Andorra, officially the Principality of Andorra, is a sovereign landlocked microstate on the Iberian Peninsula, in the eastern Pyrenees, bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south. Believed to have been created by Charlemagne, Andorra was ruled by the count of Urgell until 988, when it was transferred to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell. The present principality was formed by a charter in 1278. It is known as a principality as it is a diarchy headed by two princes: the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain, and the President of the French Republic.
Andorra is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe, having an area of and a population of approximately. The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalan descent. Andorra is the 16th-smallest country in the world by land and the 11th-smallest by population. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of above sea level. The official language is Catalan, but Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken.
Tourism in Andorra sees an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually. Andorra is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is its official currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993. In 2013, Andorra had the highest life expectancy in the world at 81 years, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study.
EtymologyThe origin of the word Andorra is unknown, although several hypotheses have been formulated. The oldest derivation of the word Andorra is from the Greek historian Polybius who describes the Andosins, an Iberian Pre-Roman tribe, as historically located in the valleys of Andorra and facing the Carthaginian army in its passage through the Pyrenees during the Punic Wars. The word Andosini or Andosins may derive from the Basque handia whose meaning is "big" or "giant". The Andorran toponymy shows evidence of Basque language in the area. Another theory suggests that the word Andorra may derive from the old word Anorra that contains the Basque word ur.
Another theory suggests that Andorra may derive from Arabic al-darra, meaning "the thickly wooded place". When the Arabs and Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula, the valleys of the High Pyrenees were covered by large tracts of forest, and most of the regions that were not administered by Muslims, because of the geographical difficulty that was presented, received this designation.
Other theories suggest that the term derives from the Navarro-Aragonese andurrial, which means "land covered with bushes" or "scrubland".
The folk etymology holds that Charlemagne had named the region as a reference to the Biblical Canaanite valley of Endor or Andor, a name bestowed by his heir and son Louis le Debonnaire after defeating the Moors in the "wild valleys of Hell".
PrehistoryLa Balma de la Margineda, found by archaeologists at Sant Julià de Lòria, was settled in 9,500 BC as a passing place between the two sides of the Pyrenees. The seasonal camp was perfectly located for hunting and fishing by the groups of hunter-gatherers from Ariege and Segre.
During the Neolithic Age, a group of people moved to the Valley of Madriu as a permanent camp in 6640 BC. The population of the valley grew cereals, raised domestic livestock, and developed a commercial trade with people from the Segre and Occitania.
Other archaeological deposits include the Tombs of Segudet and Feixa del Moro both dated in 4900–4300 BC as an example of the Urn culture in Andorra. The model of small settlements began to evolve to a complex urbanism during the Bronze Age. Metallurgical items of iron, ancient coins, and relicaries can be found in the ancient sanctuaries scattered around the country.
The sanctuary of Roc de les Bruixes is perhaps the most important archeological complex of this age in Andorra, located in the parish of Canillo, about the rituals of funerals, ancient scripture and engraved stone murals.
The Iberian and Roman AndorraThe inhabitants of the valleys were traditionally associated with the Iberians and historically located in Andorra as the Iberian tribe Andosins or Andosini during the 7th and 2nd centuries BC. Influenced by Aquitanias, Basque and Iberian languages, the locals developed some current toponyms. Early writings and documents relating to this group of people goes back to the second century BC by the Greek writer Polybius in his Histories during the Punic Wars.
Some of the most significant remains of this era are the Castle of the Roc d'Enclar, l'Anxiu in Les Escaldes and Roc de L'Oral in Encamp.
The presence of Roman influence is recorded from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. The places found with more Roman presence are in Camp Vermell in Sant Julia de Loria, and in some places in Encamp, as well as in the Roc d'Enclar. People continued trading, mainly with wine and cereals, with the Roman cities of Urgellet and all across Segre through the Via Romana Strata Ceretana.
The Visigoths and Carolingians: the legend of CharlemagneAfter the fall of the Roman Empire, Andorra came under the influence of the Visigoths, not remotely from the Kingdom of Toledo, but locally from the Diocese of Urgell. The Visigoths remained in the valleys for 200 years, during which time Christianity spread. When the Muslim Empire and its conquest of most of the Iberian Peninsula replaced the ruling Visigoths, Andorra was sheltered from these invaders by the Franks.
