Basque Country ( , ) is an Autonomous Community of northern
The Basque Country was granted the status of historical region
with the Spanish
Constitution of 1978
. The capital is Vitoria-Gasteiz (Vitoria is the name in Spanish,
Gasteiz in Basque) and Bilbao its largest
The autonomous community of the Basque Country should not be
confused with the larger Basque Country
"Euskal Herria") of which it is a component part.
The following provinces
the autonomous community:
Rioja vineyards near the Ebro.
Country borders with the Cantabrian and Burgos provinces to the west, the Bay of Biscay to the north, France and Navarre to the east
Rioja (the Ebro River) to the
Snow in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The territory has three distinct areas, that are
defined by the two parallel ranges of the Basque Mountains
. The main range of
mountains forms the water divide of the
Atlantic and Mediterranean basins. The highest point of the range is in the
Aitzkorri massif (1551 m).
The three areas are:
The Atlantic Basin
many valleys with short rivers that flow from the mountains to the
Biscay, like the Nervión, Urola or Oria.
The coast is rough, with high
cliffs and small inlets. The main features of the coast are the
Bilbao Abra Bay and the Estuary of Bilbao, the Urdaibai estuary and the Bidasoa-Txingudi Bay that forms the border
The middle section
the two mountain ranges, the area is occupied mainly by a high
plateau called Llanada Alavesa (Álava plains)
where the capital Gasteiz is located.
The rivers flow in
southern direction from the mountains to the Ebro river. Main
rivers are Zadorra
and Bayas river
The Ebro Valley
From the southern mountains to the Ebro, is the so called Rioja
, that shares the Mediterranean characteristics of
other Ebro Valley zones, here is produced part of the Rioja wine
Bilbao climate chart.
The Basque mountains form the water divide and mark also the
distinct climatic areas of the Basque Country:The northern valleys,
in Biscay and Gipuzkoa and also the valley of Ayala in Álava, are
part of the Green Spain
, where oceanic climate
is predominant, with its wet
weather all year round and moderate temperatures. Precipitation
average is about 1200 mm.
The middle section has a more Continental Mediterranean
, but with some influence of the northern oceanic one,
this causes dry and warm summers and cold and snowy winters.The
Ebro valley has a pure Continental Mediterranean climate, winters
are cold and dry and summers very warm and dry, with precipitation
peaking in spring and autumn. Precipitation is scarce and
irregular, as low as 300 mm.
Panorama of Bilbao.
View of San Sebastián.
Almost half of the 2,124,846 inhabitants of the Basque Country live
in Greater Bilbao
metropolitan area. Of the ten most populous cities, six form part
of Bilbao's conurbation
Barakaldo, Getxo, Portugalete, Santurce and Basauri).
At 28.2% of the Basque population born outside this region,
immigration is crucial to Basque demographics. Over the 20th century
most of this immigration came from other parts of Spain, typically
from Galicia or Castile-Leon.
Over the last years, sizeable numbers of
this population have returned to their birthplaces whereas
immigration to the Basque country currently originates abroad,
chiefly from South America.
- Vitoria (Basque: Gasteiz) (226,490)
- San Sebastian (Basque: Donostia) (183,308)
- Barakaldo (95,675)
- Portugalete (51,066)
- Santurce (47,320)
- Basauri (45,045)
- Rentería (38,397)
are co-official in all territories of
A 1984 language census showed that of the 2.1 million people in the
Autonomous Region, 23% of the population could understand Basque,
21% of the population could speak it, but only 13% of the
population could read the language and only 10% of the population
could write it.
This section is about the history of the Autonomous Community
since 1978. See also History of the Basque
Before the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and its system of
autonomous communities, these three provinces were known in Spanish
as the Provincias Vascongadas
. The political structure of
the new autonomous community is defined in the Gernika Statute
which was approved by a majority in a referendum
held on 25 October 1979. Nowadays it
is one of the most decentralized regions in the world, in this
regard it has been quoted as having "more autonomy than just
about any other in Europe
" by The
In 2003, the governing Basque
proposed to alter this statute through the
. The project, though
approved by majority in the Basque chamber, was finally rejected by
a large majority in the Madrid Cortes Generales on the grounds that it
contradicts the Spanish Constitution.
In this regard, Basque
cite the fact that in the 1978 Spanish Constitution
referendum, which was passed with a majority of votes in the Basque
Country, the Basque Country had the highest abstention
(the Basque Nationalist Party had
endorsed abstention on the grounds that the Constitution was being
forced upon them without any Basque input). To this, the "no" vote
in this referendum was also higher in the Basque Country than in
the rest of the state. All in all, many Basques believe that they
are not bound to a constitution that they never endorsed.
On May 5, 2009, after thirty years of nationalist government, the
(Basque presidency) was transferred to
, from the Basque
Socialist Party, after an unprecedent agreement with the
conservative Popular Party. after a very controversial election,
with more than 100,000 votes coming from the illegalised Basque
leftist nationalists considered void.
The Basque Autonomous Community is currently the wealthiest region
in Spain, with gross domestic
(GDP) per capita being 40% higher than that of the
and 33.8% higher than
Spain's average in 2008, at 31,110 EUR (43,500 USD as of 2009). and
.Industrial activities were traditionally centered on steel
mainly due to the rich iron ore
found during the 19th century around Bilbao. The Estuary of Bilbao
was the center of the Basque Country's industrial revolution
during the 19th
and the first half of the 20th century. These activities decayed
during the economic crisis
1970s and 1980s, giving ground for the development of the services sector
and new technologies.
Today, the strongest industrial sectors of the Basque Country's
economy are machine tool
, present in
the valleys of Biscay and Gipuzkoa, aeronautics
in Vitoria-Gasteiz and energy, in
The main companies in the Basque Country are: BBVA
company, (both of them have their headquarters
in Bilbao) Mondragón Cooperative
that is the largest cooperative in the world,
producer and CAF rolling stock
The strategic geographical location of the Basque Country as a link
between the northwest and centre of Spain and the rest of Europe
makes this territory a very transited one.
The main backbones of road transport are the AP-8 motorway
that links Bilbao, San
Sebastián and the French border and the A-1 motorway
that links San Sebastián and
Gasteiz with central Spain.Other important routes include the
that links Bilbao
with the Mediterranean.
Eusko Trenbide Sarea
(Basque Railway Network
) is the Basque Government owned
company that maintains and creates the railway infraestructure in
the autonomous community.
) is the
Basque Government owned narrow gauge
rail company that operates commuter services in Bilbao and San
Sebastián, intercity Bilbao-San Sebastián service, and EuskoTran
tram services in Bilbao and
is the company that
operates the two metro
serve Greater Bilbao.
The Spanish government owns two main RENFE
lines that link Gasteiz with
San Sebastián and Bilbao with central Spain. Besides it operates
commuter lines in both
Bilbao and San Sebastián.
FEVE narrow gauge company operates a commuter line
between Bilbao and Balmaseda and links Bilbao with the rest of northern
The Basque Y.
A new high speed
network (called Basque Y
) is under construction, that will link the
three capitals in 'Y' form. It is scheduled to be completed in 2013,
including a connection with the French TGV
network in Hendaye.
Because of the rough geography of the
territory, most of the network will run through tunnels.
The three capitals have airports:
Of the three, the most important hub and entry point to the Basque
Country is Bilbao Airport, offering many international connections
and through which moved over 4,200,000 passengers in 2007.
most important ports are the Port of Bilbao and the Port of
Pasaia. There are other minor fishing ports like
Port of Bilbao.
The Port of Bilbao is by far the most important of the Basque
Country and the north of Spain, being the fourth most important in
Spain with over 38 million tons of traffic.
cruising routes arrive to Bilbao, there is a ferry service that links Bilbao with Portsmouth (United Kingdom).
Two sample pintxos.
is an important part
of Basque culture
. According to the
, the third best
restaurant of the world is located in San Sebastian. The most
popular dishes there are the seafood, fish (for example Marmitako
) and the "Pintxos
". It's popular to go to the Basque Country
for the food, especially the "pintxos". Many people do something
that's called "ir de pintxos
", Basque version of pub crawl
Basque parliament building in
The current laws configure the autonomous community as a federation
of the three constituent provinces, which had been ruled locally
since their incorporation to Castile in 1200 by their own laws and
institutions in what is known as the Foral
. These autonomous regimes, similar to the one
for Navarre, were curtailed in the 19th century, largely
Franco, but restored by the Spanish Constitution of
The post-Franco Spanish Constitution of 1978 acknowledges
"historical rights" and attempts compromise in the old conflict
by the establishment of autonomous communities
Leon, Catalonia, the Valencian Community, etc). The provincial governments (diputación
foral) were restored only in the Basque Country and Navarre, but many of their powers were transferred to the
new government of the Basque Country and Navarra autonomous
communities; however, the provinces still perform tax collection in
their respective territories, coordinating with the Basque, Spanish
and European governments.
Under this system the Diputaciones Forales
) administer most of each of the provinces
but are coordinated and centralized by the autonomous Basque Government
, Basque: Eusko Jaurlaritza
of the Basque Parliament and
Government are in Vitoria-Gasteiz, but the Statute of Autonomy of
the Basque Country provides for their transference to Pamplona if Navarre ever decides to join the Basque
The Parliament is composed of 25
representatives from each of the three provinces. The Basque
Parliament elects the Lehendakari
(President) who forms a government following regular parliamentary
procedures. Until 2009 all Lehendakaris
(even those in
1937 and during the exile) have been members of the Basque Nationalist Party
Alderdi Jeltzalea) (moderate and Christian-Democrat
) since 1978. Despite
their continued leadership role, they have not always enjoyed
majorities for their party and have needed to form coalitions with
either Spain wide parties or left-leaning Basque nationalist
parties, often governing in a difficult minority position.
Ertzaintza police car in Bilbao.
The former government was led by Juan José Ibarretxe
Jeltzalea) and supported also by left-leaning nationalists of
Solidarity) and Communist-dominated Ezker Batua
Both non-regional parties, Partido Socialista de Euskadi
(federated to the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party) and Partido Popular
reached an agreement in the votation for new president and Patxi López
was elected as Lehendakari on
May 5 2009, ending a thirty year nationalist predominance.
The autonomous community has its own police force (the Ertzaintza
), controls the education and health system
, and has a Basque radio/TV station
. These and
other powers have since 1980 been transferred to the Autonomous
Community by the Cortes Generales
under the Gernika Statute
The statute provides for mechanisms for neighbour Navarre, which
also has a Basque ethnic background and is claimed as the core of
the nation by Basque
, to join the three western provinces if it wishes
to do so. In such a case, the seat of the common
administration would be moved to Pamplona.
Basque Government used the "Laurak Bat
which included the arms of Navarre, as its symbol for many years.
Navarre protested, and tribunals ruled in their favour. The Basque
Government replaced it with an empty red field.
is just one of the territories that the Basque nationalist parties
claim as Basque territory; there are also two enclaves surrounded by Basque territory −Treviño (Basque: Trebiñu) and Valle de Villaverde (Basque:
Villaverde-Turtzioz)− which belong to the fellow
neighbouring communities of Castile and León and Cantabria respectively.
- Spain The Basques - Flags, Maps, Economy, History,
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Agreements, Population, Social Statistics, Political
- Spain and its regions | Autonomy games |
- Archivo de Resultados Electorales
El Correo May 6 2009