peninsula ° W between 36 ° and 43.5 ° north latitude and 9 and 3 ° east longitude (without Balearic Islands, Canaries, Ceuta and Melilla). Spain occupies almost six seventh of the Iberian Peninsula. In the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range , Spain borders France and the small state of Andorra .

In addition, in part Mediterranean situated Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and situated on the North African coastal cities of Ceuta and Melilla to the territory. In France, Spain owns the exclave Llívia . Spain also includes several islands immediately off the Moroccan coast: Islas Chafarinas , Peñón de Alhucemas , Isla del Perejil , and the Peninsula de Vélez de la Gomera . The Isla de Alborán is located 50 kilometers north of the Moroccan coast. Another group of small islands and rocks, the Islas Columbretes , is located about 55 kilometers east of Castellón de la Plana , on the same latitude as Mallorca .

The northernmost point of Spain is the Estaca de Bares in Galicia , on the mainland the westernmost point is the Cabo Touriñán (also in Galicia), the southernmost the Punta Marroquí near Tarifa and the easternmost the Cap de Creus on the Costa Brava . The largest extension from north to south is 856 kilometers and from east to west 1020 kilometers. The westernmost ( Punta de la Orchilla ) and the southernmost ( La Restinga ) point of Spain are on the Canary Island of El Hierro , the easternmost on the Balearic island of Menorca .

With an average height of approx. 660  msnm, the national territory has one of the highest values ​​in Europe. The spatial structure of the peninsula is essentially determined by six large mountain systems.

Mountain systems

Teide , highest mountain on Spanish territory

Of the six major mountain systems , five run in a west-east direction.

  • In the north it is the Pyrenees (up to 3404 meters) that form the boundary to the rest of mainland Europe.
  • To the west of the Pyrenees are the Cantabrian Mountains , which run parallel to the north coast , with the highest elevations in the Picos de Europa at 2,600 meters. At its western end in Galicia and northern Portugal it fans out into a large number of low mountain ranges.
  • The Castilian Scheidegebirge , which is divided into different blocks and has heights of up to 2600 meters, also runs in a west-east direction roughly in the middle of the peninsula . In Portugal it continues with the Serra da Estrela .
  • Further south, the lower Sierra Morena (up to 1300 meters), also running from west to east, separates the central highlands from the Guadalquivir valley .
  • In the extreme south, the Betic Cordillera runs along the Mediterranean coast from Gibraltar to south of Valencia . The Balearic Islands are geologically their northeastern continuation. On the Betic Cordillera is the Mulhacén (3482 meters) in the Sierra Nevada, the highest point on mainland Spain and the Iberian Peninsula. The highest mountain on Spanish territory , however, is the Pico del Teide on the Canary Island of Tenerife, at 3715 meters .

The Iberian foothills with heights of up to 2300 meters, however, runs from northwest to southeast about east of a line Burgos-Valencia.


The five major river systems run between the mountain ranges, four of which are east-west oriented, flow into the Atlantic and have their origins in the Iberian Mountains, the great watershed of the peninsula. The basin between the Cantabrian Mountains and the Castilian Scheidegebirge is drained by the Duero . Further south, the Tagus and Guadiana also run from east to west. The same applies to the Guadalquivir south of the Sierra Morena.

The depression between the Iberian Mountains and the Pyrenees, on the other hand, is drained by the Ebro to the Mediterranean Sea. This river has its source in the Cantabrian Mountains and runs from northwest to southeast.

Central plateau

In the center of the Iberian Peninsula there is an extensive high plateau, which, depending on the source, is called Iberian Meseta or the highlands of Castile , but is often simply called Meseta . It is bordered in the north and northwest by the Cantabrian Mountains and their foothills, in the east by the Iberian Mountains and in the south by the Sierra Morena. In the southwest it merges into the somewhat lower, but not so flat, Extremadura . It is divided into two halves (the north and south meseta) by the Castilian Scheidegebirge, with the north being slightly higher on average than the south. The big cities of the north meseta ( Valladolid , León , Burgos , Salamanca ) are at an altitude of 700 to 900 meters, those of the south meseta ( Madrid , Toledo , Ciudad Real ) at 500 to 700 meters.

Coastal plains and depressions

The depressions through which the Guadalquivir and the Ebro flow are much deeper. Since the mountains almost everywhere come close to the sea, there are hardly any more extensive coastal plains.


Mediterranean coastline on the Costa Brava

The climate in Spain can be roughly divided into the following zones.

Climate diagrams
Mediterranean coast
Mediterranean climate in Valencia
Mediterranean climate in Ibiza (Balearic Islands)
Mediterranean climate in Málaga
Central Spain North coast Canary Islands  
Oceanic-continental climate in Madrid

The recently accelerated climate change has exacerbated the existing environmental problems in the entire Mediterranean area, including in Spain. For five broad and interconnected areas of impact (water, ecosystems, nutrition, health and safety), current changes and future scenarios consistently point to substantial and increasing risks in the coming decades. This is particularly evident in Spain. The British climate economist Nicholas Stern sums up the situation for Spain in the context of the climate crisis as follows: “If the temperature rises above the limits that we set in the Paris Agreement , then there is a clear risk that Spain will find itself in the Sahara desert will transform. ”Model calculations from 2019 show that the climate in Madrid in 2050 will be more similar to the current climate in Marrakech, Morocco than it is today in Madrid. Tourism is also threatened due to the rise in sea levels ; for example, the 6,000 km long coastal strip is becoming narrower due to erosion and beaches could be permanently flooded as a result.


Olive groves in the mountains of Andalusia

The vegetation of the Iberian Peninsula is divided into three major areas:

Intensive cultivation of crops requires irrigation . However, large areas are also taken up by cultivated plants that benefit from the dry climate, such as olive trees and fig bushes .


Iberian wolf ( Canis lupus signatus )

The Spanish wildlife is extremely rich in species. Due to the relatively sparse population, animal species survived in Spain that were exterminated in the rest of Western Europe. In addition, due to the delimitation of the Iberian Peninsula by the Pyrenees, some endemic species were formed.

A total of around 2500 wolves live in north-west and central Spain and in isolated cases in the Sierra Morena . The Iberian wolf ( Canis lupus signatus ) thus forms the largest and most stable population in Western Europe. About 200 brown bears live in the Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees. While the Cantabrian bear population is considered stable, those native to the Pyrenees are in acute danger of extinction. The Iberian lynx is only in Spain and Portugal -based Luchsart , with about 550 wild animals, it is in the present, despite successful protection measures are still at risk. Some of the last Western European populations of the European mink are found in northern Spain . Other characteristic mammals of Spain are the small-spotted genet , which is otherwise only native to Africa and the Near East , the ichneumon , the Iberian ibex or the Pyrenean chamois . Three types of hare are native to Spain, the brown hare and the endemic Iberian hare and Castroviejo hare . Deer, roe deer, squirrels, rabbits , wild boars, martens, badgers and foxes are common. Mouflons and marmots can be found in mountainous areas, wildcats in larger forests and otters in river areas.

In the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Mountains are bearded vulture home, monks , geese and Egyptian vultures can be found in the country in many areas. Other characteristic large birds are the Spanish imperial eagle or the golden eagle . Flamingos can be found in wetlands like Coto de Doñana .

The reptile fauna of Spain includes numerous lizards, geckos, skinks, creeps, snakes, land and sea turtles, such as the loggerhead turtle . Characteristic lizard species are, for example, the Canary Islands lizards , especially the El Hierro giant lizard ( Gallotia simonyi ), which can reach a body length of up to 75 cm, and the pearl lizard , the largest lizard species in Europe.


Population development

Population development in millions of inhabitants
Population pyramid of Spain 2016
Population density in Spain 2018

Between 1999 and 2009 the population of Spain increased very strongly, both compared to other European countries and compared to the decades before. Spain's population increased by 1.1 million in the 1990s and by 7 million in the first decade of the 21st century. Much of the population growth was due to immigration. The foreign population rose from 0.74 million in 1999 to 5.73 million in 2011. It should be noted that there were also naturalizations. The fertility rate in Spain in 2016 was around 1.34 children per woman, below the EU average of 1.60. In 2016, the median age in Spain was 43.1 years.

year Thousand inhabitants year Thousand inhabitants year Thousand inhabitants year Thousand inhabitants year Thousand inhabitants
1999 40.202 2004 43,197 2009 46,745 2014 46,771 2019 47,100
2000 40,499 2005 44,108 2010 47.021 2015 46,624
2001 41,116 2006 44,708 2011 47,190 2016 46,557
2002 41,837 2007 45,200 2012 47,265 2017 46,572
2003 42,717 2008 46.157 2013 47.129 2018 46,722

Life expectancy

The average life expectancy of the Spaniards was determined to be 82.5 years in 2012 and thus reached the highest value in the European Union, ahead of Italy (82.4) and France (82.1). The average life expectancy of men was 79.5 years, that of women 85.5 years. In 2007, 16.7 percent of the population was over 65 years of age. Due to the high life expectancy combined with low fertility, it is assumed that Spain will become one of the oldest societies in the world in the future.