Tradition holds that Charles the Great granted a charter to the Andorran people for a contingent of five thousand soldiers under the command of Marc Almugaver, in return for fighting against the Moors near Porté-Puymorens.
as depicted in the Acta de Consagració i Dotació de la Catedral de la Seu d'Urgell
Andorra remained part of the Marca Hispanica of the Frankish Empire being part of the territory ruled by the Count of Urgell and eventually by the bishop of the Diocese of Urgell. Also tradition holds that it was guaranteed by the son of Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, writing the Carta de Poblament or a local municipal charter circa 805.
In 988, Borrell II, Count of Urgell, gave the Andorran valleys to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya. Since then, the Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d'Urgell, has been Co-prince of Andorra.
The first document that mentions Andorra as a territory is the Acta de Consagració i Dotació de la Catedral de la Seu d'Urgell. The old document dated from 839 depicts the six old parishes of the Andorran valleys and therefore the administrative division of the country.
Medieval Age: The Paréages and the founding of the Co-PrincipalityBefore 1095, Andorra did not have any type of military protection and the Bishop of Urgell, who knew that the count of Urgell wanted to reclaim the Andorran valleys, asked the lord of Caboet for help and protection. In 1095, the Lord of Caboet and the bishop of Urgell signed under oath a declaration of their co-sovereignty over Andorra. Arnalda, daughter of Arnau of Caboet, married the viscount of Castellbò. Their daughter, Ermessenda, married the count of Foix, Roger-Bernard II. Roger-Bernard II and Ermessenda shared ruled over Andorra with the bishop of Urgell.
In the 13th century, a military dispute arose between the bishop of Urgell and the count of Foix as aftermath of the Cathar Crusade. The conflict was resolved in 1278 with the mediation of the king of Aragon, Peter II, between the bishop and the count, by the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the count of Foix and the bishop of Urgell, in Catalonia. This gave the principality its territory and political form.
in the capital city of Andorra la Vella
A second paréage was signed in 1288 after a dispute when the count of Foix ordered the construction of a castle in Roc d'Enclar. The document was ratified by the noble notary Jaume Orig of Puigcerdà and the construction of military structures in the country was prohibited.
In 1364 the political organization of the country named the figure of the syndic as representative of the Andorrans to their co-princes making possible the creation of local departments. After being ratified by Bishop Francesc Tovia and Count John I, the Consell de la Terra or Consell General de les Valls was founded in 1419, the second oldest parliament in Europe. The syndic Andreu d'Alàs and the General Council organized the creation of the Justice Courts in 1433 with the co-Princes and the collection of taxes like foc i lloc.
Although there are remains of ecclesiastical works dating before the 9th century, Andorra developed exquisite Romanesque Art during the 9th through 14th centuries, particularly in the construction of churches, bridges, religious murals and statues of the Virgin and Child. Nowadays, the Romanesque buildings that form part of Andorra's cultural heritage stand out in a remarkable way, with an emphasis on Església de Sant Esteve, Sant Joan de Caselles, Església de Sant Miquel d'Engolasters, Sant Martí de la Cortinada and the medieval bridges of Margineda and Escalls among many others.
While the Catalan Pyrenees were embryonic of the Catalan language at the end of the 11th century Andorra was influenced by the appearance of that language where it was adopted by proximity and influence even decades before it was expanded by the rest of the Crown of Aragon.
The local population based its economy during the Middle Ages in livestock and agriculture, as well as in furs and weavers. Later, at the end of the 11th century, the first iron foundries began to appear in Northern Parishes like Ordino, much appreciated by the master artisans who developed the art of the forges, an important economic activity in the country from the 15th century.
16th to 18th centuriesIn 1601 the Tribunal de Corts was created as a result of Huguenot rebellions from France, Inquisition courts coming from Spain and indigenous witchcraft experienced in the country due to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. With the passage of time, the co-title to Andorra passed to the kings of Navarre. After Henry III of Navarre became king of France, he issued an edict in 1607 that established the head of the French state and the bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra. During 1617, communal councils form the sometent to deal with the rise of bandolerisme and the Consell de la Terra was defined and structured in terms of its composition, organization and competences current today.
