Is Llívia In Spain Or France?

Welcome sign to Llívia, a Spanish enclave in France. Editorial credit: LMspencer /
Welcome sign to Llívia, a Spanish enclave in France. Editorial credit: LMspencer /

Llivia is an enclave of Spanish territory which is in the French department of Pyrenees-Orientales and it is administratively part of the province of Girona in Spain. The enclave was initially named Julia Libyca by the Romans. The name later evolved to Julia Livia and finally to Llivia. It was the capital of the ancient district of Cerdana until 1177.

Significance of Llivia

The enclave is overshadowed by the Pyrenees and surrounded by French territory. The enclave has retained its Spanishness despite the French influence that surrounds territory. It retains Spanish legislation, economy, and taxes. The dialing codes and police are also Spanish. Despite the differences, the enclave has helped build bridges between the two nations. It represents a beacon of cross border cooperation in Europe due to the unhindered cooperation between the residents of both nations. French residents are seen to establish closer ties with their Spanish counterparts. The cooperation between the two states has led to what is considered the first trans-border hospital in Europe, which is shared by both countries. The enclave is connected to the Spanish border town of Puigceida by a neutral road which passes less than two miles through France.

Creation of the Geographic Anomaly

The enclave has an area of about 8 square miles which is nearly seven times larger than Monaco. The town of Lliviais is estimated to have more than 1,000 people. The enclave is considered a geographic anomaly that was as a result of a quirk in the Treaty of the Pyrenees that brought to an end the more than two decades of conflict between France and Spain. The treaty recognized the defeat of Philip IV. According to the Treaty, 33 villages were to be ceded to the French Crown in the Querol Valley. French historians have claimed that France was tricked out of Llivia by a Spanish ruse. The Spanish claimed that Llivia was not a village but a town. Llivia has remained landlocked in France for more than 350 years as a result of the Treaty.

Attractions in the Town

Llivia claims to be home to the oldest pharmacy in Europe dating back to the 15th century, the Esteve Pharmacy. Artifacts of the pharmacy are displayed at the town's museum. The residents of the enclave are fiercely Catalan and speak both Catalan and Spanish. Those visiting the town can get to experience excellent restaurants that serve traditional Catalan and Spanish cuisine while enjoying the ambiance of a small medieval town.

Administration Challenges

While the Spanish police were cracking down on attempts at an independence referendum in 2017 that was deemed illegal by the Spanish government in other parts of Catalonia, the enclave enjoyed the tactical advantages due to its separation from the rest of Spain as Spanish police would not cross French territory to stop voting in the region. The separation from the Spanish mainland often implies that the town experiences delays in the settling of grievances raised to the regional government and occasionally to the central government in Madrid. One of the prominent issues remains that of water supplies that occasionally dry up. French citizens in the surrounding area are not faced with the same challenges which the Spanish government has been slow to address.


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