Development of life expectancy

Period Life expectancy in
Period Life expectancy in
1950-1955 64.6 1985-1990 76.9
1955-1960 67.8 1990-1995 77.6
1960-1965 69.9 1995-2000 78.8
1965-1970 71.4 2000-2005 79.9
1970-1975 72.7 2005-2010 81.2
1975-1980 74.4 2010-2015 82.5
1980-1985 76.1

Source: UN


Languages ​​in Spain:
only Castilian Catalan Basque Galician

Asturleonese Aragonese Aranese

Spread of languages ​​on the Iberian Peninsula from the 13th to the 21st century:
only Castilian Catalan Aragonese Basque

Asturleonese Galician-Portuguese Arabic

Spanish , Catalan , Galician and Basque are predominantly spoken in Spain . Spanish is the official language throughout the national territory . Catalan is an official language in the autonomous communities of Catalonia , Valencia (called Valencian there ) and in the Balearic Islands , Basque in the Basque Country and parts of Navarre and Galician in Galicia alongside Spanish (lenguas co-oficiales) . In Val d'Aran has Aranese , a variety of the Gascon , official status.

The country name Kingdom of Spain in the regional languages ​​is Galician Reino de España , Catalan Regne d'Espanya , Asturian Reinu d'España , Basque Espainiako Erresuma , Aranese Reialme d'Espanha and Aragonese Reino d'Espanya .

In addition, there are some languages ​​that are only spoken by a small number of people and do not have the status of an official language. These include Asturleonese and Aragonese . In the Jálama Valley ( province of Cáceres ) near the Portuguese border, A Fala , a dialect of the Galician-Portuguese language , is spoken. In Melilla, the Masirian minority also speaks Tamazight .

During the holiday season, seasonal workers from Germany and Poland also work in the tourist regions, often also from South America. In some tourist regions such as the Costa Blanca or the Costa del Sol , a comparatively large number of Germans and English are permanently resident.

English and French are mostly spoken as foreign languages . Younger Spaniards mostly speak English as a foreign language, while older people speak French. Applicable foreign language skills are still not the rule among the general population. According to a survey carried out by Eurostat in 2011, 49% of adult Spaniards (between the ages of 25 and 64) do not speak a foreign language according to their self-assessment. In contrast, in 2011 the proportion of primary school students learning a foreign language, usually English, was already 99% and in upper secondary school 97%, with 22% also learning a second foreign language due to the geographical proximity to France mostly French. In areas that tourists like to visit, especially on the Mediterranean and the Balearic Islands, English and German are sometimes used .

In Catalonia , most schools and universities teach in Catalan , but Spanish can be used there by all students in classes and exams.


The minorities in the country include the “ Gitanos ” (Spanish Roma ) who immigrated to Spain around the 16th century. Today there are around 600,000 to 800,000 Gitanos in Spain. The Spanish Roma are mainly at home in large cities such as Madrid , Barcelona , Valencia or Seville . They produced some world-famous stars, such as the singer Camarón de la Isla or the football player José Antonio Reyes . There are many Roma in the Spanish music scene, especially in flamenco .


Largest migrant groups without Spanish citizenship (over 100,000 people)
rank Country Population
(January 1, 2019)
1. MoroccoMorocco Morocco 776.425
2. RomaniaRomania Romania 583,795
3. ColombiaColombia Colombia 461,592
4th EcuadorEcuador Ecuador 414.283
5. VenezuelaVenezuela Venezuela 344,779
6th United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 298.140
7th ArgentinaArgentina Argentina 283.284
8th. PeruPeru Peru 228.125
9. FranceFrance France 213,950
10. GermanyGermany Germany 192.622
11. China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 173.291
12th BoliviaBolivia Bolivia 155.051
13th ItalyItaly Italy 152.851
14th BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria 114,564
15th CubaCuba Cuba 108,686
16. UkraineUkraine Ukraine 103,950
17th PortugalPortugal Portugal 103,467

For a long time Spain had only low immigration figures. It was not until the late 1980s that Spain became the main destination for Latin American emigration. This has led to a surge in immigration and a population increase of over five million people. In 2007 there were almost 1.8 million people with a Latin American migration background in Spain (Tedesco, 2008: 3). The number of foreigners living in Spain is around 5 million (January 2019), which corresponds to twelve percent of the total population; 2 million of them are citizens of other EU countries. Compared with the rest of the EU, Spain ranks second behind Germany (7.1 million) in absolute terms. Looking at the proportion of citizens of other countries, Spain ranks fifth behind Luxembourg (43.0%), Latvia (17.4%), Cyprus and Estonia (both 15.9%). Spain's foreigner quota of 12.3% is the highest among the member states with more than three million inhabitants, followed by Austria (10.5%), Belgium (9.7%) and Germany (8.7%). Most immigrants come from Romania, the Maghreb or Latin America , as well as the United Kingdom and Germany, for whom Spain is a popular retirement home. In the period from 2003 to 2017, a total of 1,446,315 people acquired Spanish citizenship.

Spaniards abroad

Spaniards abroad (only countries with over 50,000 people)
country Number (Jan. 2020)
ArgentinaArgentina Argentina 473,519
FranceFrance France 273.290
United StatesUnited States United States 167.426
GermanyGermany Germany 167.151
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 152.291
CubaCuba Cuba 147.617
MexicoMexico Mexico 144,553
VenezuelaVenezuela Venezuela 142,302
BrazilBrazil Brazil 133,188
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 124.414
UruguayUruguay Uruguay 67,414
BelgiumBelgium Belgium 67,960
ChileChile Chile 66,399
EcuadorEcuador Ecuador 58,646

The number of Spanish citizens living abroad is around 2.6 million (January 2020), 1,576,350 of them in America and 945,027 in Europe . While only 20.6 percent of Spaniards living in America were born in Spain, this percentage is 49.7 percent for those living in another European country. One of the reasons for this is that the larger waves of emigration from the mid-19th century to the Spanish Civil War mostly targeted South and Central America, particularly Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Uruguay and Cuba, while the Plan de Estabilización (1959) was one Until 1972 there was a wave of emigration to European countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the United Kingdom. In addition, many immigrants from South American countries who had since acquired Spanish citizenship left Spain in the course of the euro crisis and returned to their home countries.

Religions and worldviews

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela : destination of pilgrims on the
Camino de Santiago

Although 92 percent of the population (as of 2000) officially belonged to the Roman Catholic Church , the number of those who actively participate in religious life is falling. As part of a study by the state polling institute Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas in 2015, 68 percent of those surveyed said they were Catholics. The Catholic Church is financed by the Spanish state on the basis of a contract with the Holy See and not from directly paid church taxes by its members, which is why leaving the church does not bring any financial benefits. Since 2007, however, taxpayers have to decide for themselves whether 0.7% of wage or income tax should go to church or other social or cultural purposes. If you do not make a decision, this mandatory tax amount will be forwarded directly to the other purposes. The direct state funding that had existed since 1979 has been completely abolished. Between 1988 and 2007, taxpayers were able to decide whether 0.5% of wage or income taxes should go to church or other purposes. However, if a minimum amount was not reached at that time, the state paid for it. In 2008, in 7,195,155 (34.31%) tax returns, this 0.7% was sent to the Catholic Church. Two years earlier it was around 711,975 fewer. The income from taxes has increased since the new regulation in 2007 from 173.8 million euros to 252.7 million euros.

It is not easily possible for Spain's Catholics to officially break away from the Church, as Spanish law does not recognize the act of leaving the Church and Spain's Catholic Church has been released by the highest judge from the obligation to delete the data of its members from the church records at their request . This decision by the Supreme Court in Spain came about, among other things, because “the Archdiocese of Valencia, which is considered to be particularly conservative, refused to make any repayments”. The Archdiocese was not impressed by instructions from the Spanish Data Protection Authority (AEPD) and initiated numerous legal proceedings, whereby it was unsuccessful in 171 cases before the decision of the Supreme Court.