Andorra continued with the same economic system that it had during the 12th–14th centuries with a large production of metallurgy and with the introduction of tobacco circa 1692 and import trade. The fair of Andorra la Vella was ratified by the co-princes in 1371 and 1448 being the most important annual national festival commercially ever since.
of the Rossell family in Ordino, Casa Rossell, built in 1611. The family also owned the largest ironwork forges in Andorra as Farga Rossell and Farga del Serrat.
The country had a unique and experienced guild of weavers, Confraria de Paraires i Teixidors, located in Escaldes-Engordany founded in 1604 taking advantage of the thermal waters of the area. By this time, the country was characterized by the social system of prohoms and casalers, deriving from the tradition of pubilla and hereu.
Three centuries after its foundation the Consell de la Terra located its headquarters and the Tribunal de Corts in Casa de la Vall in 1702. The manor house built in 1580 served as a noble fortress of the Busquets family. Inside the parliament was placed the Closet of the six keys representative of each Andorran parish and where the Andorran constitution and other documents and laws were kept later on.
In both the Reapers' War and the War of the Spanish Succession, the Andorran people supported the Catalans who saw their rights reduced in 1716. The reaction was the promotion of Catalan writings in Andorra, with cultural works such as the Book of Privileges, Manual Digest by Antoni Fiter i Rossell or the Polità andorrà by Antoni Puig.
19th century: the New Reform and the Andorran QuestionAfter the French Revolution in 1809, Napoleon I reestablished the Co-Principate and removed the French medieval title. In 1812–1813, the First French Empire annexed Catalonia during the Peninsular War and divided the region into four départements, with Andorra as a part of the district of Puigcerdà. In 1814, an imperial decree reestablished the independence and economy of Andorra.
During this period, Andorra's late medieval institutions and rural culture remained largely unchanged. In 1866, the syndic Guillem d'Areny-Plandolit led the reformist group in a Council General of 24 members elected by suffrage limited to heads of families. The Council General replaced the aristocratic oligarchy that previously ruled the state.
The New Reform began after ratification by both Co-Princes and established the basis of the constitution and symbols—such as the tricolor flag—of Andorra. A new service economy arose as a demand of the valley inhabitants and began to build infrastructure such as hotels, spa resorts, roads and telegraph lines.
scenery during the Revolution of 1881
The authorities of the Co-Princes banned casinos and betting houses throughout the country. The ban resulted in an economic conflict for the Andorran people. The conflict led to the so-called revolution of 1881, when revolutionaries assaulted the house of the syndic on 8 December 1880, and established the Provisional Revolutionary Council led by Joan Pla i Calvo and Pere Baró i Mas. The Provisional Revolutionary Council allowed for the construction of casinos and spas by foreign companies.
From 7 to 9 June 1881, the loyalists of Canillo and Encamp reconquered the parishes of Ordino and La Massana by establishing contact with the revolutionary forces in Escaldes-Engordany. After a day of combat the Treaty of the Bridge of Escalls was signed on 10 June. The Council was replaced and new elections were held. The economic situation worsened, as the populace was divided over the Qüestió d'Andorra – the "Andorran Question" in relation to the Eastern Question). The struggles continued between pro-bishops, pro-French, and nationalists based on the troubles of Canillo in 1882 and 1885.
Andorra participated in the cultural movement of the Catalan Renaixença. Between 1882 and 1887, the first academic schools were formed where trilingualism coexisted with the official language, Catalan. Romantic authors from France and Spain reported the awakening of the national consciousness of the country. Jacint Verdaguer lived in Ordino during the 1880s where he wrote and shared works related to the Renaixença with writer and photographer, Joaquim de Riba.
In 1848, Fromental Halévy had premiered the opera Le Val d'Andorre to great success in Europe, where the national consciousness of the valleys was exposed in the romantic work during the Peninsular War.
20th and 21st century: Modernisation of the country and the Constitutional AndorraAndorra declared war on Imperial Germany during World War I, but did not take part directly in the fighting. Some Andorrans volunteered to take part in the conflict as part of the French Legions. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1958 as it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles.
