Country profile - Distinguishing factors (Spain)
Geography and extension. The greatest part of Spanish national territory is located in the Iberian Peninsula, at the South-Western end of Europe. It includes, besides, two archipelagos: the Canary and the Balearic Islands, other smaller islands and the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. The country’s peninsular section covers an area of 493,514 square kilometres, whereas that of the islands amounts to 12,484 square kilometres. The whole area (506,030 square kilometres) makes Spain one of the 50 largest countries in the world and the second largest in the EU-27, next to France. Spain is under the influence of two bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, linked by the Straits of Gibraltar. The length of the coastline can reach 10,099 kilometres, if the mouths of the rivers, up to the point where tides make themselves felt, are to be included; the total area of the waters over which Spain claims to exercise territorial or jurisdiction rights, is estimated to be in the region of between 900,000 and 1,000,000 Square kilometres. The orography is characterized by a high average altitude, for 57.7% of the territory rises more than 600 metres above sea level, which gives Spain second place among the highest countries in Europe. The arrangement of the mountain ranges, following a Wets-East general direction, with the exception of the “Sistema Ibérico” and the “Cordilleras Costeras de Cataluña”, exerts a major influence on the climate, creating, as it actually does, natural barriers preventing the wet air masses coming from the Atlantic Ocean from pushing in. The hydrological regime depends, in the main, on the precipitation pattern, abundant in autumn and in springtime, and scarce or non-existent during summertime. The hydrographic network is modified by a system of hydraulic works that regulate the river flows with a view to utilizing them, for human consumption, electricity generation and agricultural purposes.