Balearic Islands

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Islas Balears (Aragonese)
Illes Balears (Catalan)
Ísuli Baliari (Baliaru)
Balearic Islands (English)
Flag of Balearic Islands
Languages:  
 Official: Aragonese, Catalan
 Others: Baliaru, Arabic, Francien, Narbonosc, Greek, Ladino, Castilian
Cities:  
 Capital: Palma de Mallorca
 Largest: Palma de Mallorca
 Other: Calvià, Eivissa, Manacor, Inca, Maó
Area: 4'992 km2
Population: 3.320 million

Contents

Administration

Government

Balearic Islands are a dependent territory of the Crown of Aragon with all powers of the government delegated by Aragon. The head of state of the Balearic Islands is the king of Aragon. The unicameral parliament is known as the Legislative Assembly (Asambleya Lechislativa in Aragonese, Assemblea Legislativa in Catalan, and Asemblea Ligislativa in Baliaru). The executive branch is headed by the Minister President elected by the citizens, with the role of the Governor -- appointed by the Crown of Aragon -- being mostly ceremonial.

The judicial branch is headed by the chief justice of the High Court. Members of the judicial branch are appointed by the Minister President with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly.

Balearic Islands are represented in the parliament of the Crown of Aragon by two nonvoting delegates. While the delegates are currently not allowed to vote in general sessions of the parliament, they vote in parliamentary committees.

Elections in the Balearic Islands are governed by the authorities of the Crown of Aragon. While residing in the Balearic Islands, the citizens of the Balearic Islands cannot vote in any elections held in Aragon. Those who become residents of an incorporated region or province of Aragon can vote in Aragonese elections.

Administrative Divisions

The administrative divisions are known as insular councils, each of which represents one of the major islands along with surrounding minor islands and islets: Mallorca, Menorca, Eivissa, and Formentera.

History

Ancient history

According to historical sources, the Balearic Islands were very early taken by the Phoenicians, becoming virtually independent after the fall of Carthage. Considered quiet and inoffensive (despite them also being known as exquisite mercenaries), they were not conquered by the Roman Empire until 123 BC after being charged with being complicit with the Mediterranean pirates. 3,000 Roman and Spanish colonists were settled on Mallorca where they found the cities of Palma and Pollentia. At first, the islands formed the fourth district of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis. Afterwards, they were made a separate province, called Hispania Balearica.

The islands were known for their excellent harbours, fertility of all produce (except wine and olive oil), cattle, and immense number of rabbits.

The part of the Mediterranean east of Spain, around the islands, was called Mare Balearicum or Sinus Balearicus.

Late Roman and early Islamic eras

Sometime between 461 and 468, the islands were conquered by the Vandals. In late 533 or early 534, however, the Romans reestablished their control until 707, when the islands submitted to the terms of an Umayyad fleet. The residents were allowed to maintain their traditions and religion as well as a high degree of autonomy. Nominally both Byzantine and Umayyad, the de facto independent islands were a strategic and profitable grey area between the competing religions and kingdoms of the western Mediterranean. During the Mediterranean raid of the Vikings (859-862), the islands were thoroughly sacked.

In 902, the heavy use of the islands as a pirate base provoked the Emirate of Córdoba, nominally the islands' overlords, to invade and incorporate the islands into their state. The Emirate later disintegrated into smaller states known as taifa and in 1015, the islands were seized by the Taifa of Dénia. In 1050, the governor Abd Allah ibn Aglab rebelled and established the independent Taifa of Mallorca.

Emirate of Mallorca

For centuries, the Balearic sailors and pirates had been masters of the western Mediterranean. Since approximately 1150, the islands became one of the conflict zones of the Berber Almoravid dynasty and the Almohad Dynasty of Marrakech. Attempting to maintain their independence, they eventually accepted Almohad suzerainty in 1187 which led to the establishment of the vassal Emirate of Mallorca.

Reconquista

On the last day of 1229, King James I of Aragon captured Palma after a three-month siege. The rest of Mallorca quickly followed. Menorca fell in 1232 and Ibiza in 1235. After the death of James I, a new Kingdom of Mallorca consisting of the islands and the mainland counties of Roussillon and Montpellier, which was left to his son James II. The new kingdom was a vassal state to the Crown of Aragon. This relationship caused a significant tension, with James II (and later his successors) attempting to resist the vassalage. During this time, the Kingdom of Mallorca became one of the destinations for religious refugees fleeing from Reconquista as there remained a degree of religious freedom and openness to cultural diversity.

In 1279, the unified jurisdiction of the Crown of Aragon was reestablished.

During the first half od 1290's, the first wave of settlers entered the islands, predominantly from Sicily -- James II of Aragon granted land privileges for settlers from the Crown of Sicily which was under his control at the time but in lesser extent also from other Christian countries of the Mediterranean region. Among the reasons was the need to gain mainpower to cultivate the land as well as a plan to have a strong and loyal population group on the islands. Balearic Sicilians and their descendants became one of the most numerous and most influential peoples of the islands, with more settlers arriving to the islands in decades and centuries to follow.

