Nation profile

Basque Country
Euskal Herria

General information
3,200,000 inhabitants (aprox)
20.500 km² (est)
Parliaments and governments of Euskadi and Navarre; Agglomeration Community of the Basque Country (Iparralde)
Major cities
Iruñea, Bilbo, Donosti, Gaseiz, Baiona
State administration
Kingdom of Spain (Euskadi, Navarre and Castille and León (Treviño enclave)) and French Republic (Northern Basque Country or Iparralde)
Territorial languages
Basque, Spanish, Occitan
Official languages
Basque (Euskadi, Navarre), Spanish (Euskadi, Navarre, Treviño), French (Northern Basque Country)
Major religion
Christianity (Catholicism)
National day
Aberri Eguna (Easter)


The Basque Country is a country in Western Europe, located on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, where the Basque people live. Among other aspects, the Basque people is defined by the use of their unique language, and the maintenance of a distinct culture and identity. Its northern 1/7 is a part of the French Republic, while the remaining 6/7 belong to Spain.

From the 10th century onwards, a medieval Basque state —the Kingdom of Pamplona, later the Kingdom of Navarre— arose. In the 12th century, the kingdom spanned over an area similar to that of the current Basque lands. From 1200, Castile progressively annexed parts of this kingdom until it occupied it completely between 1512 and 1529, save for of the far north (Lower Navarre), which maintained its independence until 1620, when it was incorporated into France, with a certain degree of autonomy.

The Basque territories in Spain maintained a certain degree of autonomy through their charters (fueros), which were retained under both the Habsburg and the Bourbon monarchs, while the Basques participated in the Spanish colonisation of America.

The autonomy of the Basque lands in France was abolished with the triumph of the French Revolution (1789), while the Spanish administration progressively centralised the state. The Carlist Wars (1833-1876) ended with the suppression of the fueros (home rule), although thanks to the Economic Agreement (1878), the Basque provinces were allowed to retain fiscal independence from Spain, with their own treasuries.

As a result, during the last two decades of the 19th century, Basque nationalism emerged, which stated that the Basque people constituted a nation, and claimed the right to self-government and independence. Sabino Arana founded (1895) the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).

The three Basque provinces of Araba, Biscay, and Gipuzkoa gained semi-autonomy in 1936, which was short-lived as it was suppressed by General Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Basque culture and identity were repressed by the new regime. In 1959, a group of activists founded a political-military organisation, ETA, with the aim of achieving independence for the Basque Country.

The statute of autonomy was regained in 1979. Navarre also became autonomous, with a separate government, in 1982.

The Basque Country is organised into seven historical territories (herrialdes). Each of them had its own government institutions in pre-modern times. The four herrialdes under Spanish administration of Araba, Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Navarre have preserved them, albeit evolved, until the present day. The three herrialdes under French administration saw such institutions disappear during the French Revolution or shortly before —the Biltzar of Lapurdi, the Grand Corps and Silviet of Zuberoa, and the Estates of Lower Navarre.


Basque is the traditional language of the Basque people. It currently has around 750,000 speakers. It is an official language in Euskadi and Navarre, and it is officially recognized in the Basque territories under French administration. Euskaltzaindia is the institute regulating the language.

Basque is a language of great interest for linguists, as it has not yet been possible to prove whether it is related to any other known language.

The language traditionally spoken on the northern coast of Lapurdi (Baish Ador) is Occitan.

Politics and administration

The herrialdes of Araba, Biscay, and Gipuzkoa make up the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, also known as Euskadi, since 1979. Each of the three herrialdes has its own Assembly. Navarre has been constituted since 1982 as a Foral Community. Each of those government institutions holds different degrees of legislative, executive and fiscal autonomy within the Kingdom of Spain.

The remaining three herrialdes (known collectively as Iparralde) have had, since 2017, their own government body, the Agglomeration Community of the Basque Country, with executive (but not legislative) autonomy over some areas. Iparralde is the western part of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, which in turn is integrated into the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

The two main Basque political parties in Hegoalde are the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV, centre-right, ranging from pro-autonomy to pro-independence) and Euskal Herria Bildu (an alliance of left-wing independence parties Sortu, Eusko Alkartasuna, and Alternatiba). Both are currently advocating the establishment of a confederal relationship between Spain and the Basque Country.

In Navarre, the PNV is one of the three members of the Geroa Bai alliance (centre-left to centre-right), which claims the right of Navarre to freely decide its own political future.

In Iparralde, the main Basque party is Euskal Herria Bai, a left-wing movement established by the Abertzaleen Batasuna, Eusko Alkartasuna and Batasuna parties in 2007. It advocates the sovereignty of the Basque Country.

Territory: Navarre
Population: 664,117 inhabitants (2022)
Area: 10.391 km²
Capital: Iruñea/Pamplona
Territorial language: Basque in the north, Spanish in the south
Official language: Basque and Spanish
President: María Chivite, PSN-PSOE (since 2019)
Political system: Autonomous Community within the Kingdom of Spain
Distribution of seats in Parliament (May 2023 election). 50 members:
  • Navarrese People Union (pro-autonomy15
  • Socialist Party of Navarre (PSN-PSOE, pro-autonomy, centre to centre-left11
  • EH Bildu (pro-independence, left9
  • Geroa Bai (sovereignist, centre-left) 7
  • Popular Party (pro-autonomy to centralist, centre-right) 3
  • Podemos (federalist, centre-left to left) 2
  • Zurekin Nafarroa (federalist, centre-left to left) 3
  • Vox (anti-autonomy centralist, far right) 2
Electoral system: proportional 
Government: coalition of PSN-PSOE, Geroa Bai and Zurekin Nafarroa
Degree of autonomy
The Navarrese Autonomous Community is one of the most self-governed administrative entities within the Spanish state thanks to its “foral system”, that is, its own juridic and administrative organization (including its own fiscal system) which, differently from the rest of nations in the state, did not lose after joining the Kingdom of Spain.

Territory: Euskadi
Area: 7.234 km²
Population: 2,222,164 inhabitants (2023)
Capital: Gasteiz/Vitoria
Territorial language: Basque and Spanish
Official language: Basque and Spanish
President: Iñigo Urkullu, PNV (since 2012)
Political system: Autonomous Community within the Kingdom of Spain
Distribution of seats in Parliament (2020 election). 75 members:
  • Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV, pro-autonomy to sovereignist, centre-right31
  • Bildu (pro-independence, left) 22
  • Socialist Party of Euskadi (PSE-PSOE, pro-autonomy, centre to centre-left) 10
  • Elkarrekin Podemos (federalist to confederalist, centre-left to left6
  • Popular Party and Citizens' Party alliance (PP+C's, pro-autonomy to centralist, centre-right to right) 5
  • Vox (centralist, far-right) 1
Electoral system: Proportional
Government: coalition of PNV and PSE-PSOE
Degree of autonomy
Together with Catalonia and Galicia, Euskadi was among the first territories to get its own Statute of Autonomy in the system of Autonomous Communities (1979). It has devolved powers in several areas and its own tax system.

Territory: Iparralde
 2.967 km² 
Population: 309,723 inhabitants (2014)
Capital: Baiona/Bayonne
Territorial language: Basque and Occitan 
Official language: French
Political system: Agglomeration Community of the Basque Country (intercommunality body bringing together most of the Basque municipalities in Iparralde and a few Occitan municipalities). Together with the former province of Bearn, it makes up the French department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, which belongs to the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.


Language and Culture
Royal Academy of the Basque Language
Basque Cultural Institute
Coordination for Literacy and Basque Language Teaching (AEK)

(Last updated September 2023)