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


Principality of Andorra

Area: 467 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: 65,000.
Annual growth rate: 1.5%
Ethnic groups: Catalan, Spanish, French, Portuguese.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
Languages: Catalan (official), Spanish, French.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16; Attendance--100%; literacy--100%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--8/1,000; life expentancy--76 yrs. male, 81 yrs. female.

Type: Parliamentary democracy that retains as its heads of state a co-principality.
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 eight ministers. Legislative--General Council (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: Liberal Union (UL), National Andorran Coalition (CAN), Social Democrat Party (PSD), various minor groups.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

If a scroll bar appears below the following table, swipe the table to move left/right of the dashed line.
Flag: flag of andorra

GDP: $1.2 billion.
Natural resources: Hydroelectric power, mineral water, timber, iron ore, lead. Agriculture: Products--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: Spanish peseta and French franc.

Andorrans live in seven urbanized valleys that form Andorra's political districts. Andorrans are a minority in their own country; Spanish, French, and Portuguese residents make the up 67.7% of the population.

The national language is Catalan, a romance language related to the Proven´┐Żal groups. It is spoken by more than 6 million people in the region comprising French and Spanish Catalonia. French and Spanish also are spoken.

Education law requires school attendance for children up to age 16. A system of French, Spanish and Andorran lay 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, and the rest attend Spanish or Andorran schools. In July 1997, the Andorran Government passed a law on universities and shortly afterward, the University of Andorra was established. Neither the geographically complex country nor the number of students makes it possible for the University of Andorra to develop a full academic program, and it serves principally as a center for virtual studies, connected to Spanish and French universities. The only two graduate schools in Andorra are 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 Urgel as overlord of Andorra. A descendant of the count later gave the lands to the diocese of Urgel, headed by Bishop of Urgel.

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

Over the years, the title was passed between French and Spanish rule until, under the French throne of Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgel 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 transportation and communications have removed the country from its isolation.

Until very recently, Andorra's political system had no clear division of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. A constitution was ratified and approved in 1993. The constitution establishes Andorra as a sovereign parliamentary democracy that retains as its heads of state a co-principality.

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 in the European Union (EU), it should adopt a modern constitution which guarantees the rights of those living and working there. A Tripartite Commission--made up of representatives of the co-princes, the General Council, and the Executive Council--was formed in 1990 and finalized the draft constitution in April 1991.

Under the new 1993 constitution, the co-princes continue as heads of state, but the head of government retains executive power. The two co-princes serve coequally with limited powers that do not include veto over government acts. They are represented in Andorra by a delegate. As co-princes of Andorra, 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 all those which deal with internal security, defense, Andorran territory, diplomatic representation, and judicial or penal cooperation. Although the institution of the co-princes is viewed by some 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 to be held every 4 years. The Council meets throughout the year on certain dates set by tradition or as required.

At least one representative from each parish must be present for the General Council to meet. Historically, within the General Council, four deputies apiece from each of the seven individual parishes have provided representation. This system allowed the smaller parishes, who have as few as 350 voters, the same number of representatives as larger parishes which have up to 2,600 voters. To correct this imbalance, 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 3-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. In 1981, the Executive Council, consisting of the head of government and seven ministers, was established. 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 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's young democracy is in the process of redefining its political party system. Three out of the five parties that dominated the political scene in past years have dissolved. The Liberal Union or UL, (current head of government Forn's party) is trying to reshape itself and change its name to that of the Andorran Liberal Party (PLA), thus offering a political umbrella to small parties and groups that have not yet found their place. Another party by the name of the Social Democratic Party has been formed and is designed to attract parties previously aligned with socialist ideals. Given the number of parties and Andorra's relative size, no one party controls the General Council; therefore, legislative majorities arise through coalitions. Since the 1993 constitutional ratification, three coalition governments have formed. The current government unites the UL, the CNA (National Andorran Coalition), and another relatively small party with Marc Forn Moln, a Liberal Unionist, as Cap de Govern, or head of government.

The government has continued to address many long-awaited reforms. In addition to legalizing political parties and trade unions for the first time, freedom of religion and assembly also have been legally guaranteed. Most significant has been a redefinition of the qualifications for Andorran citizenship, a major issue in a country where only 13,000 of 65,000 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 residency. Children of residents may opt for Andorran citizenship after age 18 if they resided virtually all of their lives in Andorra. Mere birth on Andorran soil does not confer citizenship. Dual nationality is not permitted. Noncitizens are allowed to own only a 33% share of a company. Only after they have resided in the country for 20 years, will they be entitled to own a 100% of a company. A proposed law to reduce the necessary years from 20 to 10 is being debated 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 duty-free shopping to one based on international banking and finance. Despite promising new changes, it is likely that Andorra will, at least for the short term, continue to confront a number of 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 allowing freedom of association, dealing with housing scarcities and speculation in real state, developing the tourist industry and renegotiating the relationship with the European Union.

Principal Government Officials
Co-Prince--Jacques Chirac, President of France
Co-Prince--Juan Marti Alanis, Bishop of Seu d'Ugell, Spain
Head of Government--Marc Forn
Sindic General--Francesc Areny

Ambassador to the United States--Juli F. Minoves Triquell

Andorra's GDP for 1998 was $1.2 billion, with tourism as its principal component. Attractive for shoppers from France and Spain as a free port, 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 duty-free, are less expensive in Andorra than in neighboring countries. As a result, smuggling is commonplace. Andorra's duty free status also has had a significant effect on the controversy concerning its relationship with the European Union. Its negotiations on duty-free status and relationship with the union began in 1987, soon after Spain joined. 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. Andorra is permitted to maintain price differences from other EU countries, and visitors enjoy limited duty-free allowances.

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 until 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 in the world to the United Nations. In early 1995, the United States and Andorra established formal diplomatic relations. Andorra also has expanded relations with other nations.

Andorra is a full member of the United Nations (UN), UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Conference for Commerce and Development (UNCCD), International Center of Studies for Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ICCROM), Telecommunications International Union (UIT), International Red Cross, Universal Copyright Convention, European Council, EUTELSAT, World Tourism Organization, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Customs Cooperation Council (CCC), and Interpol. Since 1991 Andorra has had a special agreement with the European Union.

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 based in Barcelona visit Andorra regularly.

Principal U.S. Official
Edward L. Romero is the U.S. Ambassador in Madrid to Andorra.

The U.S. Embassy is at Serrano, 75--08006 Madrid and the Consulate General is at Passeig Reina Elisenda, 23-25, 08034 Barcelona, Spain (tel. 932 802 227).

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