Spain. No brightening was seen during the year in the
economic crisis that hit Spain very hard. The credit and
real estate bubble that burst had put the country in a
downward spiral. According to
countryaah, the newly-appointed Conservative government
invested in new savings packages with increased VAT, reduced
unemployment benefits, continued frozen wages and sharp cuts
in health care and education. Nevertheless, unemployment
continued to rise and rose to over 25% during the year, and
for young people over 50%. The budget deficit was large and
government debt grew.
Confidence in the state's finances was at the bottom.
Market interest rates were pushed upwards and were around
7%, which was considered a pain limit that could not be
passed without external support. Much of the turbulence
centered on the crisis banking sector. In June, the EU
agreed to emergency loans of up to EUR 100 billion to cope
with the banking crisis. The state gradually took control of
four banks, and in November the EU approved the
restructuring plans for them.
But despite constant rumors that Spain would at any time
become the fourth euro area to apply for EU funding, and
despite the clear sign of such support, no Madrid request
for money came from the EU. The reason was assumed to be
that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wanted to highlight that
Spain was doing well and that he wanted to avoid tough
reform programs dictated from the outside. Instead, he
presented a tight budget in September, with austerity
measures of 40 billion euros.
A few general strikes were announced and hundreds of
thousands of people gathered in protest against the cuts.
The demonstrations degenerated several times in violence. A
well-known suicide in November, when a 50-year-old woman
jumped off the balcony when she was to be evicted, aroused
great anger and resulted in an agreement on a two-year halt
for evictions of the most vulnerable. The crisis in the real
estate sector had led to 400,000 people being evicted from
their homes in a few years.
An effect of the crisis was also a strong separatist
wave, despite the fact that several indebted regions were
forced to ask the central government for emergency loans.
The question was raised whether the country would ride out
the difficulties with its borders intact. In the regional
elections in the Basque country in October, the nationalist
party PNV and the separatist Bildu together won a clear
majority. At the same time, however, Rajoy's conservative
government party went ahead in the regional elections in
Galicia, which was interpreted as voters there nonetheless
accepting the crisis management policy.
Catalonia was the region that particularly challenged the
central government of Madrid. When the Catalans gathered in
Barcelona on their national day in September, more than a
million people participated, and something unexpected came
to focus on independence. Catalonia's Prime Minister Artur
Mas announced a new election in November and expressed the
view that a referendum would then be held on independence.
However, the election results did not give a completely
clear answer. Mas's right party CiU lost mandate, although
it remained the largest. Instead, the separatist left party
ECR went ahead. The two stood far apart, even though they
shared the demand for strengthened self-government.
Madrid - cityscape - architecture - museums
The structure of Madrid's inner city is marked by several historical periods.
The oldest neighborhoods were formerly surrounded by walls from Moorish
fortifications, which had the shape of a square with rounded corners and were
surrounded by a low rampart of stone and earth with five main gates (puertas). The
violence was abolished in 1878, but the Puerta de Alcalá, the Puerta de Toledo
and the Puerta de San Vicente still stand.
Of the narrow alleys of the old town, only the neighborhood between the Royal
Palace (Palacio Real) and Calle de Toledo can be found. The eastern gate of the
old city, the Puerta del Sol, has given its name to a square which is the center
of the modern city. The older parts of Madrid around the Puerta del Sol house
buildings from the 1600's and 1700's. In the 1700's, and thereafter the town was
extended to the north, east, and south with street regulations predominantly
laid out in a large pane pattern. The development of the city to the west was
limited by Manzanares' deep gorges.
To the east is the fashionable residential area of Salamanca. From the
1800's, the tree-planted continuous north-south line (1860) originates from Paseo
de la Castellana to Paseo del Prado; it is one of Madrid's most attractive
avenues with many important public buildings, such as the National Library, the
Archaeological Museum and various ministries. The city expanded strongly in the
1900's, where The northern part of the Paseo de la Castellana was
transformed into an entire district of high-rise buildings with banks and
offices (1970). Especially after the Spanish Civil War, the construction of
parks and green areas has created calm and coherence in the cityscape.
From the central square of the city center, the Puerta del Sol (laid out in
1570), ten streets depart; one of them is Calle del Arenal, which extends west
to the large square, Plaza de Oriente with the equestrian statue of Philip IV
(1640). At the park Campo del Moro is the royal palace Palacio Real (1738-64),
built according to plans by Filippo Juvarra and since 1962 museum. Opposite the
castle is the cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Almudena (started in 1883).
In the Plaza Mayor you will find the equestrian statue of Philip III (1613),
surrounded by uniform baroque buildings. Close by are the town hall and the
church of San Isidro el Real, originally built as a Jesuit church in the 1600's,
both in Baroque style. Further west is the small chapel of San Antonio de la
Florida (1792-98) with frescoes by Goya and his tomb. Among the modern
settlements is the high-rise España (1953) on the Plaza de España, where the
Cervantes Monument from 1927 is also located.
In the eastern part of Madrid, where the buildings are mainly built in the
1900's, is the famous art museum Museo del Prado (see the Prado Museum) as well
as the Arms Museum Real with Europe's largest weapons collection. The Centro de
Arte de Reina Sofia houses modern art, including Pablo Picasso's Guernica and
a large Joan Miró collection.