On September 18th, 2000, a new numbering format on license plates started in Spain. This format is called 'European', without the traditional provincial code and with the "E" from Spain over the flag of the European Union.

In the mid-nineties, with the socialist government, it was proposed the introduction of a format of plates where the European blue stripe would be included and the provincial codes would be eliminated, however, due to the pressures of the nationalist parties, this question had to be postput, because they forced to consider a model with the inclusion of the codes of the autonomous communities on the plate, and this solution did not really match with the demands of the agents of the automobile market.

Some years later, with the raise of the right to the absolute majority in parliament, the problem had been reconsidered, though no decision was taken about the hypothetic substitution of the ordinary numbering system that was in use in that moment, as well as all possible combinations were not exhausted at least in any of the 52 Provincial Motoring Offices.

Later, General Vehicle Regulation (GVR), approved by Royal Decree 2822/1998 of December 23rd, was published on the State’s Official Bulletin, and introduced substantial innovations on vehicle’s registration at that time. It changed all non-ordinary registration systems into combinations of 4 numbers and 3 letters with an identifying code, but without province acronyms; also, under 50cm3-motorcycle’s registration becomes jurisdiction of the State and, finally, used vehicles reissuing under different provinces than original registration is allowed. GVR comes into effect on June 27th, 1999.

When the Provincial Motoring Office of Madrid started to assign Z-series on ordinary registration (on March 31st, 2000, M-3481-ZB was issued as last number), public opinion and the media strengthened pressures to force the State government to take a decision, as well as the current system in progress was nearly about to be exhausted in Madrid.

On August 31st, 2000, the State government made it first announcement about the new issuing system to be taken after exhausting the current one then, declaring that the following registration system would reject the Euroband model (that was considered precedently) and would go on with provincial codes, so that the Motor Office that’d reach to the last 4-number-2-letter sequential combination then would continue numbering by adding a third letter and so on (in other words, after M-9999-ZZ, M-0000-BBB should be issued), alluding that was a model deeply rooted in Spain, with 100 years of existence, at which Spanish society identifies with.

This unleashed a torrent of criticism, especially in the commercial sector of the automobile. Their representers said that if that model was adopted, the expectations of second-hand market would be seriously hurt. Plates’ manufacturers also declared that they had made a huge investment to fit a big stock of blank plates to Euroband, and discarding this would cause theirselves important losses. In addition, several sectors of the political party in power, considered that the image of single homogeneous nation for Spain would be in danger, if the Euroband model with no provincial codes was not adopted.

Ones after the others proposed several alternatives for the new system until, on September 8th, the State government turned on to declare that the European model without provincial codes and the current one then (adding a 3rd letter in case of exhausting 2-letter numbering) had a 50% chance. A large public debate continued opened.

Finally, on September 15th, 2000, Modifying Order of GVR was approved, which definitively rejected the provincial codes with no Euroband model and adopted the Euroband model by issuing a simple combination of sequential 4 numbers and 3 letters as numbering system. It came into effect on September 18th, 2000 (only three days later!!), so did not allow to exhaust the existing numbering system (23185 numbers were not assigned in the Provincial Motoring Office of Madrid, the most advanced one, due to issue’s sequence had stopped at M-6814-ZX). It does not worth to say that allegations from opposition parties in parliament and attempts of civil disobedience from some sectors of the population had no effect to change that.

 The new system, official reasons for it implantation
The official reason given for the choice of this model is many-sided. First of all, it contributed "to the awareness of citizens in favour of European integration". It also responded to a desire of a portion of the Spanish people (but contrary to the rest) that wanted provincial codes to disappear in order to make easier transactions of used cars between different provinces (especially this). Furthermore cars travelling to the European Union did not need to place the oval with the Spanish "E" stuck, although they should do so if they travelled to third countries.

Besides, as said, all of this would contribute to the awareness of citizens in favour of European integration by identifying Euroband worn vehicles as belonging to a common European space. In addition, license plate’s model that’s been chosen was already incorporated into majority of member states of the European Union own domestic legal system.

Description of the plate and numbering system

Plate’s size (52x11 cm) is two centimeters longer than the previous model. It does not include any provincial distinctive province but the "E" from Spain on the flag of the European Union on the left blue band and the registration alphanumeric string. This one is sequential and consists in a combination of four numbers (from 0000 to 9999) and three letters (from BBB to ZZZ), where numbers progress before letters.

Vowels (to avoid rude words or unwanted acrostics) and Spanish consonants LL, CH (inconsistent with the design of the plate, which does not admit four characters in the last group), Ñ and Q (to avoid confusion with N, O and number zero) are excluded from letters, so only B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y and Z, are used in alphabetical order. All numbers are used, forming 10,000 combinations of numbers of four digits. For numbers under 1000, zeros on left positions are used to complete the 4-digits display, so 0 is issued as 0000, 9 as 0009, 99 as 0099 and 999 as 0999.

Then, that’s a system that allows 10000 x 20 x 20 x 20 = 80,000,000 registrations, so it shall be useful for a little more than 40 years according to the current rate of growth of the registrations in Spain (about 2,000,000 vehicles annually).

The new distribution of license plate numbers is performed by a central computer. Each Provincial Motoring Office requests a license plate quota to cover its needs for a short time span: a few days or a week. When it becomes exhausted then requests the following quota, and so on. Among request and request is highly probable that another Provincial Motoring Offices have requested their quota, so that on each province quota are not correlated (so last number of precedent quota does not match with first number of the following quota). The first car circulating in Spain with the new 'Euroband' was the Mercedes 230 SL (1981) of Mrs. Francisca Beltrán, who reissued her car on September 18th, 2000, in Álava, coming from León, registered with number plate 0000 BBB. In the province of Barcelona, the first one was 3850 BBB, and in the province of Valencia, 0850 BBD.

The owners of vehicles registered before coming into effect the Modifying Order of the GVR, may replace, if they consider so, provincial code plates for the Euroband ones but retaining the registration number that had been assigned. In case of replacing the plates, forced by loss, theft or damage, the new ones must necessarily adjust the Euroband model but also retaining its last registration number.

The special license plates

As said, GVR comes into effect on June 27th, 1999, and changes all non-ordinary registration systems that were in use and incorporates to State’s field, for the first time, registration of mopeds, what was until then a function of municipalities.

Numbering on special plates, basically, is common to all its types. Provincial codes are always eliminated, and is adopted an alphanumeric system that combines 4 numbers and 3 letters with an identifying code for the special vehicle type. Numbering and lettering is done as ordinary series. So that they differ among themselves by the color of the plate and the characters and by the code which precedes the alphanumeric combination, as following:

C is used for mopeds (black digits on yellow background), E for special vehicles (red digits on white background), H for historic vehicles (black digits on white background), P for temporary licenses for individuals (white digits on green background), R for trailers (black digits on red background), S for temporary licenses for enterprises on new vehicles (white digits on red background), T for tourist license plates (black digits on white background) and V for temporary licenses for enterprises on used vehicles (white digits on red background). The last three types display a validation band on the right side of the plate that includes the month (in Roman numerals), and the last two digits of the year in which the authorization to drive expires.