- Autonomous communities of Spain
Autonomous community Category Autonomous area Location Spain Created by Spanish Constitution Created 1978 Number 17 + 2 autonomous cities Populations 78,476–8,415,490 Areas 4,992–94,222 km² Government Autonomous government Subdivisions Province Comarca Municipality
An autonomous community (Spanish: comunidad autónoma, IPA: [komuniˈðað auˈtonoma])[note 1] is the first-level political division of the Kingdom of Spain, established in accordance with the current Spanish Constitution (1978). The second article of the constitution recognizes the rights of "nationalities and regions" to self-government and declares the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation".
Political power in Spain is organized as a central government with devolved power for 17 autonomous communities. These regional governments are responsible for the administration of schools, universities, health, social services, culture, urban and rural development and, in some cases, policing. There are also 2 autonomous cities.
Under the "system of autonomies" (Estado de las Autonomías), Spain has been quoted to be "remarkable for the extent of the powers peacefully devolved over the past 30 years" and "an extraordinarily decentralised country", with the central government accounting for just 18% of public spending; the regional governments 38%, the local councils 13% and the social-security system the rest.
In terms of personnel, by 2010 almost 1,350,000 people or 50.3% of the total civil servants in Spain were employed by the autonomous communities; city councils and provincial diputaciones accounted for 23.6% and those employees working for the central administration (police and military included) represented 22.2% of the total.
Centralism, nationalism, and separatism played an important role in the Spanish transition to democracy. For fear that separatism would lead to instability and a dictatorial backlash, a compromise was struck among the moderate political parties taking part in the drafting of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. The aim was to appease separatist forces and to disarm the extreme right. A highly decentralized state was established, compared to both the previous centralist Francoist regime and the most modern territorial arrangements in Western European nations. In this regard, the current Spanish Estado de las Autonomías is often dubbed as one of the most decentralized states in Europe.
The constitution classified the autonomous communities to be created into two groups. Each group had a different route to accede to autonomy and was to be granted a different level of power and responsibility. Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia were designated "historic nationalities" and granted autonomy through a rapid and simplified process. These three regions had voted on and approved a Statute of Autonomy in the past.
While the Constitution was still being drafted, there was a popular outcry in Andalusia for its own right to autonomy, with over a million and a half people demonstrating in the streets on 4 December 1977, which led the creation of a special quicker process for autonomy for that region, although it was not originally considered a historical nationality. Eventually, all regions could be granted autonomy, if they complied with the requirements set forth in the constitution, and if their people wished to do so; and four additional communities self-identified as "nationalities" as well as the four already mentioned.
Between 1979 and 1983, the majority of the regions were constituted as autonomous communities, in accordance with the 143rd and the 151st articles of the constitution. Nonetheless, the case of the province of Madrid was exceptional. Since it was not a province with a separate historical regional identity but part of the cultural region of Castile, it was considered a natural province that would compose the soon-to-be Community of Castile-La Mancha. During the process that led to the autonomy of this region, the old rivalry between Toledo and Madrid resurfaced; as capital of Spain, Madrid was to enjoy a degree of self-government, and Castilians demanded absolute equality amongst the constituent provinces of the community, and thus excluded Madrid from their project of self-government.
Other alternatives included the incorporation of Madrid to the community of Castile and León (the historical region of Old Castile) or its controversial constitution as something similar to a "Federal District" or territory, emulating Mexico City, or Washington, D.C. Finally, it was decided to opt for the creation of a single-province autonomous community; however, for want of a historical regional identity, Madrid was granted autonomy "in the nation's interest" through the prerogatives of the 144th article.
The Basque Country and Navarre were also exceptional cases. While the Basque Country was granted autonomy through the rapid process granted to the "nationalities", it also retained the economic and fiscal autonomy that it had enjoyed through the fueros or charters. Navarre was granted autonomy through the "update and improvement" of the medieval charters. As such, it is the only region that does not have a Statute of Autonomy per se, instead autonomy was via a "Law of Reintegration and Improvement of the Chartered Regime".