In 1933, France occupied Andorra following social unrest which occurred before elections due to the Revolution of 1933 and the FHASA strikes ; the revolt led by Joves Andorrans called for political reforms, the universal suffrage vote of all Andorrans and acted in defense of the rights of local and foreign workers during the construction of FHASA's hydroelectric power station in Encamp. The 5 April 1933 Joves Andorrans seized the Andorran Parliament. These actions were preceded by the arrival of Colonel René-Jules Baulard with 50 gendarmes and the mobilization of 200 local militias or sometent led by the Síndic Francesc Cairat.
On 6 July 1934, adventurer and nobleman Boris Skossyreff, with his promise of freedoms and modernization of the country and wealth through the establishment of a tax haven and foreign investments, received the support of the members of the General Council to proclaim himself the sovereign of Andorra. On 8 July 1934 Boris issued a proclamation in Urgell, declaring himself Boris I, King of Andorra, simultaneously declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell and approving the King's constitution on 10 July. He was arrested by the Co-Prince and Bishop Justí Guitart i Vilardebó and their authorities on 20 July and ultimately expelled from Spain. From 1936 until 1940, a French military detachment of Garde Mobile led by well-known Colonel René-Jules Baulard was garrisoned in Andorra to secure the principality against disruption from the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Spain and also face the rise of Republicanism in the aftermath of the 1933 Revolution. During the Spanish Civil War, the inhabitants of Andorra welcomed refugees from both sides, and many of them settled permanently in the country thus contributing to the subsequent economic boom and the entry into the capitalist era of Andorra. Francoist troops reached the Andorran border in the later stages of the war.
During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Francoist Spain, two fascist states. Many Andorrans criticized the passivity of the General Council for impeding both the entry and expulsion of foreigners and refugees, committing economic crimes, reducing the rights of citizens and being sympathetic to Francoism. General Council members justified the Council's political and diplomatic actions as necessary for Andorra's survival and the protection of its sovereignty. Andorra was relatively unscathed by the two world wars and the Spanish Civil War. Certain groups organized themselves to help victims of oppression in Nazi-occupied countries, while participating in smuggling to help Andorra survive. Among the groups that were most prominent there was the Hostal Palanques Evasion Network Command. The Evasion Network Command, in contact with the British Mi6, helped almost 400 fugitives, among whom were Allied military personnel. The Command remained active between 1941 and 1944, although there were struggles with pro-Axis informers and Gestapo agents within Andorra.
in the streets of Sant Julià de Lòria in Andorra, October 1967
In the capital city there was a smuggling black market network of propaganda, culture and cinematic art not prone to totalitarian regimes, promulgated in some places as the Hotel Mirador or the Casino Hotel, as a meeting place for people of ideologies close to Andorran and Spanish Republicanism, and Free France. The network was maintained after the war, when film societies were formed, where movies, music and books censored in Franco's Spain were imported, thus becoming an anti-censorship attraction for the Catalan or foreign public even within Andorra. Andorran Group, an anti-fascist organization linked to the Occitanie's French Resistance, accused the French representative of collaboration with Nazism.
The Andorran opening to the capitalist economy resulted in two axes: mass tourism and the country's tax exemption. The first steps toward the capitalist boom date from the 1930s, with the construction of FHASA and the creation of professional banking with Banc Agrícol and Crèdit Andorrà, later with Banca Mora, Banca Cassany and SOBANCA. Shortly after activities such as skiing and shopping become a tourist attraction, with the inauguration of ski resorts and cultural entities in the late 1930s. All in all, a renovated hotel industry has developed. In April 1968 a social health insurance system was created.
at the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2014
The Andorran Government necessarily involved planning, projection and forecasts for the future: with the official visit of the French co-prince Charles de Gaulle in 1967 and 1969, it was given approval for the economic boom and national demands within the framework of human rights and international openness.
