The trade balance it has always remained in considerable deficit, only partially attenuated since the second half of the 1980s. Internal trade has always played a leading role in the economic life of the country; the most notable internal exchanges take place between the industrial North and the agricultural areas of the South, while Madrid has the attraction of a vast metropolitan multifunctional center. The foreign trade movement also recorded extraordinary expansion and diversification; food and agricultural products in general are now largely supplanted by the most varied industrial products, especially chemicals, textiles, leather, etc., therefore by machinery and means of transport, iron and steel. In particular, nearly four-fifths of exported goods are manufactured goods, followed by food, fuels, minerals and metals. Imports are represented by oil and other raw materials and machinery, but also by foodstuffs, especially cereals. The most important exchanges take place within the EU (France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands), with the United States and, as regards oil imports, with Saudi Arabia. In the eighties of the century. XX saw a notable consolidation in the financial sector and the stock market (the main business centers are located in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia). The national financial system is controlled by the Banco de España, which can make its own strategic choices independently. In the road network (676,598 km in 2002), which is often articulated according to the distribution of the most populous urban agglomerations, we can identify a dozen basic routes, which radiate from Madrid towards the edges of the country, preferably following the valleys. An expansion of the system is planned, with the construction of new highways in addition to the existing ones (9020 km in 2002), but the road network remains inadequate for the needs of a country characterized by such a vast surface.
According to Thenailmythology, the railway network also proved unsuitable for sustaining the pace set by the accelerated economic expansion. Generally served with poor equipment and rolling stock, between 1987 and 2000 it was nevertheless the subject of a major restructuring plan which significantly improved the efficiency of the service. Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles) and the network comprises a total of approx. 14,000 km (2002), only just over half of which are electrified. A high-speed railway line from Madrid to Seville has been operating since 1992 and is being extended to France. Maritime communications refer to numerous modernly equipped ports, among which Barcelona for the movement of passengers and Bilbao for the movement of goods predominate; other port centers with significant traffic are Santander, Seville, Valencia, Gijón etc. The increase in trade with foreign countries has favored the development of the merchant fleet. Air communications within the country do not play a very important role; on the other hand, the connections with foreign countries are very active. Iberia, which performs both national and international services; the country has about twenty international airports, among which those of Barajas (Madrid), Barcelona and Bilbao predominate. The transport sector is of vital importance for the development of tourism, to which Spain only opened up after the end of Franco’s dictatorship (1975). Despite the limited time in the tourist hospitality experience, the Spaniards were able to adapt very quickly to the needs of the sector. In fact, Spain is the second world destination of international tourism (almost 52 million visitors in 2002) and the reception facilities are particularly developed in the seaside resorts. Artistic-cultural tourism is also flourishing, concentrated in cities with a thousand-year history.
HISTORY: THE SUCCESSORS OF CHARLES V
With the two first Austrian successors of Charles V, his son Philip II (1556-1598) and Philip III (1598-1621) – the first pedantic and stubborn centralizer, the second cowardly and succubus of rapacious ministers (like Francisco Gómez Lerma) -, Spain was forced to follow the path opened by the Catholic kings and by Charles V, with a fatal progressive involution. Prisoner of her own religious fundamentalism, which had almost become a new “caliphate”, she found herself forced into a frantic and interminable struggle on a double front: political-religious orthodoxy at home, European (and world) supremacy abroad.. The Inquisition – a true tribunal for the defense of the state – did not hesitate to imprison and try even prominent religious personalities of proven “innocence”, such as the cardinal-primate B. Carranza and the poet-theologian Luis de León; while the relentless discrimination between “old Christians” (the only ones of “pure blood”) and “new” descendants of Jews (marranos) and Mori, and only for this reason suspicions, even if baptized, sowed hatred and injustices without end, paralyzing both intellectual and commercial and financial activities. On the international level, the Spanish power had above all two implacable enemies: England and France. The personal and religious hatred that opposed Philip II to Elizabeth (the “heretic”, the assassin of Stuart) was aggravated by substantial political dissensions: the English piracy against Spanish America, the Spanish conquest of Portugal, a centuries-old ally of ‘England (1580), and above all the English intervention in the question of the Netherlands. The stubborn will of Philip II to preserve at all costs this part of the legacy of Charles V, preserving it together from “heresy”, cost Spain decades of war, immense losses of men and money, violence and injustices without number (suffice it to recall the “blood court” of the Duke of Alba in Brussels) and ultimately led to the birth of another irreducible enemy: Holland. Ultimately, the terrible disaster of the Invencible Armada (1588) and the English dominance on the ocean routes; the terrestrial disaster of Rocroi (1643), followed by the diplomatic one of Westphalia, and finally the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659), which both consecrated the superiority of the France of Louis XIV and the decline of Spain from the rank of first world power.
The immense effort to maintain a political role far superior to its real demographic and financial possibilities also cost Spain, as was to be expected, economic ruin. While the population, bled by continuous wars and emigration to America, touched, at the end of the century. XVII, a minimum of six million, the galloping inflation caused by the influx of American precious metals, the congenital deficiencies of the agrarian system (which forced to import cereals to cope with the famines and hunger of a large part of the population), the increasingly poor performance of industry unable to withstand competition from French, Italian and Flemish products, Sadness, the lack of capital and initiatives (even the slave trade was left in the hands of foreign contractors), the ineptitude of an increasingly numerous, slow and useless state bureaucracy, even for the sales system then in vogue in Europe (but which in Spain lasted longer) of public office, and finally the chaos of the tax system, which weighed mainly on the less well-off, are the salient aspects of a great economic disaster. In 1609, the expulsion of three hundred thousand Moriscos, skilled farmers and artisans – an extreme consequence of the “spirit of crusade” and of the fundamentalism elevated to a system of government – represented another fatal blow to the agonizing economy. With the last two Austrians – the sad Philip IV (1621-65), who let the Count-Duke of Olivares, monomaniac advocate of an illusory power, and Charles II (1665-1700), easy prey of sorcerer and demon warders, govern – it really touches the bottom of the forfeiture; lost Portugal, the interior of the country itself became the scene of revolts, secessions and even a coup (John Joseph of Austria), which of course was not enough to save it.