In theory, Navarre is the only first-level political division that is not an "autonomous community" but a "chartered community", but, in practice, except for the fiscal autonomy it enjoys along with the Basque Country, it is administratively constituted as any other autonomous community and is represented in the Spanish Parliament like the rest. Although the constitution forbids the federation or union of autonomous communities, an addendum or "transitional provision" to the constitution makes an exclusion whereby Navarre could join the Basque Country if the people chose to do so.
Leonese administrations proposed a Leonese Autonomous Community for the Province of León, as a continuity of the Leonese Region comprising León, Salamanca and Zamora provinces created in 1833. The Kingdom of León and Diputación Provincial de León (Leonese Provincial Government); and many municipalities including León and Ponferrada; supported this model (some of them supported the Leonese Autonomous Community as a "Historical Nationality"). The Tribunal Constitucional of Spain rejected the Leonese proposal in 1984, and León was joined with Castile to create the "Castile and León Autonomous Community", supported by only 4% of the Leonese municipalities.
Upon the ratification of its new Constitution in 1978, Spain created a system of regional autonomy, known as the "state of the autonomies". The second article of the constitution grants the right of self-government to the regions and nationalities that integrate into the Spanish nation. In the exercise of the right to self-government recognized in that article, autonomy was to be granted to the following:
- two or more adjacent provinces with common historical, cultural and economical characteristics,
- insular territories, and
- a single province with historical identity or status.
As such, the province, which is also a territorial local entity recognized by the constitution, serves as the framework from which the autonomous communities were to be created. However, the constitution allows exceptions to the above, namely that the Spanish Parliament reserves the right to:
- authorize, in the nation's interest, the constitution of an autonomous community even if it is a single province without a historical regional identity; and
- authorize or grant autonomy to those entities or territories that are not constituted as provinces.
Once an autonomous community had been constituted, the 145th article of the constitution prohibits the federation or union of two or more autonomous communities. Between 1979 and 1983, all the regions in Spain had been constituted as autonomous communities; in 1996 the process was closed when the autonomous status of Ceuta and Melilla was passed. In total, 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities were created:
- Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia—as "historical nationalities"— were granted autonomy through a fast and simplified process;
- Andalusia was not a historical nationality (one that had had a statute of autonomy before the Spanish Civil War). However, Andalusia was able to meet the requirements established by Congress to develop its autonomy through the fast process.
- Aragon, Castile and León, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, and the Valencian Community were granted autonomy as communities integrated by two or more provinces with common historical characteristics;
- the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands were granted autonomy as insular territories, with the former composed of two provinces;
- Cantabria, Asturias, La Rioja, and Murcia were granted autonomy as single provinces with historical regional identity, as well as Navarre, even though the latter was granted autonomy through the "update and improvement" of the medieval charters (Spanish: fueros);
- the Community of Madrid was constituted for the nation's interest;
- Ceuta and Melilla, both cities, were granted autonomy—albeit limited—in spite of not being provinces themselves.
As a general rule, the communities that were granted its autonomy through the fast process have more competences and higher levels of autonomy. These competences and autonomy rights are not defined in a closed list; these can change over time.
The basic institutional law of the autonomous community is the Statute of Autonomy. The Statutes of Autonomy establish the name of the community according to its historical identity, the limits of their territories, the name and organization of the institutions of government and the rights they enjoy according the constitution.
The government of all autonomous communities must be based on a division of powers comprising:
- a Legislative Assembly whose members must be elected by universal suffrage according to the system of proportional representation and in which all areas that integrate the territory are fairly represented;
- a Government Council, with executive and administrative functions headed by a president, elected by the Legislative Assembly and nominated by the King of Spain;
- a Supreme Court of Justice, under the Supreme Court of the State, which head the judicial organization within the autonomous community.
Besides Andalusia, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, which identified themselves as nationalities, other communities have also taken that denomination in accordance to their historical regional identity, such as the Valencian Community, the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, and Aragon.
