Spain - Introduction
1. Geographic and Climate
Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, with two large archipelagoes, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands off the North African Atlantic coast, two cities, Ceuta and Melilla, in the North African mainland and several small islands in the Alboran Sea near the Moroccan coast. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal, with the northeast border to France and Andorra. Spain's capital and largest city is Madrid. With an area of 504,030 km², Spain is the largest country in Southern Europe, the second largest country in Western Europe (behind France) and the fourth largest country in the European continent (behind Russia, Ukraine and France). It has an average altitude of 650 m.
The climate of Spain varies across the country. Three main climatic zones (the three main climates) can be distinguished, according to Guzman geographical situation and orographic conditions: (1) the Mediterranean climate is characterized by dry and warm/hot summers and cool to mild and wet winters; (2) the oceanic climate is located in the northern part of the country. This region has regular snowfall in the winter months; (3) the semiarid climate is predominant in the south eastern part of the country. Winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean, and have no seasonal drought.
2. Political and Legal Systems
Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers of Spain presided over by the Prime Minister, nominated and appointed by the monarch and confirmed by the Congress of Deputies following legislative elections. Legislative power is vested in the Cortes Generals (General Courts), a bicameral parliament constituted by the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. The king's nominees have all been from parties who maintain a plurality of seats in the Congress which will serve for four-year terms.
The Spanish State is integrated by 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities. The autonomous communities have wide legislative and executive autonomy, with their own parliaments and regional governments.
3. Culture, language and Religion
Culturally, Spain is a Western country. Almost every aspect of Spanish life is permeated by its Roman heritage, making Spain one of the major Latin countries of Europe. Spanish culture is marked by strong historic ties to Catholicism, which played a pivotal role in the country's formation and subsequent identity. Spanish art, architecture, cuisine, and music have been shaped by successive waves of foreign invaders, as well as by the country's Mediterranean climate and geography. The centuries-long colonial era globalized Spanish language and culture, with Spain also absorbing the cultural and commercial products of its diverse empire.
The Spain currency is the euro (€), Spain is openly multilingual, Spanish is the official language. English and German are widely spoken by tourists, foreign residents, and tourism workers. Roman Catholicism has long been the main religion of Spain.
4. Economy and Tourism
Spain's capitalist mixed economy is the 14th largest worldwide and the 5th largest in the European Union, as well as the Eurozone's 4th largest. By 2012 Spain was by far the biggest producer of olive oil in the world, accounting for 50% of the total production worldwide. By 2013 the country became the world's leading producer of wine; in 2014 and 2015 Spain was the world's biggest wine exporter. Meanwhile, Spain is one of the world leaders in renewable energies, both as a producer of renewable energy itself and as an exporter of such technology. In 2013 it became the first country ever in the world to have wind power as its main source of energy.
The climate of Spain, its geographic location, diverse landscapes, historical legacy, vibrant culture and excellent infrastructure, has made Spain's international tourist industry among the largest in the world. The Spain ranked the top of the most competitive traveling country for the first time in 2015. Meanwhile, Spain named most tourist-friendly country in the world.
State education in Spain is free and compulsory from the age of six to sixteen, and private schools are also included for all the range of compulsory education. In general, Spanish education is balanced. Well-known universities include the Polytechnic University of Madrid, ESADE Business School, IE Business School, and IESE Business School.
The health care system of Spain (Spanish National Health System) is considered one of the best in the world, in 7th position in the ranking elaborated by the World Health Organization. The system is essentially free in most cases, and public hospitals can provide free treatment. For example, Spanish citizens or those who have legal and valid documents in Spain (not valid for student visa) can enjoy the medical benefit as well as their children.