The ongoing tension between the Crowns of Aragon and Mallorca continued until 1349 when, following the Battle of Llucmajor, the Balearic Islands were again incorporated directly into the kingdom of Aragon.

Modern period

Balearic Islands were frequently attacked by Ottomans and Barbary pirates from North Africa. In 1514, 1515 and 1521, the coasts of the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland were raided by Turkish privateers. In 1522, the inhabitants of the islands rebelled against the Crown of Aragon which they deemed responsible for not providing them with any assistance during the raids, and established the short-lived Balearic Republic, created after the fashion of the maritime republics of the Apennine Peninsula. The Crown of Aragon reconquered the islands in 1589.

Another rebellion against the Crown of Aragon took place in the beginning of the 19th century, with the rebels hoping to ally themselves with France. However, as the tension between France and Aragon did not last very long, the rebels failed to find any support from outside and the movement was suppressed before gaining any significant influence.

Over the course of the 19th century, multiple attemps were made to challenge the status of the islands as an incorporated dependency of the Crown of Aragon, with Balearic nationalism and separatist political groups beginning to form in the second half of the 1860's and in the 1870's. The Balearic Popular Front, led by the radical intellectual Antoninu Spadaru and formed around the newspaper L'Indipendenti in 1874 was the first serious challenge to the status quo. While Spadaru himself despite radical rhetorics favoured a diplomatic approach, there was also a militant wing promoting a strategy of riots and armed resistance. A clash between the radical separatists and Aragonese soldiers backed by royalists in Palma de Mallorca on 17 April 1878 is known as the Battle of Palma. It led to a harsh suppression of the movement, with most of its prominent figures including Spadaru being imprisoned.

The islands were granted autonomous status in 1903. They were given a certain amount of civilian popular government, including a popularly elected Legislative Assembly. The executive and judicial branch were still appointed by the Crown of Aragon.

In 1923, the Aragonese parliament passed a law for Balearic Islands to establish a separate bill of rights and established a separate Balearic citizenship with all citizens of the Balearic Islands being also the citizens of the Crown of Aragon.

In 1934, Aragon granted the islanders the right to democratically elect their own government with the Governor still being appointed by the Crown of Aragon but having a mostly ceremonial role, symbolically representing the sovereign. It was also established that two non-voting delegates, elected directly by the citizens, were to represent the islands in the Aragonese parliament.

In 1957, the islands were granted the right to organise a constitutional convention. The constitution was ratified via a referendum, with the Crown of Aragon at the same time maintaining its sovereignty over Balearic Islands and its people. The constitution had to be approved by the parliament of the Crown of Aragon and officially signed into effect by the king. The official date of the constitution coming into effect was 7 May 1958.




Geography

The main islands of the archipelago are Mallorca, Menorca, Eivissa, and Formentera. Apart from the main islands, there are multiple minor islands and islets.


Economy

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Culture

The culture of the Balearic Islands reflects the various cultures, from the Phoenicians to the Aragonese, that have come into contact with the islands throughout the centuries, including neighbouring Mediterranean cultures. Residents of the islands are of diverse origins, yet most of them appear to share a similar particular identity.

Cuisine

The cuisine of the islands blends Arab, Sicilian, French, Berber, Sephardic Jewish, Greek influences, as well as influences of the general cuisine of the Iberian peninsula. It features a lot of pastry, cheese, wine, lamb, chicken and seafood. Lobster stew from Menorca is one of the most sought-after dishes.

Sports

Football is the most popular sport in the Balearic Islands. The premier football league is the Lliga Balear de Futbol. The main clubs are RCE Mallorca, Atlético Balears, SE Eivissa, CE Inca, UE Maó, and CE Binissalem. The rivalry between RCE Mallorca and Atlético Balears is known as the Palma derby.

Other sports popular in the islands include rugby union, basketball, athletics, boxing, and volleyball.


Demographics

Languages

The official languages of the Balearic Islands are Aragonese and Catalan. At school, in administration, in official acts, or in relations with foreign countries one of the two is used most of the time with Aragonese being the preferred one. However, there is a number of other languages with a recognised minority status, including Arabic, Francien, Narbonosc, Greek, Ladino, and Castilian.

Baliaru -- also known as Balearic Creole -- is spoken by 56% of the population as their native language or one of native languages, with approximately 80% of the population having at least some degree of knowledge of the language. Having evolved from Mediterranean Lingua Franca, and Sicilian spoken by the settlers who came to the islands in multiple waves between the 13th and 16th centuries, the language is nowadays in a unique position: while not having the status of an official language, it is a major language of everyday life, business, media, less formal areas of politics, or popular literature, among other areas. The government recognises it as a national language which does not constitute a legal status or rules regarding its usage, yet implies a certain degree of governmental protection and support. The majority of its native speakers are descendants of the (predominantly Sicilian) settlers.

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