The autonomous communities have wide legislative and executive autonomy, with their own parliaments and regional governments. The distribution of powers may be different for every community, as laid out in their Statutes of Autonomy. There used to be a clear de facto distinction between so called "historic" communities (Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia, Andalusia) and the rest. The "historic" ones initially received more functions, including the ability of the regional presidents to choose the timing of the regional elections (as long as they happen no more than four years apart). As another example, the Basque Country, Navarre and Catalonia have full-range police forces of their own: Ertzaintza in the Basque Country, Policía Foral in Navarre and Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalonia. Other communities have a more limited force or none at all (like the Policía Autónoma Andaluza in Andalusia or the BESCAM in Madrid). However, the recent amendments made to their respective Statute of Autonomy by a series of "ordinary" Autonomous Communities such as the Valencian Community or Aragon have quite diluted this original de facto distinction.
Autonomous communities are integrated by provinces (provincias), which serve as the territorial building blocks for the former. In turn, provinces are integrated by municipalities (municipios). The existence of these two subdivisions is guaranteed and protected by the constitution, not necessarily by the Statutes of Autonomy themselves. Municipalities are granted autonomy to manage their internal affairs, and provinces are the territorial divisions designed to carry out the activities of the State.
The current fifty-province structure is based—with minor changes—on the one created in 1833 by Javier de Burgos. The communities of Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, the Balearic Islands, Madrid, Murcia and Navarre, having been granted autonomy as single-provinces for historical reasons, are counted as provinces as well.
List of the communities and provinces
Capital Provinces Capital Andalusia
Seville (Government, Parliament and Ombudsman)
Granada (High Court of Justice)
Almería Almería Cádiz Cádiz Cordova
Granada Granada Huelva Huelva Jaén Jaén Málaga Málaga Seville
Principality of Asturias
Sp.. Principado de Asturias
Ast. Principáu d'Asturies
Sp. Islas Baleares
Cat. Illes Balears (official)
Sp. Palma de Mallorca
Cat. Palma (official)
Sp. Islas Baleares
Cat. Illes Balears (official)
Sp. Palma de Mallorca
Cat. Palma (official)
Sp.. País Vasco, Comunidad Autónoma Vasca
Ba.. Euskadi, Euskal Autonomia Erkidegoa
Ba. Gipuzkoa (official)
Sp. San Sebastián
Donostia-San Sebastián (official)
Ba. Bizkaia (official)
Sp. Islas Canarias
Santa Cruz de Tenerife &
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Santa Cruz de Tenerife Santa Cruz de Tenerife Las Palmas Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Cantabria Santander Cantabria Santander Castile-La Mancha
Sp. Castilla-La Mancha
Toledo (Government and Parliament)
Albacete (High Court of Justice and Ombudsman)
Albacete Albacete Ciudad Real Ciudad Real Cuenca Cuenca Guadalajara Guadalajara Toledo Toledo Castile and León
Sp. Castilla y León
Valladolid (Government and Parliament)
Burgos (High Court of Justice)
Ávila Ávila Burgos Burgos León
Palencia Palencia Salamanca
Segovia Segovia Soria Soria Valladolid Valladolid Zamora
Cat. Catalunya (official)
Oc.-Ara. Catalonha (official)
Barcelona Barcelona Barcelona Girona
Cat. Girona (official)
Cat. Girona (official)
Cat. Lleida (official)
Cat. Lleida (official)
Tarragona Tarragona Extremadura Mérida Badajoz Badajoz Cáceres Cáceres Galicia
Gl. Galicia, Galiza
Santiago de Compostela (Government, Parliament and Ombudsman)
Corunna (High Court of Justice)
Sp. La Coruña
Gl. A Coruña (official)
Sp. La Coruña
Gl. A Coruña (official)
Sp. La Coruña
Gl. A Coruña (official)
Lugo Lugo Ourense
Gl. Ourense (official)
Gl. Ourense (official)
Pontevedra Pontevedra La Rioja Logroño La Rioja Logroño Community of Madrid
Sp. Comunidad de Madrid
Madrid Madrid Madrid Region of Murcia
Sp. Región de Murcia
Cat.-Va. Regió de Múrcia
Murcia (Government, High Court of Justice and Ombudsman)
Murcia Murcia Chartered Community of Navarre
Sp. Comunidad Foral de Navarra
Ba. Nafarroako Foru Komunitatea
Sp. Comunidad Valenciana
Cat.-Va. Comunitat Valenciana (official)
Castellón de la Plana
Sp. Castellón de la Plana
Cat.-Va. Castelló de la Plana
- See also
- Ranked list of Spanish autonomous communities
- List of ISO 3166 codes for Spanish autonomous communities and provinces
Autonomous cities and "plazas de soberanía"
Ceuta and Melilla are called ciudades autónomas (autonomous cities). Their status is in between regular cities and autonomous communities: on the one side, Ceuta and Melilla autonomous parliaments cannot enact "autonomous" laws, but, on the other side, they can enact regulations to execute laws, which are greater regulatory powers than those of regular city councils.
