U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  Andorra, December 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs

December 1995
Official Name: 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:  64,000.
Annual growth rate:  1.4%
Ethnic groups:  Catalan, Spanish, French, Portuguese.
Religion:  Roman Catholic.
Languages:  Catalan (official), Spanish, French.
Education:  Years compulsory--to age 16.  Attendance--100%.  Literacy--
Health:  Infant mortality rate--8/1,000.  Life expectancy--76 yrs. male, 
81 yrs. female.


Type: Parliamentary democracy that retains as its heads of state a  co-
Constitution:  Ratified in March 1993.
Independence:  1278.
Branches:  Head of State--Two co-princes (President of France, Bishop of 
Seo de Urgel in Spain).  Executive--Head of Government (Cap de Govern) 
and seven counselors.  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 (parroguies)--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 (CNA); Andorran National Democracy (AND); New Democracy (ND); 
National Democratic Initiative (NDI); various minor groups.
Suffrage:  Universal at 18.


GDP: $1 billion
Natural resources:  Hydroelectric power, mineral water, timber, iron 
ore, lead.
Agriculture:  Products--tobacco, sheep.
Industry:  Types--tourism (mainstay of the economy), tobacco products, 
Trade:  Major activities are commerce and banking, but no official 
figures are available.  Duty-free status.
Official currencies:  Spanish pesetas and French francs.


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 up 70% of the population.

The national language is Catalan, a romance language related to the 
Provencal groups.  It is spoken by more than 6 million people in the 
region comprising French and Spanish Catalonia.  French and Spanish are 
also 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.  Andorran schools follow 
the Spanish curriculum, and their diplomas are recognized by Spain.  
There are no schools of higher education.


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 the Bishop of 

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 Seo de Urgel 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 

In its mountain fastness, 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 will 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 the government.  They are represented in Andorra by a delegate.   
As co-princes of Andorra, the President of France and the Bishop of Seo 
de Urgel 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 as 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 four 
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 will be selected from nationwide lists.

A sindic and a subsindic are chosen by the General Council to implement 
its decisions. They serve three-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 four years, 
after the general elections, the General Council elects the head of 
government, who, in turn, chooses the other members of the Executive 

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 nascent political system is dominated by five major political 
parties/groups of which only one has completed the necessary 
registration process.  The five are the Liberal Union, the National 
Andorran Coalition, the Andorran National Democracy, the New Democracy, 
and the National Democratic Initiative parties.  Given the number of 
parties and Andorra's relative size, no one party controls the General 
Council;  therefore, legislative majorities arise through coalitions.   
As a result of the political fragmentation, interest groups formed on 
the basis of economic and political motives have a strong hand in 
Andorran politics.  Since the 1993 constitutional ratification, two 
coalition governments have formed.  The current government unites the 
UL, CNA, and a minor party with Marc Forne Molne, a liberal Unionist, as 
Cap de Govern, or Head of Government.

Recently, the government has addressed many long-awaited reforms. In 
addition to political parties and trade unions being legal for the first 
time (although no labor unions exist at present),  freedom of religion 
and assembly have been guaranteed.  Most significant has been a 
redefinition of the qualifications for Andorran citizenship, a major 
issue in a country where only 13,000 of 64,000 are legal citizens.  Non-
citizens are allowed to own 33% of the shares of a company.

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 modernizing the educational system, allowing freedom 
of association, dealing with housing scarcities and uncontrolled 
speculation in real estate, and developing the tourist industry.

Principal Government Officials

Co-Prince--Jacques Chirac, President of France
Co-Prince--Juan Marti Alanis, Bishop of Seo de Urgel, Spain
Head of Government--Marc Forne
Sindic General--Josep Dalleres
Ambassador to the United States--Juli F. Minoves Triquell


Andorra's GDP for 1993 was $1 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 340 hotels and 390 restaurants, as well as many 
shops, the tourist trade employs a growing portion of the domestic labor 

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 has also 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 

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 has also expanded relations with other nations.

  Andorra is a full member of the United Nations (UN), United Nations 
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),  Customs 
Cooperation Council (CCC), Telecommunications International Union, 
Universal Copyright Convention, Meteorological Organization Convention, 
the 1941 Automotive Convention, International Red Cross, European 
Council, FUTFI SAT, and the World Tourism Organization.  Since 1991 
Andorra has 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, and 
the U.S. includes the country within the Barcelona consular district.  
United States consulate general officials visit Andorra regularly.

Principal U.S. Official

Maurice Parker is the U.S. consul general in Barcelona and the 
representative of the U.S. Government to Andorra.  The U.S. consulate 
general is at Passeig Reina Elisenda, 23-25, 08034 Barcelona, Spain 
(tel. 280-2227).


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the Department of State recommends that Americans avoid 
travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security 
information, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. 
embassies and consulates in the subject country. They can be obtained by 
telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the 
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a 
modem with standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications 
on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available 
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Emergency information concerning  Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-

While planning a trip, travelers can check the latest information on 
health requirements and conditions with the U.S. Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 
provides telephonic or fax information on the most recent health 
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on 
food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet 
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication 
number CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available from the Superintendent of 
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. 
(202) 512-1800.

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (see "Principal Government 
Officials" listing in this publication).

Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to 
register with the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" 
listing in this publication). Such information might assist family 
members in making contact en route in case of an emergency.

Further Electronic Information:

Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB 
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful 
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to 
anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and 
telephone line.

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press 
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. 
DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet:

Gopher:  dosfan.lib.uic.edu
URL:  gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/
WWW:  http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/dosfan.html

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis 
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at 
$80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and 
Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of 
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, 
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.

Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government 
Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS 
information, call (202) 512-1530.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(gopher. stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 
482-1986 for more information.

Background Notes Series -- Published by the United States Department of 
State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- 
Washington, DC -- Series Editor:  Marilyn J. Bremner

Andorra --  Department of State Publication 8992 -- December 1995 -- 
Editor: Joanna Weinz

This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without 
permission; citation of this source is appreciated.  For sale by the 
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC  20402.
Return to Europe Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage