Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kingdom of Spain

Miran and I are going to Barcelona for his birthday at the end of the month.  So here's a bit about España.

The Kingdom of Spain is the second largest country in the EU and the fourth largest country in Europe after Russia, Ukraine, and France.  It is about the size of Arizona and Utah combined.  Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal and its territory includes the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands and two enclaves in North Africa.  The country has a population of 46.4 million and the capital city is Madrid.  Spain has 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, second only to Italy.

The Spanish Empire at it's height in the 1600's
Spain became a unified country in the 15th century and it became a world power in the 16th century through exploration and the conquest of the Americas.  Its vast overseas empire lasted until the 19th century when most of its colonies in the Western Hemisphere were lost.  The biggest legacy of Spain's overseas empire is that over 500 million people speak Spanish as a first language.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936 to 1939 and claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people.  Another half million people fled the country, mostly going to South America.  General Francisco Franco's Nationalist forces, with support from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, took control of the country.  Franco's authoritarian government ruled Spain, for 36 years, until his death in 1975.

Eventually democracy was restored and it became a parliamentary constitutional monarch.  Spain joined NATO in 1982, the European Union in 1986, and is part of the Schengen zone.

One of the country's serious domestic issues has been tension in the northern Basque region.  ETA, the Basque separatist group, has led a violent campaign resulting in about 850 deaths over the past forty years.  In January 2011, ETA declared its 2010 ceasefire as permanent.  ETA has pledged an end to violence but has not given up on its goal of an independent Basque country.  The group has declared previous ceasefires but abandoned them so let's hope that this one holds.

Spain is a part of the Eurozone and has the world's 12th largest economy.  It has the 5th largest economy in the EU but is currently dealing with some rather severe problems.  The country was hit hard by the global economic crisis.  When the Spanish property bubble burst the nation fell into a severe recession.  At 23%, Spain has the highest level of unemployment in Europe.  For those under 25, the jobless rate is around 51%.  Currently one-in-four homeowners owe more on their property than what is is currently worth.  The government continues to push strict austerity measures in order to reduce the debt level which has been met by continued protests.

Here's a video I found on YouTube about Spain's current financial problems.

video

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