So what is the Basque country? There are three core counties in northern Spain that make up what the Basques call Euskadi, the autonomous Basque region of Spain.Navarra and parts of southwestern France fall under what is known as Euskalerria, the wider Basque homeland that nationalists claim as their own. The core Basque region already has a great deal of independence from the Spanish state. A statute of autonomy was approved and ratified by referedum in 1979 – establishing a parliament which elects a president. In 1980, the Basque police force was created. The region is now one of the most heavily policed in the world, with a local force, national police and the Civil Guard all working alongside their Basque counterparts. Nationalists consider their language an essential part of their cultural identity. A unique and ancient tongue, Basque, or Euskera, is obligatory in public schools and officially carries the same weight as Castillian Spanish. The administration of the Basque Country also has a list of other areas where it is autonomous. Chief amongst them is taxation. Apart from customs payments, all other taxes are collected by the Basque government, including VAT and income tax. The Basque region has control of health, industry and commerce, transport and public works, the environment, water, agriculture, tourism, employment and welfare.