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Andorra (12/03)


For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Principality of Andorra

Area: 468 sq. km. (180 sq. mi.); about half the size of New York City.
Cities: Capital--Andorra la Vella.
Terrain: Mountainous.
Climate: Temperate, cool, dry.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Andorran(s).
Population: 69,150 (2003).
Annual growth rate: 1.06%
Ethnic groups: Catalan, Spanish, French, Portuguese.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
Languages: Catalan (official), Spanish, French, Portuguese.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16; Attendance--100%; literacy--100%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--4.06/1,000; life expentancy--81 yrs. male, 87 yrs. female.

Type: Parliamentary democracy that retains as its heads of state two Co-princes.
Constitution: Ratified in March 1993.
Independence: 1278.
Branches: Head of State--two Co-princes (President of France, Bishop of Seu d'Urgell in Spain). Executive--head of government (Cap de Govern) and nine ministers. Legislative--Parliament (founded 1419) consisting of 28 members. Judicial--Civil cases heard in first instance by four judges (batlles) and in appeals by the one-judge Court of Appeals. The highest body is the five-member Superior Council of Justice. Criminal cases are heard by the Tribunal of Courts in Andorra la Vella.
Subdivisions: Seven parishes (parroquies)--Andorra la Vella, Canillo, Encamp, La Massana, Ordino, Sant Julia de Loria, and Escaldes make up the districts represented in the General Council.
Political parties/groups: Andorran Liberal Party (PLA), Andorran Democratic Center Party (ACDP, former Democratic Party, PD) and the Social Democratic Party (PS).
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Flag: flag of andorra

GDP (2001): $2.2 billion.
Natural resources: Hydroelectric power, mineral water, timber, iron ore, lead.
Agriculture: Products-- grains, oats, tobacco, sheep.
Industry: Types--tourism, (mainstay of the economy), tobacco products, furniture.
Trade: Major activities are commerce and banking; no official figures are available. Duty-free status.
Official currencies: The Euro.

Andorrans live in seven valleys that form Andorra's political districts between France and northeast Spain. Andorrans are a minority in their own country; Spanish, French, and Portuguese citizens make up 64.01% of the population.

The national language is Catalan, a romance language related to the Proven´┐Żal group. French and Spanish also are spoken.

Education law requires school attendance for children up to age 16. A system of French, Spanish, and Andorran public schools provide education up to the secondary level. Schools are built and maintained by Andorran authorities, but teachers are paid for the most part by France or Spain. About 50% of Andorran children attend the French primary schools; the rest attend Spanish or Andorran schools. Andorran schools follow the Spanish curriculum, and their diplomas are recognized by the Spanish education system. In July 1997, the University of Andorra was established. Due to its small student body, the University of Andorra is unable to develop a full academic program, and it serves principally as a center for virtual studies, connected to Spanish and French universities. There are two graduate schools in Andorra--the Nursing School and the School of Computer Science.

Andorra is the last independent survivor of the March states, a number of buffer states created by Charlemagne to keep the Muslim Moors from advancing into Christian France. Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors. In the 800s, Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, named the Count of Urgell Overlord of Andorra. A descendant of the Count later gave the lands to the diocese headed by Bishop of Seu d'Urgell.

In the 11th century, fearing military action by neighboring lords, the bishop placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Spanish nobleman. Later, the Count of Foix, a French noble, became heir to Lord Caboet through marriage, and a dispute arose between the French Count and the Spanish bishop over Andorra.

In 1278, the conflict was resolved by the signing of a pareage, a feudal institution recognizing the principle of equality of rights shared by two rulers. This pareage provided that Andorra's sovereignty would be shared between the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell of Spain. The pareage gave the small state its territory and political form.

Over the years, the title was passed between French and Spanish rule until, in the reign of the French king Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell as Co-princes of Andorra.

Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France and Spain. In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with developments in diplomatic activity, transportation, and communications have removed the country from its isolation.

Until recently, Andorra's political system had no clear division of power among executive, legislative, and judicial branches. A Constitution ratified and approved in 1993 changed this, however. The Constitution establishes Andorra as a sovereign parliamentary democracy that retains the two Co-princes as its heads of state.

The fundamental impetus for this political transformation was a recommendation by the Council of Europe in 1990 that, if Andorra wished to attain full integration into the European Union (EU), it should adopt a modern Constitution that guarantees the rights of those living and working there.

Under the 1993 Constitution, the Co-princes continue as heads of state, but the head of government retains executive power. The two Co-princes serve equally with limited powers that do not include veto over government acts. They are represented in Andorra by a delegate. Each Co-prince, the President of France and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell, maintain supreme authority in approval of all international treaties with France and Spain, as well as those dealing with internal security, defense, Andorran territory, diplomatic representation, and judicial or penal cooperation. Although some view the institution as an anachronism, the majority sees them as both a link with Andorra's traditions and a way to balance the power of Andorra's two much larger neighbors.

Andorra's main legislative body is the 28-member General Council (Parliament). The sindic (president), the subsindic, and the members of the Council are elected in the general elections held every 4 years. The Council meets throughout the year on certain dates set by tradition or as required. The most recent general elections took place in March 2001.

At least one representative from each parish must be present for the General Council to meet. Historically, within the General Council, four deputies from each of the seven individual parishes have provided representation. This system allowed the smaller parishes, that have as few as 562 voters, the same number of representatives as larger parishes, which have up to 4,000 voters. To readjust the imbalance this system caused, a provision in the new Constitution introduces a modification of the structure and format for electing the members of the Council; under this new format, half of the representatives are to be chosen by the traditional system, while the other half are selected from nationwide lists.

