State Department Notes on Andorra
U.S. Department of State Background Note
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, made Count of Urgell overlord of Andorra. A descendant of the count later gave the lands to the diocese of Urgell, 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, 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, in the reign of the French King Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established the head of the French state and the Bishop of 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 transportation and communications have removed the country from its isolation.
Andorra held national elections on April 24, 2005. The ruling Andorran Liberal Party (PLA) won the elections but lost the absolute majority it had attained in the 2001 elections. After 10 years in power, Cap de Govern and PLA leader Marc Forn stepped down as Cap de Govern. His replacement is Former Foreign Minister Albert Pintat, who comes from the same party. The center-right PLA went from 15 to 14 seats in the 28-seat Parliament, while the center-left Social Democratic Party (PS) doubled its representation from 6 to 12 seats. The remaining 2 seats are held by CDA-Segle-21, a union of two center-right parties which are likely to join in a coalition with PLA. Since the ratification of the constitution in 1993, four coalition governments have been formed. The Pintat government's principal goals are to address housing scarcity, modernize the country's taxation system, and press forward with reforms required to remove Andorra from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) list of tax haven countries.
There has been a redefinition of the qualifications for Andorran citizenship, a major issue in a country where only 35.7% of 78,549 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 virtually all of their lives in Andorra. Mere 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, will they be entitled to own 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 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 dealing with housing scarcities and speculation in real state, developing the tourist industry, defining its relationship with the European Union, and reforming the investment law to allow up to 100% foreign ownership in activities and sectors considered strategic.
Principal Government Officials
Co-Prince--Jacques Chirac, President of France
Co-Prince--Joan Enric Vives i Sicilia, Bishop of Seu d'Urgell, Spain
Head of Government--Albert Pintat
Sindic General--Joan Gabriel
Charge d'Affaires to the United Nations--Jelena Pia-Comella (also accredited as representative to the U.S. Government)
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), United Nations 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), Interpol, and International Monetary Fund among others. Since 1991, Andorra has had a special agreement with the European Union.
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Revised: Jan. 2007