Lableda

The Basque country in Spain.

In 2017 there were headlines coming out of Spain of the Catalan’s fight for independence. The region, with Barcelona as its capital, had been conducting a referendum to push their fight to break away from Spain. However Catalonia is not the only region in the country that has pushed to break away from the country and the area that done so most regularly is the Basque Country. The Basque Country was granted the status of nationality within Spain by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The region has its own parliament buildings and presidential residence which are located in the city of Vitoria-Gastiez which acts as the regions capital. It is not the largest city in the area as its population of 250,000 people is dwarfed by the 350,000 people who live in Bilbao.

Parliament in Vitoria-Gastiez

The region is made up of three provinces, Alava, Bisquay and Gipuzkoa. Within the heart of the country are the Basque Mountains which provide a dividing watershed for those rivers that flow into the Atlantic and those that flow into the Mediterranean. The watershed also provides a division between two different and separate climates. To the north the influence of the Ocean provides a wet climate all year round and has produced a greener looking country. To the south of the regions the climate is hotter giving the area a geography that looks like the rest of Spain. Over 2 million people live in the Basque Country and over 30 % of people over 16 years of age could speak the Basque language fluently. The language is spoken alongside Spanish in the region. The area has its own police force and controls its education and health. Despite having its own parliament that is composed of 25 representatives from throughout the region there are still people who want complete separation from Spain. This led to the rise of ETA, a paramilitary group, founded in 1959 it has held a violent campaign of bombings and kidnappings to highlight the region’s fight for independence.

The port at Bilbao

Between 1968 and 2010 over 820 people have been killed, and currently 300 of its members reside in Spanish and French jails. Currently a permanent ceasefire is in place and in April 2017 it gave up all of its weapons and explosives and was officially disarmed. During the 2017 Catalan referendum crisis the Basque government gave its support to the Catalan’s struggles against the Spanish. The Basque country has the highest per capita income and GDP of any region in Spain. The region was originally economically strong as a result of the steel and shipbuilding industries that were built around Bilbao that took advantage of the areas iron ore supplies. In time these industries have declined but have been replaced by service industries and high technology companies. Light industries still successfully survives and there is a healthy balance of jobs among the different sectors of industry. The economic success of the Basque Country has given it a strong bargaining position with its continuing discussions with the Spanish Government over independence. The recent fight has been to gain full separate membership to Ecofin which is the European Union’s economic council. One of the most important parts that the region plays is a transport centre between Spain and the rest of Europe. As a result of its geographical position many road and rail networks run through the area. It also has three airports and two large seaports at Bilbao and Pasaia. The region is a popular destination for tourists as the Basque country has its own unique culture that is different from the rest of Spain. The cuisine is renowned for its quality with Spain’s first Michelin 3 star being awarded to a Basque restaurant and the diet of the people contains a good proportion of high quality fish dishes. Basque Country has two team that play in Spain’s top football division. Real Sociedad hail from San Sebastien and Athletic Bilbao play in Bilbao. Athletic Bilbao only employ players who are born, or have trained, in the region. Real Sociedad abandoned the same policy in late 1980’s when they signed the Irish striker John Aldridge.

The Basque Country is a rich and flourishing part of Spain.