According to the survey, a larger minority of 15.9% of the population describes themselves as non-religious and 9.5% as atheists. According to a study by the Pew Research Center , 46% of Spaniards describe themselves as "religious" and 19% as "very religious". Among the 18 to 39 year olds, only a minority of 9% is very religious; worldwide, the value is only lower in France and Japan, where the values ​​for 39 to 59-year-olds are only marginally higher. According to a representative survey by the Eurobarometer , 59% of people in Spain believed in God in 2005 , and another 21% believed in another spiritual force . 18% percent of the respondents believed neither in a god nor in any other spiritual force, 2% of the respondents were undecided.

Muslims make up 4.13% (as of the end of 2016), Protestants 0.3% and Jehovah's Witnesses 0.25% of the population. In Spain, the important place of pilgrimage is Santiago de Compostela , the destination of many pilgrims on the Way of St. James .

Biggest cities

Center of Madrid at night
View from Parc Güell over Barcelona
View over Seville from the Giralda , Seville Cathedral

There are two megacities in Spain , Madrid and Barcelona . However, the strong growth of cities in recent years has led to the creation of metropolitan regions , some of which go far beyond the political and administrative boundaries of the municipalities. More than six and four million people respectively live in the greater Madrid and Barcelona areas , and over a million each in the metropolitan regions of Valencia, Seville and Bilbao.

The ten largest cities (as of January 1, 2019)

city resident
Madrid 3,266,126
Barcelona 1,636,762
Valencia 794.288
Seville 688.592
Zaragoza 674.997
Málaga 574,654
Murcia 453.258
Palma de Mallorca 416.065
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 379.925
Bilbao 346,843

Autonomous communities by population

The total of 17 Autonomous Communities are very heterogeneous in size. While the population of Andalusia , Catalonia , the Autonomous Community of Madrid and the Valencia region is between around 5 and 9 million, the smallest regions of Navarre , Cantabria and La Rioja live well under a million people. (As of January 1, 2019)

Autonomous community resident
Andalusia 8,410,002
Catalonia 7,672,699
Madrid 6,661,949
Valencia 5,000,868
Galicia 2,698,875
Castile and León 2,398,214
Basque Country 2,206,965
Canary Islands 2,152,590
Castile-La Mancha 2,032,004
Region of Murcia 1,493,530
Aragon 1,318,453
Balearic Islands 1,148,947
Extremadura 1,066,998
Asturias 1,022,670
Navarre 653.846
Cantabria 580.964
La Rioja 316,551
Autonomous city resident
Ceuta 84,777
Melilla 86,465


In prehistoric times, Iberians , Celts and Basques settled on the Iberian Peninsula, which is named after the former.

In the 11th century BC The Phoenicians settled on the south coast; the most famous of their colonies was Cadiz (Gades). The name of Spain derives from the Roman name Hispania from (of Phoenician ishapan "Land of hyrax"; what the Phoenicians for hyrax held, were in fact rabbit). During the Second Punic War , Roman troops reached the peninsula for the first time and occupied the west and south relatively quickly. It was 200 years before the north was also under the control of the Romans. In the late phase of the Western Roman Empire, the Visigoths moved to Gaul and founded the Visigoth Empire there , which also included large parts of Iberia. After a heavy defeat against the Franks , the Visigoths largely vacated Gaul and shifted the focus of their empire to the Iberian Peninsula. This second and last phase of the Visigoth Empire is called the Toledan Empire after the new capital Toledo .

In the early 8th century, the Moors destroyed the Visigoth Empire and conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula. Their rule for centuries shaped the country. The Arab heritage was reflected in both architecture and language. However, the Moors did not succeed in establishing themselves permanently in the northern outskirts of the peninsula. From there, the "Reconquest" ( Reconquista ) began. In this process, which stretched over several centuries (722–1492) and was not continuous, the Moorish domination was gradually pushed back by the Christian empires until the last Moorish state on the peninsula disappeared with the fall of Granada in 1492. The end of the Reconquista was followed by persecution of religious minorities. The " Catholic Kings " Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon no longer wanted to tolerate non-Christians in their sphere of influence. Muslims and Jews were forced to be baptized. In 1478 the Spanish Inquisition was set up to track down and punish only outwardly converted “unbelievers” who secretly practiced their earlier faith. On March 31, 1492, Isabella I and Ferdinand II issued the Alhambra Edict , according to which all of the 300,000 Jews who were not baptized had to leave the Kingdom of Castile and the kingdoms of the Crown of Aragon . ( Sephardim ). In 1609 Philip III. even drive out the Moriscos , descendants of Moors who converted to Christianity.

Christopher Columbus (around 1451–1506): Genoese navigator in the service of the Spanish crown (portrait of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio )

In the 16th century, the dominions of Castile and Aragon were united under one ruler. At that time, Aragon had long been an important sea power in the Mediterranean, while Castile was in competition with Portugal for supremacy in the Atlantic Ocean . With the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492, Spain temporarily rose to become a Christian world power.

By 1519 the Emperor selected Charles V (as a Spanish king, Carlos I ), a grandson of the Catholic Kings, 1516 came Habsburg to the Spanish throne. Until their extinction in 1700, the Spanish kings came from the Spanish line of this dynasty. Because of the question of the successor to the last Spanish Habsburg king, Charles II , the War of the Spanish Succession broke out , in which the leading European powers were involved. As a result, Philip V, a branch of the Bourbons, came to the Spanish throne.

The Spanish colonial empire extended around 1600 over large parts of South and Central America, the southern part of today's USA and the Philippines . As the English and French also stepped up their efforts to gain colonies, Spain gradually lost its hegemony. The Wars of Liberation of the American states, especially the Mexican and South American Wars of Independence at the beginning of the 19th century, brought independence to most of the colonies. In 1898 the last major possessions were lost to the United States in the Spanish-American War , which meant the end of the colonial empire. The later African colonies ( Spanish Morocco , Spanish Sahara and Equatorial Guinea ) finally achieved their independence in the 20th century.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco , dictator of Spain for many years from 1936/39 until his death in 1975

At the beginning of the 20th century, Spain was largely a backward agricultural country, characterized by feudal property relations , the few existing industries were mainly concentrated in Catalonia and the Basque Country . In 1923 General Miguel Primo de Rivera took power and installed a military dictatorship , but this could not last long because of the pressing social problems, and in 1931 Spain became a republic. The inherited political and social conflicts weighed on the Second Republic from the beginning; as early as 1932 there was the first attempted coup by the right-wing military led by General José Sanjurjo . In 1934 a series of left and anarchist uprisings took place, some of which were very bloodily suppressed. The political instability, which was fueled above all by the extreme representatives of left and right positions and their paramilitary associations, but also by members of the regular security forces, worsened after the victory of the Popular Front made up of left-liberal, socialist and communist parties in the parliamentary elections on February 17 1936.

Felipe VI. has been King of Spain since June 19, 2014

In July 1936, parts of the military under the leadership of Generalissimo Francisco Franco carried out a coup against the government; the coup was only successful in some parts of the country and failed in the country's important political and industrial centers (including Madrid, Catalonia, the Basque Country). The Spanish Civil War followed , during which the putschists received important help from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany , while the liberal democracies France and Great Britain practiced a policy of non-interference and thus favored Franco's victory.

The war ended in 1939. The era of the Francoist dictatorship began with a period of violent purges lasting several years and led the country into long-lasting political and social lethargy. Although Franco received support from Germany and Italy during the civil war, Spain did not provide military support to the Axis powers during World War II. Most of the people who had fled Nazi Germany were interned in Spanish concentration camps that were set up before the war .

As in other European countries, Spain experienced a long post-war economic boom after World War II , which Franco managed to keep the country out of . In 1947 Franco restored the monarchy and in 1969 appointed Juan Carlos I as head of state as his successor. After the dictator's death on November 20, 1975, this initiated a process of democratization (span. Transición ). With the adoption of a constitution, Spain became a parliamentary monarchy in 1978 . In the final phase of the Franco dictatorship, and especially during the transition , there were massive acts of terrorism by ETA and other left and right-wing terrorist groups. In 1981 there was another attempted coup (" 23-F ") by the right-wing military and parts of the paramilitary Guardia Civil against the democratic government, but it failed.

The transition ended in 1982 with the takeover of government by Felipe González's Social Democratic Party ( PSOE ). During the 1980s, Spain became a member of NATO and the EU and experienced renewed economic growth. At the same time, in the fight against the ETA, a state terrorist group ( GAL ) was set up to fight Basque separatism with torture and murder. This era is known in Spain as the "dirty war" (Spanish guerra sucia ). The scandal surrounding the GAL involvement of senior members of the government led to the PSOE being defeated in 1996. As a result, José María Aznar ( Partido Popular , PP) became the new Prime Minister. After two legislative terms, which were marked by numerous scandals and domestic political conflicts ( Iraq war ), PP lost the parliamentary elections (March 14, 2004) , under the influence of the train attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004. Then José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE) led a minority government in Madrid. With the elections in December 2011 , the PP under Mariano Rajoy came back to power, which after 1982, 1996 and 2004 meant the fourth change of power between conservatives and social democrats since the transition to democracy.

