The Basque Country is one of the autonomous regions that make up Spain. It is unusual within Spain in that the level of autonomy enjoyed is probably the highest in Europe and it responds to cultural, historical and linguistic differences: it raises and spends its own taxes (paying the state for centrally provided services such as customs, the armed forces and diplomatic representation overseas), it has its own health service, police force and education system (with education in Basque or Spanish) which in a community of around 2.5 million people has led to the region catching up with Europe faster than some other parts of Spain. It consists of three provinces:
The Basque Country has a diversified economy, with some of the strongest financial institutions in Spain but without the dependence on construction which has led to so many problems in the south. Agriculture, steel, manufacturing (particularly for the automobile industry) and fishing were the traditional industries, but the Basque Country has diversified.
Alava is up on the meseta and is split between the green agricultural and rural north and the drier Rioja Alavesa (yes, some of the best Rioja wines are produced in the Basque Country. The Rioja "Denominación de Origen" not only covers the bordering Rioja region but also includes part of Alava). It is hot in summer and cold in winter unlike Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa which enjoy a milder climate, somewhat like Britain but slightly warmer year-round. Vitoria-Gasteiz is the administrative capital of the Basque Country, seat of the Basque Government and capital of Alava. It is a pleasant modern city that has grown in the last 25 years from a small town to a flourishing services and light industry centre.
There are two associations of language schools in the Basque Country. They are called ACEIB and ACEIG.