September 15th, 2008 - Spain
The Spanish mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. With an area of 504,030 km², Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe after France.
At 194,884 mi² (504,782 km²), Spain is the world’s 51st-largest country. It is some 47,000 km² smaller than France and 81,000 km² larger than the U.S. state of California.
On the west, Spain borders Portugal, on the south, it borders Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its cities in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra.
Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the isle of Alborán, the “rocks” (peñones) of Vélez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. Along the Pyrenees in Catalonia, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.
Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
Due to Spain’s geographical situation and orographic conditions, the climate is extremely diverse; it can be roughly divided into three areas:
- A Continental Mediterranean climate in the inland areas of the Peninsula (largest city, Madrid).
- A Mediterranean climate region extends from the Andalusian plain along the southern and eastern coasts up to the Pyrenees, on the seaward side of the mountain ranges that run near the coast (largest city, Barcelona). They get warm winds from the Saharas called Leveche, also known as Sirocco.
- An Oceanic climate in Galicia and the coastal strip near the Bay of Biscay (largest city, Bilbao). This area is often called Green Spain.
There is a territorial dispute with the United Kingdom over Gibraltar, a 6 square km Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom in the southernmost part of the Iberian Peninsula which was conquered by Britain from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession, along with the Spanish island of Minorca (which had also been invaded but was reconquered in 1782 and finally ceded back to Spain in 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens).
The legal situation concerning Gibraltar was settled in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, in which Spain ceded the territory in perpetuity to the British Crown stating that, should the British abandon this post, it would return to Spanish sovereignty.
Ever since the 1940s Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar. The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this, along with any proposal of shared sovereignty. UN resolutions call on the United Kingdom and Spain, both EU members, to reach an agreement over the status of Gibraltar.