The parliamentary elections on December 20, 2015 led to a significant loss of votes for the two large parties and a strengthening of smaller parties such as Podemos and Ciudadanos . Due to the complicated majority structure, no government was formed and new elections followed on June 26, 2016 . After the distribution of seats had changed little, the formation of a government was again difficult. Finally, on October 29, 2016, Mariano Rajoy was re-elected as prime minister and led a minority government until he was overthrown on June 1, 2018 by a vote of no confidence in parliament. His successor as Prime Minister was the socialist Pedro Sánchez , whose party only has 84 seats in parliament and is therefore, as a minority government , dependent on the tolerance of Unidos Podemos , PNV and various separatist parties.


Political parties

Chamber in the Spanish Chamber of Deputies in Madrid

In Spain there are four parties or party alliances represented in Congress that are active throughout Spain: the right-wing conservative Partido Popular (PP), the social democratic PSOE and the left-wing gathering movement Izquierda Unida (IU) and, since 2008, the newly founded anti-regional-liberal Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD). In addition, the Podemos protest party, founded in March 2014, is playing an increasingly important role.

Regional parties play a crucial role, mainly because of the different nationalities in Spain. The most important parties represented in the Congress are the Catalan bourgeois-nationalist party alliance Convergència i Unió (CiU), the Catalan left-wing nationalists Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) and the Basque bourgeois nationalists Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV). Most of the regionally organized parties advocate greater autonomy in their regions, these demands extend, especially among the Basques and Catalans, to state independence, for this goal there has been very massive action again since the end of Franquism (see Plan Ibarretxe ). The largest regional party is the social democratic Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC), which is, however, the closely linked sister party of the PSOE in Catalonia and thus only formally represents a regional party.

The incumbent Spanish President Pedro Sánchez

In addition to the political orientation of a party, the national orientation is also a decisive political criterion in Spain. The Partido Popular , which adheres to a pan-Spanish nationalism (state doctrine in Franquism) and emphasizes the unity and indivisibility of the Spanish nation, does poorly in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

In the election for the House of Representatives of the Spanish National Parliament on December 20, 2015, the conservative People's Party (PP) received 28.7% of the vote and 123 of the 350 seats, the Socialists (PSOE) 22.0% and 90 seats, the new, left-wing Podemos 20.7% and 69 seats and the new, liberal party of the Ciudadanos (C's) 13.9% and 40 seats. The remaining 28 seats went to small, partly regional parties. Thus, the PP had lost an absolute majority not only in the electoral vote, but - in spite of the voting rights that favored the larger parties - also in the parliamentary seats and Rajoy could not form a government without a coalition partner. The election result is also called historical, because the success of Podemos and Cuidadanos replaced the previous two-party system with a multi-party system.

King Felipe entrusted Rajoy with the formation of a new government. The refusal was announced on January 22, 2016 after the king also spoke to representatives from PSOE and Podemos. After the PSOE was unwilling to form a coalition with Podemos and the United Left , King Felipe VI succeeded. until May 2, 2016 not to find a majority candidate for the office of Prime Minister. He had to dissolve parliament and call new elections, which took place on June 26th. In this parliamentary election Podemos and United Left (Izquierda Unida) ran together as "Unidos Podemos". The renewed parliamentary election also did not bring a majority to either of the two camps (PP / C's or PSOE / UP). After the resignation of Pedro Sánchez on October 1, the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) decided on October 23, 2016 in Madrid to allow another term of office for the Conservative Executive Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, party spokesmen announced. On June 1, 2018, Rajoy was removed from office following a motion of censure , and Pedro Sánchez became the new head of government .

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 40.4 out of 120 146 of 178 Stability of the country: more stable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 8.12 out of 10 22 of 167 Full democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World Index 92 of 100 - Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 20.44 out of 100 29 of 180 Satisfactory situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 62 of 100 32 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Political structure

Administrative division of Spain

Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities or regions (Comunidades Autónomas) . These do not have statehood (so Spain is not a federal state ), but nevertheless have a range of competencies that is comparable to that of the German states . Of these, seven (Asturias, Cantabria, Navarra, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Balearic Islands) consist of only one province, the rest of several provinces. There are 50 provinces in total. In the uniprovincial autonomous communities, these also perform the tasks assigned to the province. There are also the two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla , which are neither assigned to an autonomous community nor to a province.

The lowest level of administration are the municipalities (municipios) . In different Autonomous Communities there are still different intermediate levels between the provinces and the municipalities. These units have different names ( comarcas , subcomarcas, veguerías, mancomunidades) .

There have long been unresolved conflicts over the autonomy status of the Basque Country and Catalonia . In the Basque Country, ETA has been fighting for independence with violence and terror since 1959. The explicitly Basque or Catalan parties, on the other hand, campaigned for a greatly expanded autonomy, “free affiliation to Spain” or independence of their regions in a purely political way. One invokes the right of the peoples to self-determination and wants to hold referendums in which the population of the respective region can freely decide on the status. Examples of this include the referendums in Québec (1980, 1995) and Montenegro (2006). The central Spanish parties PP and PSOE are opposed to these plans.


Policía Municipal de Madrid patrol car

The police system in Spain is complex due to the political structure of Spain. It essentially comprises four types of police bodies:

  1. The Guardia Civil , which is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior and is organized militarily
  2. the State National Police ( Cuerpo Nacional de Policía - CNP) of the Ministry of the Interior,
  3. the police forces of the Autonomous Communities (Policía Autonómica), which have so far been set up in the Basque Country ( Ertzaintza ), in Catalonia ( Mossos d'Esquadra ), in Navarra ( Policía Foral ) and in the Canary Islands (Policía Canaria) ,
  4. as well as the municipal and city ​​police (called Guardia Urbana, Policía Local or Policía Municipal ).

Secret services

The Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI; German National Intelligence Center) is the Spanish secret service that was officially established by law in November 2002. It goes back to several secret government organizations of the Franco era, which were not officially known and had no name.


The Spanish Armed Forces ( Spanish Fuerzas Armadas Españolas ) are divided into

Other independent units are the Royal Guard ( Guardia Real ) and the Spanish Legion, which reports directly to the High Command .

As of 2014, Spain had around 123,000 soldiers and 16,000 reservists. The backbone of the land forces are 327 main battle tanks. The Spanish Navy has 46 ships, including an aircraft carrier, and the Air Force has 500 aircraft (including 216 combat aircraft).

The Supreme Commander of the Spanish Armed Forces is the Spanish King , currently Felipe VI. The military budget of Spain is 12.8 billion euros (1.2% of GDP). Since 2000 it has been possible for men and women who speak Spanish as their mother tongue but are not Spanish citizens to join the Spanish Armed Forces. Conscription was abolished in 2001.

Foreign and European policy

Locations of the diplomatic missions of Spain

Spain’s foreign policy priorities are EU integration, relations with Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East, Mediterranean policy and transatlantic relations. Spain has been a member of the United Nations since 1955 and was a non-permanent member of the Security Council from 2015-2016.

Spain maintains close relations with the USA and is keen to expand them further. Particularly close cultural and social ties, and based on them, a dense political and economic exchange, exist with Latin America and the Caribbean. The summit meetings of the Ibero-American heads of state and government that have taken place since 1991 are an important multilateral platform for this. The last meeting took place on October 28 and 29, 2016 in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). The focus of development cooperation is on Latin America and Africa.

Plenary Chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels. Spain is one of 27 member states of the European Union .

Spain has been a member of the European Union (EU) since January 1, 1986, as well as the Eurozone . Spain is a member of continental organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Western European Union (WEU) and the European Defense Agency (EVA). Spain draws an extremely positive balance of its more than 30 years of EU membership. Most of the Spaniards associate the EU with the democratization, modernization and economic growth of the country.

Spain has chaired the EU Presidency four times : in the first half of 1989 when the adoption of the “ Delors Report ” was approved; in the second half of 1995, when the name of the future European currency (the euro ) was adopted; in the first half of 2002 when the first euro coins were put into circulation; and most recently in the first half of 2010 when the Lisbon Treaty and the trio presidency were introduced.

