Southern European state of significant territorial, demographic and economic dimensions: it is in fact the second country in the EU by area, the fourth by population, the fifth by global GDP.
The Spain, proceeding without stopping since the mid-seventies of the twentieth century in the path of democratization and the full application of the regional order provided for by the Constitution, has made much more conspicuous progress than could have been foreseen at the time of its entry into the Economic Community. European (1986), when the gap with most other Member States appeared too large to allow for a significant reduction. Twenty years after that date, however, the country, after centuries of decline and absence from the world scene, has regained its own international prestige and has carved out a European role: the first, with an active presence in the debate on Middle Eastern politics and on Maghreb and Latin American events (the Maghreb is the object of Spanish attention for its geographical contiguity, Hispanic America for its centuries-old historical-cultural and economic ties); the second, with the role of model that the most advanced community, Catalonia, has assumed in the leadership of the economic and territorial organization of the Latin Arc,
Already in the early nineties a phase of stationarity was foreseen in the very short term which in fact occurred starting from 1995, the year in which the Spain completed its demographic transition at the national average level.
The birth rate fell to about 9%, one of the lowest values in Europe and the whole world, almost equal to that of the death rate; and a little later the fertility rate plummeted to the exceptionally low value of 1.2, a fact unimaginable in a country whose demographic behavior had hitherto been rigorously dictated by Catholic orthodoxy. The increase that occurred in the years immediately following, bringing the population of the Spain to touch the 41,000,000 units at the beginning of the 21st century. (40,709,455 residents Recorded by the 2001 census) and 44,000,000 five years later (2005 estimates), was therefore due solely to immigration, mainly of African, Latin American origin and also from Eastern European countries, especially Romania: an immigration that is still largely clandestine, despite the policies aimed at regularizing the position of immigrants and the containment of arrivals through stricter border controls, including by resorting, since 2001, to expulsion measures. The clandestinity mainly concerns the flows coming from Africa, facilitated by the belonging to the South. of physically African territories such as the Canary archipelago and the presidios of Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish enclaves on Moroccan soil. However, there are not insignificant differences in the demographic dynamics of the various Spanish autonomous communities: for example, the natural balance is still positive in Andalusia, which has remained lagging behind in a rural culture and behavior; and slightly positive even in some of the more modernized communities, where however the arrival of immigrants has rejuvenated the population ensuring the maintenance of a slightly higher birth rate.
According to 800zipcodes, the urban population has not undergone significant increases, remaining, still in 2004, at 78%, roughly the same percentage as a decade earlier. However, there have also been significant changes in the urban fabric resulting from the so-called counter-urbanization, a rather improper term since it is a process that is not opposed to urbanization, but rather produces new forms of it. These changes are due to the demographic and topographical growth of the cities of the more dynamic areas to the detriment of those of the declining rural areas; the demographic stagnation of larger urban organisms to the advantage of medium and small-sized cities; to the loss of residents in the old central areas of the metropolis and to the purchase in the suburban and peri-urban ones, with a consequent increase in the size of urban agglomerations (this is particularly evident for Madrid and Barcelona, which,5,600,000 and 3,775,000 residents in 2006, occupy the third and fifth place among the agglomerations of Europe, excluding the Russian Federation). The network of cities is not very balanced: most of the major urban organisms are concentrated along the coasts (or in any case in the autonomous maritime communities and archipelagos), while, apart from the capital and Zaragoza, they are absent in the internal communities.
The regional autonomies have produced, also as a reaction to the centralist cultural policy long pursued by Francoism, a great fervor of initiatives aimed at the revaluation and dissemination, through school teaching and the use in administrative and judicial documents, of languages other than Castilian. This has manifested itself with considerable success in Catalonia, both for the demographic dimensions and the economic weight of this autonomous community, and for the historical-literary importance of the Catalan language, and for the presence of numerous and important cultural institutions, and finally, and above all, for the determination of the Catalans and their rulers in pursuing the achievement of an ever wider autonomy,2006, on the occasion of the approval of a new regional statute). This linguistic policy has not been as successful in Galicia, where it was conducted with much less determination, and in the Basque Country, where the objective difficulty of the language and even more the political contingencies (radical opposition to the central government, even with recourse to a terrorism which was believed to have ceased but which instead showed signs of recovery at the end of 2006), make everything more complicated (see also Baschi).