A sindic and a subsindic are chosen by the General Council to implement its decisions. They serve 4-year terms and may be reappointed once. They receive an annual salary. Sindics have virtually no discretionary powers, and all policy decisions must be approved by the Council as a whole. Every 4 years, after the general elections, the General Council elects the head of government who, in turn, chooses the other members of the Executive Council. The current council has 10 ministers.

The judicial system is independent. Courts apply the customary laws of Andorra, supplemented with Roman law and customary Catalan law. Civil cases are first heard by the batlles court--a group of four judges, two chosen by each Co-prince. Appeals are heard in the Court of Appeals. The highest body is the five-member Superior Council of Justice.

Andorra has no defense forces and only a small internal police force. All able-bodied men who own firearms must serve, without remuneration, in the small army, which is unique in that all of its men are treated as officers. The army has not fought for more than 700 years, and its main responsibility is to present the Andorran flag at official ceremonies.

Andorra held elections in March 2001 and returned Head of Government Marc Forne to power. Three major parties with clear political tenets emerged in those elections: the conservative, ruling, Andorran Liberal Party (PLA) headed by Forne; the Democratic Party (PD), recently renamed as Andorran Democratic Center Party (ADCP); and the more left of center Social Democratic Party (PS). The PLA is a reorganization of the former Liberal Union. The other two were born from the remains of political formations now inactive but which at one time had parliamentary representation. Since the ratification of the Constitution in 1993, three coalition governments have been formed. The current government headed by Marc Forne won an absolute majority with 15 seats; the PD obtained 5 and the PS 6. Forne was sworn in as Cap de Govern, or head of government, on April 12, 2001.

The government continues to address many long-awaited reforms: developing the infrastructure, including an airport and an aerial metro; expanding the social welfare; conserving the environment; and advancing the technology. Perhaps the most urgent issue that the new government is dealing with is the reform of the tax system.

There has been a redefinition of the qualifications for Andorran citizenship, a major issue in a country where only 26,511 of 69,100 residents are legal citizens. In 1995, a law to broaden citizenship was passed, but citizenship remains hard to acquire, with only Andorran nationals being able to transmit citizenship automatically to their children. Lawful residents in Andorra may obtain citizenship after 25 years of residence. Children of residents may opt for Andorran citizenship after 18 if they have resided most of their lives in Andorra. Birth on Andorran soil does not confer citizenship. Dual nationality is not permitted. Non-citizens are allowed to own only a 33% share of a company. Only after they have resided in the country for 20 years are they entitled to own a 100% of a company. A proposed law to reduce the necessary years from 20 to 10 is pending approval in Parliament.

By creating a modern legal framework for the country, the 1993 Constitution has allowed Andorra to begin a shift from an economy based largely on tax-free shopping to one based on tourism and international banking and finance. Despite promising changes, it is likely that Andorra will, at least for the short term, continue to confront difficult issues arising from the large influx of foreign residents and the need to develop modern social and political institutions. In addition to questions of Andorran nationality and immigration policy, other priority issues will include dealing with housing scarcities and real estate speculation, developing the tourist industry, and defining relations with the European Union.

Principal Government Officials
Co-prince--Jacques Chirac, President of France
Co-prince-- Joan Enric Vives Sicilia, Bishop of Seu d'Ugell (Spain)
Head of Government--Marc Forne
Sindic General--Francesc Areny
Charge d'Affaires to the United Nations--Jelena Pia-Comella (also accredited as representative to the U.S. Government)

Andorra's national income in 2001 was about $2.2 billion, with tourism as its principal component. Attractive for shoppers from France and Spain because of low taxes, the country also has developed active summer and winter tourist resorts. With some 270 hotels and 400 restaurants, as well as many shops, the tourist trade employs a growing portion of the domestic labor force.

There is a fairly active trade in consumer goods, including imported manufactured items, which, because they are taxed at lower rates, are less expensive in Andorra than in neighboring countries. Andorra's tax-free status also has had a significant effect on its relationship with the European Union. Andorran negotiations with the EU began in 1987. An agreement that went into effect in July 1991 sets duty-free quotas and places limits on certain items--mainly milk products, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages.

The results of Andorra's elections thus far indicate that many support the government's reform initiatives and believe Andorra must, to some degree, integrate into the European Union in order to continue to enjoy its prosperity. Although less than 2% of the land is arable, agriculture was the mainstay of the Andorran economy prior to the upsurge in tourism. Sheep raising has been the principal agricultural activity, but tobacco growing is lucrative. Most of Andorra's food is imported.

In addition to handicrafts, manufacturing includes cigars, cigarettes, and furniture for domestic and export markets. A hydroelectric plant at Les Escaldes, with a capacity of 26.5 megawatts, provides 40% of Andorra's electricity; Spain provides the rest.

Since the establishment of sovereignty with the ratification of the Constitution in 1993, Andorra has moved to become an active member of the international community. In July 1993, Andorra established its first diplomatic mission, opening a mission at the United Nations. In early 1995, the United States and Andorra established formal diplomatic relations. Andorra also has extended relations to other nations.

Andorra is a full member of the United Nations, including the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Conference for Commerce and Development (UNCCD); International Center of Studies for Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ICCROM); International Telecommunications Union (ITU); International Red Cross; Universal Copyright Convention; European Council; European Union Telecommunications and Satellite (EUTELSAT); World Tourism Organization; Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); Customs Cooperation Council (CCC); Interpol; and International Monetary Fund, among others.

As noted, the United States established diplomatic relations with Andorra in early 1995. The two countries are on excellent terms. The U.S. Ambassador to Spain also is accredited as Ambassador to Andorra. U.S. Consulate General officials in Barcelona are responsible for the day-to-day conduct of relations with Andorra. The Andorran Mission in New York is accredited to the U.S. Government as well as the United Nations.

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

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