Spain, with its tendency to be pro-European, has played a key role in certain initiatives. Of all the following deserve special mention: the development of a social Europe ; the Europe of the citizens and the introduction of the European Citizens' Initiative ; the fight against international organized crime; the creation of a common immigration policy and the strengthening of the external borders; the development of cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean and North Africa; promoting dialogue for peace in the Middle East; a common agricultural or fisheries policy; and a clear commitment to effective strategies against gender-based violence and organ transplants.

Since Spain joined the European Union, many Spaniards have held positions of responsibility and important activity in the institutions.


Constitutional law

Political system of Spain

According to the constitution of December 6, 1978 , Spain is a social and democratic constitutional state with the form of a parliamentary monarchy (Art. 1, Paragraph 3 of the Spanish Constitution ). The title of king is hereditary. The current king is Felipe VI. The king is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The residence of the royal family is the Palacio de la Zarzuela in Madrid.

In the constitution, the role of the Spanish crown is essentially limited to representative functions. Additional functions of the king are the confirmation of laws and the appointment and dismissal of the head of government.

The highest legislative body in Spain is the Parliament, the Cortes Generales . The Cortes are divided into two chambers, the House of Representatives (Congreso de los Diputados) and the Senate (Senado) . The 300 to 400 members of the House of Representatives are directly elected for four years. The Senate has 259 members. 208 members are directly elected by the people and the remaining 51 are elected by the parliaments of the autonomous communities. Senators are appointed for a four-year term.

Universal suffrage for men had already been introduced in 1868, but priests, members of the public service and women were excluded from the right to stand for election in the national parliament until a law passed on May 8, 1931. In the parliamentary elections on June 28, 1931 , three women were elected to the Spanish Parliament for the first time ; Margarita Nelken , Victoria Kent and Clara Campoamor . Ironically, however, women were still denied the right to vote. On December 9, 1931, a new constitution came into force, Article 36 of which contained universal voting rights for women. On November 19, 1933 , the first elections took place under the new constitution, in which women could actively participate for the first time. Universal suffrage was suppressed under the Franco regime . Women were gradually granted some political rights: in 1942 a kind of parliament was established in which, in addition to members of the Falange Party and various state organizations, a hundred family representatives were provided, who were to be elected by heads of families and married women. From 1957 onwards, married women and those who were heads of families could vote in the elections of these hundred MPs. The first such elections were not held until 1967, however. It was only with the restoration of democracy in the mid-1970s that universal suffrage, and thus also women's suffrage , was fully restored. When the referendum of 1976 and the parliamentary elections of 1977 voted women off, and the unrestricted universal suffrage for adults was guaranteed in the new constitution of the 1978th

The Prime Minister ( Presidente del Gobierno, literally translated as "Government President") is elected by the House of Representatives. The ministers are appointed by the king on the proposal of the prime minister. The official seat is the Palacio de la Moncloa in Madrid.

Spain has been a member of the European Union since January 1986 .


Spain's infrastructure is well developed due to the building boom that has been going on for years. Increasing tourism also made it necessary to build a modern rail, road and air transport network. However, after the bubble burst, many construction projects could not be completed; they are still unfinished in the area.

Road network

Spanish motorway

From 2000 to 2008 the number of cars in Spain increased by around 12%. In 2008 there were 486 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants; As a result of the financial crisis, this rate fell slightly again (2009: 479). 78% of the population live in cities. In some metropolitan areas such as Madrid or Barcelona , the road networks are locally congested, especially during rush hour. Sometimes there are traffic management systems like in Valencia .

Spain has a well-developed road and motorway network of 663,795 kilometers in length. Most of the roads are paved. The trunk road network includes national roads, carreteras nacionales , and motorways, the so-called autovías (free of charge ) and autopistas (toll, de peaje ). You can pay with cash or credit card at the paying offices of the chargeable autopistas . You can also pay with the so-called Telepeaje. You carry a sensor with you in your car, which automatically registers when you drive past a toll booth. The toll gate then opens automatically.

In some cases, toll motorway sections run parallel to toll-free ones. There are mostly toll-free autovías around metropolitan areas , many long-distance connections are chargeable.

The maximum speed within built-up areas is 50 km / h, on country roads 90 km / h, if there is a shoulder at least 1.5 m wide or an additional lane is available, 100 km / h and on motorways 120 km / h. In built-up areas, dipped headlights must always be used at night.

The warning fines are much higher in Spain compared to Germany. If you pay a parking ticket within 14 days, this results in a 50 percent discount. What is striking is the fact that the sidewalk is absolutely free of vehicles. Motorcycles and cars are not allowed to be parked on the sidewalk, not even on one side. Parking on the sidewalk (even if only partially) results in immediate towing. On the other hand, parking in front of pedestrian crossings is punished less severely than in Germany. In many places there is an acute shortage of parking spaces due to the narrow streets. A solid yellow line on the edge of the road indicates that parking is prohibited. The local police often have their own tow trucks. The parking fees in metropolitan areas are at the same level as in metropolises in German-speaking countries.

Very high speed offenses, dangerous hooliganism in traffic or driving under the influence of alcohol can be considered a criminal offense and even result in imprisonment.

Safety vests have been required by law in Spain since July 2004 . These must be worn in the event of an accident or breakdown. Spare lamps for the vehicle lighting and two red warning triangles must also be carried in the vehicle. Green insurance cards are not compulsory, but recommended as the police are familiar with them.

Road traffic in the country is considered very safe. In 2013, there were a total of 3.7 road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain. For comparison: In Germany there were 4.3 deaths in the same year. A total of 1730 people were killed in traffic. The country has a high rate of motorization by global standards. In 2016 there were 611 motor vehicles for every 1,000 inhabitants in the country (in Germany there were 610 vehicles).


The Spaniards first perceived cycling as a sporting activity; The bicycle has only recently been used more and more frequently as a means of transport, even if the Spanish bicycle culture is still inferior to that of Central European cities. For a long time, cycle paths were only known in regions that were attractive to tourists. In recent years, however, in most of the larger cities of Spain, in addition to a network of bicycle lanes that is growing at the same time, the offer and use of urban bicycle rental systems , comparable to those in other cities outside Spain, has spread. Barcelona, ​​for example, have had a bike rental system since March 2007, Madrid (since 2014), Girona , Alicante , Saragossa , Seville , Valencia , Burgos , Pamplona , Albacete and Salamanca . Other cities are to follow.

The use of the bicycle not only as a piece of sports equipment, but above all in everyday life is also dependent on the differences in altitude and the climate within the city. Individual bicycle traffic (in addition to bicycle rental systems) is also increasing. Especially in the big cities with heavy vehicle traffic and overcrowded public transport, the bicycle is a fast and inexpensive alternative, especially since the infrastructure is very well developed in places. In Barcelona , for example , which has a very flat urban geography, more than 182 km of bicycle lanes had been built by 2013.

The cycle paths are separated from other traffic with traffic lights and, especially on busy main roads, in addition to dividing lines, physically by means of anchored rubber or plastic dividers.

The existing networks are generally well accepted and expanded. In the greater Madrid area, some motorways have their own bicycle lane. It is noticeable that in Spain two cyclists can ride side by side.

Remote bus network

Due to the low density of railways, Spain has a very well developed bus network. There are special bus stations in small and large cities. The bus network connects smaller towns and villages in particular, but there are also national lines and international connections. Bus travel is comparatively cheap in Spain.


The largest seaports are in Algeciras , Barcelona , Valencia , Bilbao, Gijón and Santa Cruz de Tenerife . There are a number of ferry connections between the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands and the Canaries.

The Canal Imperial de Aragón and the Canal de Castilla were built for inland navigation in the 18th and 19th centuries . However, these are now only used to transport drinking water. For the purpose of water and energy supply, numerous dams were built in all major rivers in the 20th century , so that the rivers of the country are no longer navigable . The only exception is the Guadalquivir between Seville and the Atlantic. This section is also navigable for ocean-going ships. The numerous reservoirs in the interior are used for water sports. As part of the Expo 2008 , passenger shipping was set up on the Ebro in the urban area of Zaragoza .

Railway network

RENFE series 730 high-speed train on the Viaducto Martín Gil

The network in Iberian broad gauge (1668 mm) of the state railway company Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles (RENFE) is supplemented by a standard-gauge high-speed network called Alta Velocidad Española (AVE), which in 2013 had a length of 2276 kilometers. The long-distance transport system is called Grandes Líneas , with the exception of high-speed transport. RENFE operates local S-Bahn networks, the so-called Cercanías , in the metropolitan areas . There are Cercanías networks in the following regions : Asturias , Barcelona , Bilbao , Cádiz , Madrid , Malaga , Murcia / Alicante , Santander , San Sebastián , Saragossa , Seville and Valencia . Narrow-gauge lines are operated by the regional companies SFM , EuskoTren , FGC and FGV , as well as by the state-owned FEVE .

