U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Andorra, December 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs
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.
Climate: Temperate, cool, dry.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Andorran(s).
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.
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
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
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
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
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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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.
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