At a Glance:
Current constitution in force since: 1978
Constituent units: 17 comunidades autónomas (English: autonomous communities) and 2 ciudades autónomas (autonomous cities)
Head of State: Monarch
Head of Government: Prime Minister
Our work in Spain
Since 2003 the Forum has worked with local partners in Spain to organize learning events on critical issues ranging from best practices on water management in federal countries to an analysis of Spain's experience in allowing regions to set and collect their own taxes.
Federalism in Spain
Spain, which joined the European Union in 1986, is often referred to as having a form of asymmetrical federalism – that is, being made up of regions with differing powers. The 17 autonomous communities have histories that predate modern Spain.
A parliamentary democracy with a king as head of state, Spain operates under its 1978 constitution, which brought back democracy after the death of Francesco Franco. It is not a federation, but it shares many of the institutional features of federal countries.
As a country formed out of many small kingdoms with distinct identities dating back to 1492, Spain has long faced the unfinished task of nation-building.
Federalism, historically a democratizing force in Spain, was one possible response to the problem of state and nation-building. The Federal Republic of 1873-74 sought to introduce federalism from the bottom up, but political opposition prevented the implementation of a territorial structure and division of power. The Civil War of 1936-39 was partly about destroying regional autonomy and reinstating unity. The 1939-75 dictatorship of Franco repressed nationalism and regional culture in the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia.
* Development assistance program countries