The Spanish long-distance trains of the Grandes Líneas are divided into day and night trains. Day trains are the Alaris , Altaria , Arco , Euromed , Talgo , Intercity and Diurno . Night trains are the Trenhotel and Estrella . These types of trains differ in their design and travel on fixed routes. There is no classification according to train speed and stopping density as in the German-speaking area in Spain. Tickets are not sold for a route, but for a product.

The cities of Barcelona , Bilbao , Madrid , Valencia , Seville , Palma and Málaga have underground or metro networks. Some cities like Alicante , Bilbao , Santa Cruz de Tenerife / La Laguna , Madrid and Barcelona have newly opened tram networks .


Madrid-Barajas Airport : Spain's largest international airport

Around 40 Spanish cities have an airport for traffic machines. The largest Spanish airlines are Iberia , Air Europa and Vueling . The airports of Madrid and Barcelona are among the ten largest European airports in terms of passenger numbers. There is an airlift, puente aéreo , between Madrid and Barcelona airports : numerous flights take off at very short intervals between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. In 2007 there were around 61 million passengers in Spain (2013 only around 46 million).

The puente aéreo is operated by the Spanish airline Iberia.


In 2019, 91 percent of Spain's residents used the internet . In 2012, around 19% of the population had DSL connections and around 5% of the population had cable connections. The broadband internet speed is between 10 Mbit / s and 50 Mbit / s based on DOCSIS3 for cable connections and 100 Mbit / s for the few fiber optic connections (approx. 1%).


With the Plan de Estabilización 1959, the democratic change in the period after 1975 , the accession to the European Community in 1986 and the participation in the European Economic and Monetary Union, Spain laid the basis for a long-lasting economic upswing. The country's industry has been gradually liberalized and modernized. A number of internationally successful companies have emerged from this, for example Iberia , Seat , Telefónica , Zara or Endesa . The opening of Spain to international competition led to extensive foreign direct investment.

The final assembly of the Airbus A400M takes place in Seville , Spain.
A model of the Seat Ibiza . Seat is an important industrial employer in Spain.

The price for this, however, was strong contraction processes in traditional industries, e.g. B. in the Basque Country. The average number of employees in Spanish companies with 10 employees in 2011 was also well below the EU average of 17 (for comparison: Greece 5, Germany 35). 80% of the companies in the manufacturing sector have fewer than 10 employees, which indicates the low competitiveness of the, on average, less innovative industry. The reindustrialization after the 2009–2013 crisis, which led to a sharp collapse in industrial production, is progressing only slowly, even though the associated job cuts increased productivity. In 2014, industrial production grew by 1.1% for the first time.

The three largest publishing groups are Grupo Vocento , the Italian RCS MediaGroup and PRISA .

With 81,880 employees (end of 2006), the world's largest cooperative is located in the country, the Mondragón Corporación Cooperativa .

According to a study by Bank Credit Suisse from 2017, Spain was the country with the twelfth-largest national total assets in the world. The total Spanish holdings of real estate, stocks and cash totaled $ 4,845 billion. The wealth per adult person is 129,578 dollars on average and 63,369 dollars in median (Germany: 203,946 and 47,091 dollars, respectively). The Gini coefficient for wealth distribution was 68.0 in 2016, which indicates a medium wealth inequality. In 2018 there were 25 billionaires in Spain. The richest person in the country is Amancio Ortega , who is one of the 10 richest people in the world with a fortune of around 70 billion US dollars. Ortega is the founder of the textile company Inditex .

The shadow economy accounts for 21.5% of GDP in the economy.

The public debt in 2010 was 9.24% of the gross national product. This fell slightly below the limit of 9.3% specified by the European Union.

View of Benidorm at night . Tourism plays an essential role in Spain's economy.

The growth of recent years was largely driven by a real estate boom, with which the average debt per person rose to 125 percent of annual income in 2005, three times more than a decade ago.

The real estate bubble burst in the course of the financial crisis from 2007 . Since the Spanish banks almost exclusively issued loans with variable interest rates, shifting the interest rate risk on to the borrowers and the banks were hardly involved in the deterioration of asset-backed securities due to strict regulation, the Spanish banks were long considered relatively healthy.

But since the real estate sector generated almost a third of GDP, the crash had a significant impact on the economy. Since real estate prices fell sharply at the same time, by 6.8% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same quarter of the previous year, many households are over-indebted. The loan defaults also increased fourfold, the default rate is 5% according to official information. In Spain, a property costs 7.2 times the average annual income of a household. In the UK they were only 4.6 times as much and in the US only three times as much. The Spanish market is therefore still considered to be significantly overpriced, so that a sustained drop in prices is to be expected.

Greenhouses at El Ejido

In March 2009, the regional savings bank Caja Castilla la Mancha had to be supported with a billion-euro loan from the central bank. The institute is to receive up to nine billion euros in liquidity aid, for which the government gives a guarantee.

On June 25, 2012, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos applied to the European Union on behalf of the Spanish government for financial aid to recapitalize Spanish credit institutions. The euro partners had already promised Spain a lump sum of 100 billion euros. After the situation in the Spanish financial sector eased, the country left the euro rescue package in January 2014 . Spain received a total of 41.4 billion euros to support the credit institutions over the 18-month period of the aid measures.

The unemployment rate based on calculations by the European Union in November 2012 was 26.6%, seasonally adjusted. In 2006 it was 7.6%, in November 2008 it was 13.4%. The unemployment rate thus reached the highest level in the European Union at that time. At the same time, the unemployment rate among those under 25 rose to 56.5% (November 2012), the second highest in the European Union after Greece. Due to the economic upswing that began at the end of 2013, the unemployment rate fell to 20.5 percent (4.68 million unemployed) by January 2016 and to 15.2% in June 2018. In 2017, youth unemployment was 39.4%. In 2009, 4.2% of the total workforce worked in agriculture, 24% in industry and 71.7% in the service sector. The total number of employees is estimated at 22.75 million for 2017; 46.4% of them are women. In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Spain ranks 34th out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In 2017, the country ranks 69th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .


Spain is part of the European single market . Together with 18 other EU member states (blue) it forms a monetary union, the euro zone .

The currency in Spain has been the euro since January 1, 1999 , which, as in all countries in the euro zone, replaced the country's own currency ( peseta ) as the official means of payment from 2002 onwards. The exchange rate to the previous currency, pesetas (Pts) or singular (Pta), was: 1 € = 166.386 Pts or 1 Pts = 0.6010 € cents. Prices are still given in pesetas, especially for expensive goods that are not bought too often, such as cars or apartments. Millions of pts, million pesetas are often used as a generous abbreviated order of magnitude : an apartment costs 25 million pts in everyday language or a car 2 million pts.

The currency unit duro is occasionally used in conversations . One duro is equal to 5 pesetas, or about 3 cents. To convert from euro to duro , it is sufficient to divide the euro amount by 3 and then add two zeros (or multiply by 100). During the changeover phase to the euro, the Spaniards were attuned to the new currency with the catchy motto from Duro to Euro .

gross domestic product

According to the International Monetary Fund , Spain was the 14th largest economy in the world in 2016. During the financial crisis in 2009, the Spanish economy shrank by 3.58%. Years of recession and stagnation followed. The Spanish economy left this long-lasting recession behind in the third quarter of 2013 with 0.1 percent growth after nine declining quarters. The growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) was 1.4% in 2014 and 3.2% in 2015.

The gross domestic product of Spain was around 1,113.8 billion euros in 2016. This corresponds to a growth of 3.2% compared to the previous year. The GDP per capita was 23,970 euros in the same year.

The structure of the Spanish economy shows a distribution typical of industrial nations:

  • 68% services,
  • 20% manufacturing industry,
  • 9% construction industry,
  • 3% agriculture.

The most important branches of the Spanish economy are tourism, construction, communication and information technology, metalworking industry, mechanical engineering, agriculture and petrochemicals.

Spain is characterized by great economic differences between the individual Autonomous Communities. In highly industrialized regions such as the Basque Country , Madrid , Navarra or Catalonia , GDP per capita expressed in purchasing power standards in 2014 was between 8 and 25 percent above the European Union average , while the more agricultural regions such as Extremadura and Castile-La Mancha or Andalusia only achieved between 63 and 72 percent of the EU average.

GDP per capita by autonomous community
Item Autonomous community GDP / capita, PPS , (EU28 = 100) (2014) GDP / capita in € (nominal) (2017)
1. MadridMadrid Madrid 123 33,809
2. Basque CountryBasque Country Basque Country 120 33,088
3. NavarreNavarre Navarre 112 30,914
4th CataloniaCatalonia Catalonia 109 29,936
- EuropeEurope EU-28 100 27,500
5. AragonAragon Aragon 97 27,403
6th La RiojaLa Rioja La Rioja 95 26,044
7th Balearic IslandsBalearic Islands Balearic Islands 94 25,772
- SpainSpain Spain 91 25,000
8th. Castile LeonCastile and León Castile and León 86 23,555
9. CantabriaCantabria Cantabria 82 22,513
10. GaliciaGalicia Galicia 82 22,497
11. ValenciaValencia Valencia 80 22,055
12th AsturiasAsturias Asturias 80 22,046
13th MurciaMurcia Murcia 75 20,585
14th Canary IslandsCanary Islands Canary Islands 74 20,425
15th Castile La ManchaCastile-La Mancha Castile-La Mancha 72 19,681
16. CeutaCeuta Ceuta 71 19,524
17th AndalusiaAndalusia Andalusia 67 18,470
18th MelillaMelilla Melilla 65 17,945
19th ExtremaduraExtremadura Extremadura 63 17,262


Spain's coasts
Beach tourism on the beach at Villajoyosa
The Sierra Nevada : Pico del Veleta

Spain was visited by 75.6 million tourists in 2016, placing it in third place in global travel statistics after France and the USA. For comparison: In 2005 there were still 55.6 million foreign tourists. In the record year 2016, 22.1 million tourists came from the United Kingdom, 15.2 million came from France and in third place came guests from Germany with 11.4 million. The Canary Islands are the main tourist destination in Spain: 31.4% of all tourists have traveled there. The second most important travel destination is Catalonia, it was visited by 24 million tourists. This is followed by Andalusia with 12.5 and Madrid with 10.6 million tourists. Tourism brought Spain an income of over 60 billion US dollars.

Spain had in 2017, according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum 's most competitive tourism sector in the world.

Popular travel destinations (with much visited places) are:


Olive growing area near Arenas del Rey in Andalusia

54% of the land area is used for agriculture, irrigated agriculture is practiced on around 20.1% of the cultivated area. 144,000 square kilometers of the country's area are forested. The following agricultural products are produced in Spain: Grains (especially wheat and maize), vegetables, olives, grapes, sugar beets, citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, meat (including sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry), dairy products (e.g. Manchego Cheese ), sea fish and seafood. Since 2004, Spain has also been the only European country with a significant transgenic acreage (especially genetically modified maize). The Spanish wine-growing is significant, however, by the consequences of global warming seriously endangered.


Many Spanish families have a weekend house in the country or by the sea in addition to an apartment in the city. According to figures from the Banco de España , there were around 23.7 million apartments ( Piso in Spanish ) and 15.39 million households in Spain at the end of 2005 . This means that there are 1.54 apartments for every Spanish household, the highest rate in the world. 85% of Spanish apartments are occupied by their owners and 15% are rented out.

The Spanish average price for a new apartment is 2510 € / m² (December 2005). Housing prices vary from region to region.

Energy industry

Primary energy consumption in Spain peaked in 2007, fell significantly until 2009 and then remained roughly the same until 2018.

Primary energy consumption by energy source

The most important source of energy in Spain is oil, which in 2018 provided 44.3% of the primary energy. Overall, fossil fuels (petroleum 44.3%, natural gas 20.9% and coal 8.9%) account for 74.1% of the primary energy consumed. In 2010, 73.9% of the primary energy sources had to be imported.

Energy source 1994 (%) 2009 (%) 2010 (%) 2014 (%) 2018 (%)
oil 53.5 48.8 47.3 42.8 44.3
natural gas 6.7 23.8 23.5 20.0 20.9
Nuclear energy 14.8 10.5 12.2 12.6 11.2
Renewable energy 6.5 9.3 11.1 14.6 13.8
money 18.4 8.1 6.4 10.1 8.9
Foreign trade balance electricity 0.1 −0.5 −0.5 −0.25 0.7
Power generation

In 2009, electrical energy accounted for 21.5% of the final energy consumed . In 2010, 288,563 GWh of electricity were generated in Spain  . The largest share (23%) of this was produced in gas and steam combined cycle power plants , another 7% came from coal-fired power plants . The total of six nuclear power plants supplied 22%, 16% came from wind power plants , a further 16% from hydropower plants and 2% from solar plants . Spain had become the largest European producer of electrical energy from wind energy in 2010 with 43,692 GWh and was also ahead of the Federal Republic of Germany this year.

Energy type Share (%) 2010 Share (%) 2020
Combined gas and steam power plant 23 17.8
Nuclear energy 22nd 22.2
Hydropower 16 11.9
Wind energy 16 21.7
money 7th 2.0
solar power 2 7.9
Petroleum , natural gas 1 1.7
rest 13th 14.8

In power plants of the type combined cycle gas is mainly used. The remaining types of energy include other renewable energies (2%) and other forms of energy “energias cogenerativas”.

Nuclear energy

In Spain there are currently six nuclear power plants with eight reactor blocks and an installed gross output of a total of 7716 MW on the grid.

In 1983 a moratorium was passed to initiate the nuclear phase-out . Several reactor blocks were also completed after 1983, but plans for new construction were postponed and finally discarded in 1994. In this legislative period, the ruling party (socialist party) has turned around. On February 15, 2011, the Spanish Parliament passed a change in the law, according to which the 40-year maximum operating time of nuclear power plants will be abolished.

In Spain there are laws that prohibit the further expansion of nuclear energy.

Renewable energy

Electricity generation from renewable energy sources experienced a slight upswing in Spain: In 2010 35.4% of the electricity generated came from renewable energy sources, in 2020 it was 43.6%. With an installed wind energy capacity of 23,170  MW , Spain was fifth in the world after China , the USA , Germany and India in 2014 . At the end of 2020, the installed wind capacity had risen to 27,264 MW. Solar energy is also experiencing an upswing, with the installed capacity from photovoltaic systems currently (as of February 2015) at 4500 MW (2010: 3643 MW, 2007: approx. 900 MW). With Andasol 1, 2 and 3 (50 MW each), the currently (2012) largest solar thermal power plants in Europe are located in Spain. In 2010, a capacity of 682 MW from solar thermal power plants was installed.

Economic indicators

The key economic indicators of gross domestic product, inflation, budget balance and foreign trade have developed as follows in recent years:

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real
in% compared to the previous year
year 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
in% yoy
−3.6 0.0 −1 −2.6 −1.7 1.4 3.8 3.0 2.9 2.4
Source: Eurostat
Development of GDP (nominal)
absolute (in billions of euros) per inhabitant (in thousands of euros)
year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
GDP in billions of euros 1032 1077 1114 1162 1202 GDP per inhabitant
(in thousands of euros)
22,200 23,100 23,800 24,400 24,900
Source: Eurostat
Development of the inflation rate Development of the budget balance
in% compared to the previous year in% of GDP
("minus" = deficit in the national budget)
year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 year 2016 2017 2016 2017 2018
inflation rate −0.2 −0.6 −0.2 2.0 1.7 Budget
−6.0 −5.3 −4.5 −3.1 −2.5
Source: Eurostat (as of summer 2019)
Main trading partner (2018)
Export (in%) to Import (in%) of
FranceFrance France 15.1 GermanyGermany Germany 12.5
GermanyGermany Germany 10.8 FranceFrance France 10.8
ItalyItaly Italy 8.0 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 8.4
PortugalPortugal Portugal 7.4 ItalyItaly Italy 6.6
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 6.7 United StatesUnited States United States 4.1
United StatesUnited States United States 4.5 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 4.0
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 3.5 United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 3.6
other countries 44.0 other countries 50.0
all EU countries together 67.1 all EU countries together 55.1
Source: gtai
Main products of foreign trade (2017)
Export goods (share in%) Imported goods (share in%)
Motor vehicles and parts 17.3 Chemicals 13.5
food 12.9 Motor vehicles and parts 12.3
Chemicals 12.8 food 8.6
machinery 7.8 machinery 7.9
Textiles / clothing 5.9 oil 7.3
Source: gtai
Development of foreign trade
in billion euros and its change compared to the previous year in%
2016 2017 2018
Billion euros % yoy Billion euros % yoy bbillion Euro % year-on-year
import 281.6 −0.1 312.2 10.8 329.0 5.4
export 261.2 2.9 282.4 8.1 292.2 3.4
balance −20.4 −29.8 −36.8
Source: gtai

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures of 512 billion dollars compared to revenues of 461 billion dollars. This results in a budget deficit of $ 51 billion or 4.1% of GDP . The national debt was 99.3% of GDP in 2014. Various austerity programs reduced the budget deficit from 11.0 percent in 2009 to 4.1 in 2016. The state 's government bonds are rated A− by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (as of 2018). Due to the falling budget deficit and the improved economic situation, the Spanish state was able to improve its creditworthiness again.

year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
National debt 42.3% 38.9% 35.5% 39.4% 52.7% 60.1% 69.5% 85.4% 93.7% 100.4%
Budget balance 1.2% 2.2% 2.0% −4.4% −11.0% −9.4% −9.5% −10.4% −6.9% −5.9%
year 2015 2016 2017 2018
National debt 99.4% 99.0% 98.3% 97.1%
Budget balance −5.3% −4.5% −3.1% −2.5%
Source: Eurostat


The two largest trade union confederations

are members of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

The number of members in the individual unions belonging to the UGT is given as 880,000 members, for the CC: OO with 800,000 (as of November 2017).


