Head of State King Juan Carlos
Head of Government Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar
Foreign Minister Ana de Palacio
Area 505,957 km2
Population 41 million
Language Spanish (Castilian), Catalan, Basque and Galician
Per capita GDP € 16,000
GDP growth 3% (2001)
Constitution - Domestic politics
Spain is a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the monarch, whose functions are mainly representative and symbolic in nature. Legislative power is vested in the bicameral Parliament (Cortes) which is composed of two chambers, the 350-member Congress of Deputies and the 259-member Senate. Congress deputies are elected by direct universal suffrage for a four-year term. In the case of the Senate, 208 members are elected directly and 51 are appointed as regional representatives.
In the most recent parliamentary elections (2000), the Popular Party (PP) won an absolute majority. The government, led by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, is the first centre-right majority government in Spain’s recent democratic history. Thanks to its absolute majority, the PP is no longer dependent on the support of its former parliamentary partners (Convergence and Union and other conservative regional parties) for passing legislation. Spain’s most serious domestic political problem is the Basque separatist movement ETA.
Spain is the world’s eighth largest economy and the fifth largest in the EU. In recent years, Spain has enjoyed a rate of economic growth that is among the highest in the Union. In addition, the country has succeeded in reducing unemployment and balancing public finances. Despite the fact that approximately two million new jobs were created between 1996 and 2000, the official unemployment rate remains high (approximately 13% of the work force).
The EU Member States account for approximately 70% of Spanish foreign trade. Latin America also plays an important role for the Spanish economy, given that Spain is the biggest investor in several of these countries. Tourism accounts for approximately 10% of Spain’s GDP.
Spanish foreign policy is focused on EU integration, relations with Latin America and Mediterranean policy. Development cooperation also plays an important role in the country’s foreign policy, particularly with regard to Latin America.
A member of NATO since 1982, the country became fully integrated into the military structure of the Alliance in Autumn 1999. Spain participated in the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia as well as in the NATO presence in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the international mission in Afghanistan.
The special relationship with Latin America and the Maghreb countries, especially Morocco, is of particular importance to Spain for historical and geographical reasons. While ties with the UK are generally good, the issue of Gibraltar has given rise to problems in bilateral relations, although the two countries have in recent years found solutions to a number of sensitive issues.