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France and Spain

Political relations

France and Spain enjoy an extremely close relationship of confidence, driven by law enforcement and judicial cooperation which has helped to weaken ETA over the long term, and by concrete cooperation projects in interconnections (energy and transport) in fields crucial for both countries. Our cooperation is also based on the desire for greater concertation on the future of the EU, given our closely converging views on European issues.


On 4 March 2015, the French President, the President of the Government of Spain, the Portuguese Prime Minister and the European Commission President met in Madrid for a summit on energy interconnections. From 2 to 4 June 2015, the Spanish royal couple were received in Paris for their first State visit.

The 25th Spain-France Summit was held in Malaga on 20 February 2017.

Economic relations

France is Spain’s leading economic partner with annual trade of more than €60 billion. In 2017, France posted a trade surplus with Spain of €700 million, down 7% on the previous year. France’s market share in Spain has grown to 11.1% due to sales of transport equipment and reached 2008 levels again; in 2016, France was Spain’s second-largest supplier after Germany, and its leading customer. Likewise, Spain’s market share in France is growing (6.4%, the highest in 10 years) mainly due to France’s revitalized automobile market. Spain is France’s second-largest customer after Germany and its sixth-largest supplier.

Investment has been significant in both directions: France remains the third-largest investor in Spain (behind the United Kingdom and the United States), with more than 2,000 subsidiaries employing over 300,000 people. Spanish companies are working in more than 1,300 sites in France and employ more than 55,000 people.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

French-Spanish cooperation can be seen daily through extensive educational, linguistic and cultural exchanges. A branch of the Pompidou Museum was inaugurated in Malaga on 28 March 2015. There is a major French cultural network in Spain, with six Institut Français branches or centres (Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Zaragoza, Seville and Valencia) and 20 Alliance Française branches. Although French is the second most-popular foreign language in Spain, it is still vulnerable: learning a second foreign language is not compulsory in schools.

Nearly two million French people are learning Spanish and 1.3 million Spanish people are learning French. The French school network in Spain is the largest in Europe and third-largest globally, behind Lebanon and Morocco. Spanish schools also have over 342 bilingual sections, with 27,000 pupils. After the UK, France is the second most popular destination for Spanish students in mobility programmes (about 6,000). In 2008, an agreement was signed to launch a “Bachibac” course, enabling students to earn the French and Spanish baccalaureates at the same time. An agreement on university networks was signed in February 2017.

Scientific and technical cooperation is based on cooperation agreements between the major French research and development institutions such as the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), the National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) and the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) and their Spanish counterparts. Moreover, the French National Space Agency (CNES) and its Spanish equivalent, the CDTI, signed a cooperation agreement at the bilateral summit in February 2007.

Other cooperation

Police cooperation, which was historically centred around the fight against ETA and is now largely focused on the fight against terrorism, continues to produce very good results. With a view to collective memory and history, in 2017 France and Spain signed an agreement on the transfer of sealed ETA-related judicial proceedings to Madrid.

In cross-border cooperation, interconnections are a key political and economic issue for Spain: rail infrastructure (Perpignan-Barcelona high-speed line), electrical interconnections (a cable between Baixas and Santa Llogaia, doubling electricity capacity, was inaugurated on 20 February 2015; a project for a submarine cable in the Bay of Biscay received €578 million in European funding in January 2018), gas interconnections (the “Artère de l’Ardour” gas pipeline in the western Pyrenees became operational at the end of 2015, increasing the capacities to 225 GWh/day, i.e. 20% of French consumption, or 27% of Spanish consumption).

Updated: January 2019