Principality of Andorra

Some 80,000 people live in this mountainous micro-state wedged between France and Spain, but only third are Andorran nations with the right to vote. Despite a number of historical and political changes, Andorra is a co-principality under the shared rule of the Bishop of Urgell and the President of the French Republic. From feudal lords to constitutional heads of State, from the creation of the Land Council in 1419 as the first 'parliament', where parish representatives could meet to discuss the problems of their communities, to the constitutional heads of State of the present day, the Andorrans have never ceased to look forward, modernising and updating their institutions continuously.

The mainstay of the highly-prosperous economy is tourism, accounting for about 80% of GDP. An estimated 10 million people visit each year, drawn by winter sports, a warm summer climate and duty-free goods. The country's banking sector enjoys partial tax-haven status.

Andorra has no regular military forces. 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. In 2008, Andorra announced its endorsement of the Proliferation Security Initiative, designed to combat illegal trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

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 has 84,484 inhabitants (Source: Servei d'Estudis del Ministeri de Finances. Data for 2008). Catalan is the sole official language for administrative purposes. However, Spanish is commonly spoken, as are French and Portuguese, albeit to a much lesser extent. Most of the population lives in the Principality's two main cities, Andorra la Vella and Escaldes, which, together with Pas de la Casa, are also the main commercial centres of the Andorra. Major towns include Encamp and Sant Julià de Lòria, which have relatively large populations but are less commercially-orientated than the capital and its surrounding area.

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 805 in return for their fighting the Moors. Legend tells that Charlemagne founded Andorra in recognition of aid given by its inhabitants against the Saracens. In the 800s, Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, made Count of Urgell overlord of Andorra. The earliest known document to mention Andorra is the act of consecration of the cathedral of Santa Maria of Urgell in 839, which names the parishes (administrative and territorial divisions) of Andorra as the fief of the Counts of Urgell.

Between the 9th and 10th centuries, the Andorran valleys belonged to the Counts of Urgell, who ceded them to the See of Urgell in 988 in exchange for other possessions in the Cerdanya, although it was not until the 12th century that Andorrans recognised the sovereignty of the See of Urgell in an agreement signed with the bishop Bernat Sanç in 1176. A period of struggle for the sovereignty over the Andorran valleys ensued, particularly with the Counts of Urgell, which caused the bishops to call on the closest nobles for aid and protection. For its cooperation with the bishop, the House of Caboet was given the valleys of Andorra in fief.

During the 15th century the Counts of Foix assumed sovereignty of Navarre. When, in 1589, Henry, King of Navarre and Count of Foix, Viscount of Béarn and Lord of Andorra, ascended to the French throne, his co-rule over Andorra as Count of Foix became fused with the French crown. In 1793, due to the feudal origin of the bonds linking Andorra to France, the French Republicans refused to recognise their relationships with Andorra and to receive tributes from the territory. In 1806, Napoleon restored the feudal tradition and the French claim to co-lordship over the Principality of Andorra.

Until 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 two co-princes. 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, which guarantees the rights of those living and working there.

Andorra is a co-principality, under the joint suzerainty of France and Spain. In June 1990, the General Council established a special commission to draft a Constitution, which was to promulgate popular sovereignty and constitutionals the country’s co-princes. Following the latter’s formal approval of the plan in April 1991, the draft Constitution was approved by popular referendum in March 1993 and was promulgated two months later; it set the elections for early December.

On polling day, none of the five contending parties secured an outright majority. The National Democratic Grouping (AND) of outgoing President of the Executive Council (head of government) Oscar Ribas Reig won the most seats. On 19 January 1994, Mr. Reig was once again elected President by the General Council. He then declared that his Government would give priority to fiscal and tax reforms as well as to developments of tourism. This nine-member Executive Council (Cabinet), composed of AND members and independents, was sworn in on 3 February 1993.

Antoni Marti took over as head of government after his Democrats for Andorra coalition heavily defeated the incumbent Social Democratic Party (PS) in an early parliamentary election in May 2011. Marti campaigned on a platform of opposing the introduction of an income tax proposed by Mr Cassany, but in June 2013 he bowed to European Union pressure and announced that Andorra would bring in personal income tax.

In elections on 01 March 2015 Prime Minister Antoni Martí's Democrats for Andorra (DA) lost five seats but retained the majority in the 28-member General Council. The Liberal Party of Andorra (PLA), from which the DA had split in 2011, returned to parliament with eight seats, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Josep Pintat. Following amendments to the Electoral Law in 2014, Andorrans living abroad were allowed to cast a postal vote for the first time. On 31 March, the General Council re-elected Martí (DA) as Prime Minister. During the election campaign, the major parties focused on Andorra's cooperation agreement with the European Union, tax reform and pensions.

Josep Pintat has been a candidate for head of Government of what he has called a third way. Pintat reaffirms the intention of organizing a Lauredian Union political project independent of Massana, to which he could add other forces and has no plans to negotiate in the elections. This ensures that for a long time no longer deal with the Democrats.

Andorra's ruling party lost its majority in a general election 07 April 2019 and must seek out a coalition partner after eight years in power in the tiny Pyrenees principality. The center-right Democrates per Andorra still won the largest single share in the 28-member General Council, taking 11 seats with 35 percent of the vote. An alliance between socialists and liberals, which had hoped to seize power, were only able to win four seats. The second largest party, the Social Democrats, took five seats. The elections were carried out against a backdrop of unprecedented demonstrations, first launched in March 2018, over the high cost of housing and a reform of the civil service. The finance sector also faced a shake-up, with Andorra attempting to overhaul its reputation as a tax haven by criminalising tax evasion and moving towards full banking transparency.

The principality is facing criticism. Its institutions date back to the Middle Ages and have evolved little since, especially when it comes to women's rights and abortion, which is illegal in Andorra. Most Andorran woman in need of an abortion head to Barcelona, a three-hour drive away, where a termination costs between €300 and €2,000.

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