Nowadays the Perejil Island is considered a neutral territory between Spain and Morocco, but it is dominated by Spain de facto as a fourth plaza de soberanía. Today the Alborán Island is part of the municipality of Almería, in the homonymous province.
Government of the autonomous communities and autonomous cities
Since Elections Last Next Andalusia PSOE José Antonio Griñán Martínez PSOE 2009 2008 2012 Basque Country PSOE and PP Francisco Javier López Álvarez PSOE 2009 2009 2013 Galicia PP Alberto Núñez Feijóo PP 2009 2009 2013 Catalonia CiU Artur Mas I Gavarró CiU 2010 2010 2014 Aragon PP and PAR Luisa Fernanda Rudi Ubeda PP 2011 2011 2015 Principality of Asturias FAC Francisco Álvarez Cascos FAC 2011 2011 2015 Balearic Islands PP José Ramón Bauzà Díaz PP 2011 2011 2015 Canary Islands CC and PSOE Paulino Rivero Baute CC 2007 2011 2015 Cantabria PP Juan Ignacio Diego Palacios PP 2011 2011 2015 Castile-La Mancha PP María Dolores de Cospedal García PP 2011 2011 2015 Castile and León PP Juan Vicente Herrera Campo PP 2001 2011 2015 Extremadura PP José Antonio Monago Terraza PP 2011 2011 2015 La Rioja PP Pedro Sanz Alonso PP 1995 2011 2015 Community of Madrid PP Esperanza Aguirre y Gil de Biedma PP 2003 2011 2015 Region of Murcia PP Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso PP 1995 2011 2015 Chartered Community of Navarre UPN and PSOE Yolanda Barcina Angulo UPN 2011 2011 2015 Valencian Community PP Alberto Fabra Part PP 2011 2011 2015 Ceuta PP Juan Jesús Vivas Lara PP 2001 2011 2015 Melilla PP Juan José Imbroda Ortiz PP 2000 2011 2015
- Anthems of the autonomous communities of Spain
- Coats of arms of the autonomous communities of Spain
- Flags of the autonomous communities of Spain
- Ranked list of the autonomous communities of Spain
- Nationalities and regions of Spain
- Provinces of Spain
- Comarcas of Spain
- Municipalities of Spain & List of municipalities of Spain
- Metropolitan areas in Spain
- NUTS of Spain
- ISO 3166-2:ES codes
- ^ a b c d e f "Regional Government". Spain. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Accessed 10 December 2007
- ^ a b Preliminary Title. Second Article. Spanish Constitution of 1978. Accessed: 10 December 2007
- ^ a b "A survey of Spain: How much is enough?". The Economist. 6 November 2008. http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12501023. Retrieved 25 August 2010. (subscription required)
- ^ Mallet, Victor (18 August 2010). "Flimsier footings". Financial Times. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/de6c00f0-8c25-11de-b14f-00144feabdc0.html. Retrieved 25 August 2010. (registration required)
- ^ 
- ^ 
- ^ "CNN.com - Catalonians vote for more autonomy - Jun 18, 2006". CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/06/18/catalonia.vote/index.html.
- ^ Global Education Reform | Decentralization and SBM Resource Kit
- ^ a b Keating, M. (2006). Federalism and the Balance of Power in European States. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Accessed: 10 December 2007
- ^ a b Sinópsis del Estatuto de Autonomia de la Comunidad de Madrid. Congreso de los Diputados. Accessed: 10 December 1979
- ^ Preliminary Title. First Article. Statute of Autonomy of the Community of Madrid
- ^ Fourth Transitional Provision. Spanish Constitution of 1978
- ^ Poll made by Leonese Provincial Government in 1980.
- ^ Chapter 3. Autonomous Communities. 143rd Article. Spanish Constitution of 1978. Accessed: 10 December 2007
- ^ Chapter 3. Autonomous Communities. 141st Article. Spanish Constitution of 1978. Accessed: 10 December 2007
- ^ Chapter 3. Autonomous Communities. 144th Article. Spanish Constitution of 1978. Accessed: 10 December 2007
- ^ Chapter 3. Autonomous Communities. 145th Article. Spanish Constitution of 1978. Accessed: 10 December 2007
- ^ Chapter 3. Autonomous Communities. 147th Article. Spanish Constitution of 1978. Accessed: 10 December 2007
- ^ Estatut d'Autonomia de la Comunitat Valenciana, 2006
- ^ Nuevo Estatuto de Autonomía de Canarias
- ^ Estatut d'Autonomia de les Illes Balears, 2007
- ^ Estatuto de Autonomía de Aragón
- ^ Cartujo.org. "Unidad de Policía de la Comunidad Autónoma de Andalucía". http://www.cartujo.org/pag(a9).htm. Retrieved 2007-10-23. (Spanish)
- ^ Articles 140 and 141. Spanish Constitution of 1978
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Not an official language but is protected and regulated, and spoken by a local minority.
- ^ Official in Val d'Aran.
- Information about Spain's Autonomous Communities from rulers.org
- Relations between tiers – CityMayors feature
- Maps of the Autonomous Communities of Spain
- Maps of the Autonomous Communities of Spain in Chinese
- David Brighty. State and region: the Spanish experience.
Autonomies of Spain Autonomous communities Autonomous cities Plazas de soberanía Provinces of Spain
A Coruña · Álava · Albacete · Alicante · Almería · Asturias · Ávila · Badajoz · Balearic Islands · Barcelona · Biscay · Burgos · Cáceres · Cádiz · Cantabria · Castellón · Ciudad Real · Córdoba · Cuenca · Girona · Granada · Guadalajara · Gipuzkoa · Huelva · Huesca · Jaén · Las Palmas · León · Lleida · Lugo · Madrid · Málaga · Murcia · Navarre · Ourense · Palencia · Pontevedra · La Rioja · Salamanca · Segovia · Seville · Soria · Tarragona · Santa Cruz de Tenerife · Teruel · Toledo · Valencia · Valladolid · Zamora · Zaragoza
First-level administrative divisions in Europe Sovereign
Albania · Andorra · Armenia2 · Austria · Azerbaijan3 · Belarus · Belgium · Bosnia and Herzegovina · Bulgaria · Croatia · Cyprus2 · Czech Republic · Denmark · Estonia · Finland · France1 · Georgia3 · Germany · Greece · Hungary · Iceland · Ireland · Italy · Kazakhstan2 · Latvia · Liechtenstein · Lithuania · Luxembourg · Republic of Macedonia · Malta · Moldova · Monaco · Montenegro · Netherlands · Norway · Poland · Portugal · Romania · Russia1 · San Marino · Serbia · Slovakia · Slovenia · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland · Turkey1 · Ukraine · United Kingdom
States with limited
Lists of administrative country subdivisions
Table of administrative divisions by country
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