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Spain’s Territorial Composition: A Detailed Look

Tiempo de lectura: 3 minutos

Spain is a member country of the European Union (EU), a unique entity that isn’t a country in itself but rather a union of sovereign nations that have chosen to collaborate closely in various areas, such as economics, politics, and security, to mutually strengthen and promote peace, stability, and well-being across the European continent. The EU aims to facilitate cooperation among its member states while simultaneously respecting the sovereignty and individualities of each.

In Spain’s case, the country is territorially organized into autonomous communities, and each of these communities is further divided into provinces. This structure allows for closer and more tailored administrative management to the characteristics and needs of each Spanish region within the broader framework of the European Union.

Spain’s Autonomous Communities

Spain is a country with rich cultural and geographical diversity, and its territorial organization reflects this complexity. The country is divided into autonomous communities and, subsequently, into provinces. But what exactly are they, and how do they relate to each other?

What is an Autonomous Community?

An Autonomous Community (CA) is a territorial entity that, within the Spanish state, has competencies and self-governing powers in certain areas, such as education, health, and transportation. These competencies vary from one community to another, based on the autonomy statutes each holds.

Autonomous Communities in Spain

Spain consists of 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla). The autonomous communities are:

  1. Andalusia
  2. Aragon
  3. Principality of Asturias
  4. Balearic Islands
  5. Canary Islands
  6. Cantabria
  7. Castile and León
  8. Castilla-La Mancha
  9. Catalonia
  10. Extremadura
  11. Galicia
  12. Madrid
  13. Region of Murcia
  14. Chartered Community of Navarre
  15. La Rioja
  16. Basque Country
  17. Valencian Community

What is a Province?

Within the autonomous communities, Spain is divided into provinces. A province is an administrative division smaller than an autonomous community but larger than a municipality. Each province has a capital and can consist of several municipalities.

Provinces by Autonomous Community

The provinces that make up each autonomous community are:

  • Andalusia: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga, Seville.
  • Aragon: Huesca, Teruel, Zaragoza.
  • Asturias: Asturias (uniprovincial).
  • Balearic Islands: Balearic Islands (uniprovincial).
  • Canary Islands: Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
  • Cantabria: Cantabria (uniprovincial).
  • Castilla y León: Ávila, Burgos, León, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid, Zamora.
  • Castilla-La Mancha: Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Toledo.
  • Catalonia: Barcelona, ​​Girona, Lleida, Tarragona.
  • Extremadura: Badajoz, Cáceres.
  • Galicia: A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense, Pontevedra.
  • Madrid: Madrid (uniprovincial).
  • Murcia: Murcia (uniprovincial).
  • Navarra: Navarra (uniprovincial).
  • La Rioja: La Rioja (uniprovincial).
  • Basque Country: Álava, Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia.
  • Valencian Community: Alicante, Castellón, Valencia.

The autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla are not divided into provinces

Ceuta and Melilla: Spain’s Autonomous Cities in Africa

Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish enclaves located on the north coast of Africa, and they hold a unique distinction within Spain’s territorial organization: they are the only autonomous cities in the country. Though geographically situated on the African continent, both cities are integral parts of Spain and hold special status

Unlike the autonomous communities on the Iberian Peninsula and the islands, which can consist of multiple provinces, Ceuta and Melilla are simultaneously cities and autonomous entities, meaning they don’t belong to any province and have competencies similar to an autonomous community.

Both cities have a rich history and have been influenced by various cultures over the centuries, including Roman, Arab, and European cultures. Due to their strategic location at the Strait of Gibraltar, they have been coveted by different powers and have undergone numerous sovereignty changes.

Today, Ceuta and Melilla serve as gateways between Europe and Africa and represent meeting points among diverse cultures and religions. Despite their small size, both cities boast significant cultural and religious diversity, with Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu communities coexisting harmoniously.

Administratively, like the autonomous communities, Ceuta and Melilla have their autonomy statutes, parliaments, and governments, and manage competencies in areas like education, health, and transportation. However, some competencies, such as defense and foreign relations, remain under the jurisdiction of Spain’s Central Government.

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