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616) is considered the national poet of Spain
Well-known cultural workers in Spain
Spanish feature film production
year 1975 1985 1995 2005 2015
number 110 77 59 142 255

A typical Spanish spectacle is the bullfight . According to his followers, it should be seen as an art in which elegance and aesthetics play an important role. In the eyes of many critics, it represents an archaic and brutal tradition that, due to the cruelty to animals involved, is not worth continuing in its current form. Bullfighting is now banned in both the Canary Islands and Catalonia.


Spanish speaking media scene

Most of the national daily newspapers appear in the capital Madrid : El País (average circulation in 2003 around 561,000 copies, belongs to the PRISA media group ), El Mundo (379,000), ABC (346,000) and La Razón (205,000). La Vanguardia (240,000) and the important regional Catalan newspaper El Periódic (221,000; also in Spanish as El Periódico ) appear in Barcelona . Daily sports media such as Marca (549,000) and As (303,000) are also important. Most Spaniards read regional newspapers, almost every major city in the country has an offer here, for example Diario de Sevilla or Diario de Mallorca .

Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE) is the public broadcaster in Spain. This includes the television station Televisión Española (TVE). This operates the programs La 1 , La 2 and the international service TVE Internacional and a few other special interest channels. Public broadcasting (television and radio) is subsidized by the state. Private television programs are Antena 3 , Telecinco as well as Cuatro since November 7, 2005 and LaSexta since March 27 of the same year . The range of television programs is rounded off by regional television stations. In the area of digital television, there are the Digital + and Auna offers . The formerly partly free to air channel Canal + , which has been replaced by Cuatro , has been added to the Digital + offer.

German-speaking media scene

In the meantime, a considerable independent media scene has emerged to supply the numerous German-speaking people who are long-term (residents) or short-term (tourists) in Spain. The publications include several weekly newspapers with a circulation of over 20,000 copies as well as community letters, German studies journals or business magazines. Well-known papers are, for example, the Mallorca-Magazin or the Mallorca-Zeitung . On Mallorca, where a new minority with permanent residents of German descent is emerging, there is also the most famous full-time German-speaking radio program with Inselradio Mallorca . The “TaschenSpiegel” is published for Germans, Austrians and Swiss resident in Barcelona. Along with Italy, the USA, Poland, Romania and Belgium, Spain is one of the countries with the most German-language media outside of the closed German-speaking area.


Even if organized physical exercises have been practiced in Spain since Roman times, it was, especially in the Franco era, top-class sport in the sense of bread and games. After Franco's death, popular and recreational sport expanded very seriously.

The Spanish national soccer team after winning the European Championship in 2008

In Spain, football is by far the most important public sport and also a popular sport that is widely practiced. The most famous clubs are Real Madrid and FC Barcelona , which are among the most successful football clubs in Europe. Other well-known clubs are Valencia CF , Atlético Madrid , Athletic Bilbao , Real Saragossa and Sevilla FC . The national team has won three European championships so far , in 1964 in their own country, in 2008 in Austria and Switzerland and in 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine . In 1920, the Spanish soccer team won second place at the Olympic Games in Antwerp, which caused a great deal of euphoria. In 2010 Spain became world champions for the first time.

Other popular team sports are basketball , handball , hockey , futsal , volleyball and water polo , and rugby is also very popular at universities . Roller hockey is also practiced in large numbers in the regions of Catalonia and Galicia .

The Spanish national team qualified for a Rugby Union World Cup for the first time in 1999 , but the tournament ended up in last place in the group stage. Spain is one of the participants in the European Rugby Union Championship , where it meets other emerging national teams. The home stadium is the Estadio Nacional Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

Also racing is very popular in Spain. When it comes to racing for street motorcycles , the country produced international stars such as Ángel Nieto , Jorge Martínez “Aspar” and Àlex Crivillé . The most famous active drivers at the moment are Dani Pedrosa , Jorge Lorenzo , Álvaro Bautista , Toni Elías , Julián Simón , Marc Márquez and Nicolás Terol , all of whom have already won world titles. The Spanish motorcycle manufacturer Derbi won twelve drivers 'world championships and nine constructors' championships, while the Bultaco brand won four drivers 'and three constructors' championships. Other popular motor sports are rally , rally raid and motorcycle trial .

The Formula 1 had long a shadowy existence in Spain, but this changed abruptly by the success of Fernando Alonso , the 2005 and 2006 won the World Cup.

Cycling is very popular both as a popular sport and as a professional sport. With Miguel Indurain , Federico Bahamontes , Luis Ocaña Pernía , Pedro Delgado , Óscar Pereiro , Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre , Spain has seven Tour de France winners. The multiple world champion Óscar Freire is also well known. A major cycling event is the Vuelta , other internationally recognized races are the Basque Country Tour , the Tour of Catalonia and the Clásica San Sebastián .

The most important individual sport is tennis . The internationally best-known players include Manuel Santana , Carlos Moyá , Sergi Bruguera , Arantxa Sánchez Vicario , Conchita Martínez or the still active Rafael Nadal and Garbiñe Muguruza . So far, Spain has won the Davis Cup five times, the Fed Cup as often and the Hopman Cup four times.

Also popular are padel , a relatively new game similar to tennis, and golf , where well-known professionals such as Severiano Ballesteros , José María Olazábal or Sergio García are to be mentioned. Pelota , the Basque national sport , is played in northeastern Spain and Pilota Valenciana in the Valencia region .

In addition to professional sport, amateur sport is very important in Spain. Almost half of the population between the ages of 15 and 75 are actively involved in a sport. Fitness training, such as jogging, is the most popular sport before football and swimming. But cycling and walking are also becoming increasingly popular in Spain.

National Holidays

Members of the Guardia Civil in parade uniform on the national holiday

In Spain, 14 public holidays are defined for each year. Some of these are state-owned, some are determined by the autonomous community , a public holiday by the province (usually the patron saint of the province) and a holiday by the municipality or by the locality (usually the patron saint of the municipality). The holidays are published annually for the following year by each Autonomous Community and can vary. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is non-working, depending on the industry.

The following days are usually public holidays, but can be canceled or replaced depending on the year or autonomous community:

Example for regional holidays:

See also


  • Walther L. Bernecker (ed.): Spain manual. History and present. Francke, Tübingen 2006, ISBN 3-8252-2827-4 (UTB 2827).
  • Walther L. Bernecker (Ed.): Spain today. Politics - economy - culture. 5th edition. Vervuert, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 3-86527-418-8 .
  • Toni Breuer: Iberian Peninsula. Geography, history, economics, politics. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-534-14785-4 .
  • Fernando Diaz-Plaja: Spain. Nyon 1976.
  • Alfonso Lowe: Spain's south. Munich 1972.
  • René Alexander Marboe: From Burgos to Cuzco. Becoming Spain 530–1530. Magnus, Essen 2006, ISBN 3-88400-601-0 .
  • Henri Stierlin: The World of Spain. Gondrom, Bayreuth 1982, ISBN 3-8112-0301-0 (historical presentation with the focus from classical antiquity to the baroque).
  • Sarah Mongourdin-Denoix: Spain: a country profile (PDF, 640.33 kB, 40 pages), Eurofound , January 19, 2010
  • James Morris: Spain. Portrait of a proud country. With photographs by Evelyn Hofer. Droemer Knaur, Munich (= Knaur pocket books. Volume 176).

Web links

Commons : Spain  - collection of images
Wikimedia Atlas: Spain  - geographical and historical maps
Wiktionary: Spain  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
 Wikinews: Spain  - in the news
Wikisource: Spain  - Sources and full texts
Wikivoyage: Spain  Travel Guide

Official sites from Spain

About Spain

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Coordinates: 39 ° 56 ′  N , 1 ° 48 ′  W