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Located in the Iberian peninsula and bordering France, Andorra, Portugal and the British territory of Gibraltar, Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe. With the restoration of democracy in 1978, Spain once again became a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and prime minister, with a strong degree of autonomy for various provinces. As a major arrival point for migrants to Europe, concerns have been raised over treatment and processing of unaccompanied children, along with the treatment of the Roma minority.
Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe. It occupies the greater part of the Iberian Peninsula and borders with France and Andorra to the northeast and with Portugal to the west. It has coastline on the Bay of Biscay, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Spanish territory also includes the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwestern coast of Africa, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the eastern coast of mainland Spain, the enclaves of Llívia in southern France and Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa as well as a number of islets also in North Africa. Spain is divided into 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities. The country's capital and most populated city is Madrid.
Population and language
In January 2011, Spain's population stood at 46,152,925. Over 5.7 million are immigrants, with Romanians and Moroccans representing the largest foreign populations. Life expectancy in Spain is one of the highest in the world at 81 years.
The national language is Spanish (also known as castellano, Castillian). Yet several regional languages have been declared co-official, the main ones being Basque (euskera), Catalan (catalán) and Galician (gallego), each of which are taught at schools within their respective regions.
Politics and Legal system
Spain is a constitutional monarchy with King Juan Carlos I as head of State followed by an appointed Prime Minister as head of government and a Council of Ministers. In 1978, as part of the country’s transition to democracy after a 36-year dictatorship, the 1978 Constitution was enacted, which recognises the right to self-government of the regions of Spain. Consequently, Spain has become one of the most decentralised countries in Europe with each of its 17 autonomous communities directly electing its own parliament and government, while health and education systems are also managed regionally. The degree of regional autonomy, however, varies, with some autonomous communities even having their own police corps (namely, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Navarre and the Canary Islands).
Separatism has been one of the country's most serious domestic issues. In the past 40 years, the nationalist Basque terrorist group ETA has killed 829 people. Spain has a civil law system, and its judiciary is a combination of courts and tribunals. Spanish law also recognises the principle of universal jurisdiction in alleged cases of crimes against humanity, genocide and terrorism. This has led to important lawsuits brought against perpetrators of State violence, the most prominent of which has been the indictment of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 for alleged human rights violations. However, since 2009 Spain’s jurisdiction is limited to cases in which the victims are Spanish, the alleged perpetrators are in Spain or some other link to Spain can be demonstrated.
Spain ranks as the twentieth most developed country in the world. Its mixed capitalist economy is the ninth largest in the world and fifth largest in Europe. However, after 15 years of consistent economic growth, Spain’s economy began to experience a decline in 2007 owing considerably to a drop in the real estate market. Unemployment has since dramatically increased from 8 per cent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2010 – one of the highest rates in Europe. Spain was also the last global economy to emerge from the global recession.
Twenty-five per cent of GDP comes from Spain’s industries, including tourism. According to figures by the World Tourism Organisation, the country’s tourism industry has become the second largest in the world second only to the United States. Notably, Spain has the second highest number of World Heritage Sites in the world. The country’s agriculture industry is also very important. The area known as El Ejido in the southern province of Almería has been coined the Garden of Europe for its high production of fruit and vegetables supplied to over half of European countries. Trading partners include France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Media and civil society
Reporters without Borders ranks the country 39th out of 175 (with one being the most free) in its 2010 worldwide index of press freedom. However, a number of cases of defamation against the Spanish Royal Family have reopened the debate of free expression in Spain. Critics say the country's defamation laws unfairly privilege the Royal Family above the rest of society, in addition to restricting freedom of expression; while Reporters without Borders has commented that such legislation must be revised to adapt it to the information society.
The independence of judges in Spain has also been questioned after the Supreme Court prevented Judge Baltasar Garzón from continuing investigations into State atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and the ensuing dictatorship for ignoring the 1977 amnesty law.
On children's rights issues, one of the most salient concerns is the alleged ill-treatment received by unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Spanish territory, and the lack of legal assistance given to those detained, as well as the poor conditions in the reception centres for minors (especially in Ceuta and Melilla). Other prominent human rights concerns include the vulnerable position of the Roma population, as highlighted by the UN Committees on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; as well as gender violence, as reported by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force in Spain on 6 December 1990. The country acceded to the Convention’s Optional Protocols on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in December 2001, and on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in March 2002. Corporal punishment was prohibited by law in all settings including the home in 2007.
- Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de España, January 2011
- Nacional de Estadísticas de España, April 2010
- Ministerio del Interior, March 2010
- World Bank, World Development Indicators database, Gross Domestic Product, 2009
- Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de España, Economically Active Population Survey, 2010
- El País, ‘Reporteros sin Fronteras pide cambios en la Constitución para despenalizar las injuries al Rey’, 15 October 2007
- BBC: Spain Country Profile
- Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de España
- Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de España, 'Avance del Padrón municipal a 1 de enero de 2010', April 2010
- Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de España, Economically Active Population Survey (2010)
- Ministerio del Interior de España
- UNICEF, La infancia en España 2010-2011' November 2010
- World Bank: Spain Country Profile
- World Bank, World Development Indicators database, Gross Domestic Product (2009)
- ‘Reporteros sin Fronteras pide cambios en la Constitución para despenalizar las injuries al Rey’], 15 October 2007
- Population: 46,771,600 (UNDP, 2012)
- Population under 18: 8,306,000 (UNICEF, 2011)
- Number of internet users: 31,606,233 (67.2% of the population) (Internet World Stats, 2012)
- Human Development Index ranking: 23 (UNDP, 2012)
- Happy Planet Index ranking: 62 (Happy Planet Countries: Spain, 2012)