Andorra lived an era commonly known as "Andorran dream" along with the Trente Glorieuses: the mass culture rooted the country experiencing radical changes in the economy and culture. Proof of this event was Ràdio Andorra, number one transmitter musical radio station in Europe on this period, with guests and speakers of great importance promoting musical hits of Chanson française, Swing, Rhythm & blues, Jazz, Rock & roll or American Country music. So much so that Andorra achieved a GDP per capita and a life expectancy higher than the most standard countries of the current economy.
Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France, Spain and Portugal. In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with developments in transport and communications have removed the country from its isolation. Since 1976 the country sees the need to reform Andorran institutions due to the anachronisms in the field of sovereignty, human rights and the balance of powers as well as the need to adapt legislation to modern demands. In 1982 a first separation of powers took place when instituting the Govern d'Andorra, under the name of Executive Board, chaired by the first prime minister Òscar Ribas Reig with the approval of the Co-Princes. In 1989 the Principality signed an agreement with the European Economic Community to regularize trade relations.
Its political system was modernized in 1993 after the Andorran constitutional referendum, when the constitution was drafted by the Co-Princes and the General Council and approved on 14 March by 74.2% of voters, with a 76% turnout. The first elections under the new constitution were held later in the year. The same year Andorra became a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
Andorra formalized diplomatic relations with the United States in 1996 participating in the 51st UN General Assembly, a very important fact in view of the normalization that the country aspired to. First General Syndic Marc Forné took part on a speech in Catalan in the General Assembly to defend the reform of the organization, and after three days Forné took part in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe to defend the linguistic rights and the economy of Andorra. In mid-2006 the monetary agreement with the European Union is formalized, which allows Andorra to use the euro in an official way, as well as coin its own Euro currency.
PoliticsAndorra is a parliamentary co-principality with the president of France and the Catholic bishop of Urgell as co-princes. This peculiarity makes the president of France, in his capacity as prince of Andorra, an elected monarch, although he is not elected by a popular vote of the Andorran people. The politics of Andorra take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, whereby the head of government is the chief executive, and of a multi-party system.
The current head of government is Xavier Espot Zamora of the Democrats for Andorra. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both government and parliament.
The Parliament of Andorra is known as the General Council. The General Council consists of between 28 and 42 councillors. The councillors serve for four-year terms, and elections are held between the 30th and 40th days following the dissolution of the previous Council.
Half are elected in equal numbers by each of the seven administrative parishes, and the other half of the councillors are elected in a single national constituency. Fifteen days after the election, the councillors hold their inauguration. During this session, the Syndic General, who is the head of the General Council, and the Subsyndic General, his assistant, are elected. Eight days later, the Council convenes once more. During this session the head of government is chosen from among the councillors.
Candidates can be proposed by a minimum of one-fifth of the councillors. The Council then elects the candidate with the absolute majority of votes to be head of government. The Syndic General then notifies the co-princes, who in turn appoint the elected candidate as the head of government of Andorra. The General Council is also responsible for proposing and passing laws. Bills may be presented to the Council as Private Members' Bills by three of the local Parish Councils jointly or by at least one tenth of the citizens of Andorra.
, headquarters of the General Council since 2011, next to Casa de la Vall
The Council also approves the annual budget of the principality. The government must submit the proposed budget for parliamentary approval at least two months before the previous budget expires. If the budget is not approved by the first day of the next year, the previous budget is extended until a new one is approved. Once any bill is approved, the Syndic General is responsible for presenting it to the Co-Princes so that they may sign and enact it.
If the head of government is not satisfied with the Council, he may request that the co-princes dissolve the Council and order new elections. In turn, the councillors have the power to remove the head of government from office. After a motion of censure is approved by at least one-fifth of the councillors, the Council will vote and if it receives the absolute majority of votes, the head of government is removed.
Law and criminal justiceThe judiciary is composed of the Magistrates Court, the Criminal Law Court, the High Court of Andorra, and the Constitutional Court. The High Court of Justice is composed of five judges: one appointed by the head of government, one each by the co-princes, one by the Syndic General, and one by the judges and magistrates. It is presided over by the member appointed by the Syndic General and the judges hold office for six-year terms.
The magistrates and judges are appointed by the High Court, as is the president of the Criminal Law Court. The High Court also appoints members of the Office of the Attorney General. The Constitutional Court is responsible for interpreting the Constitution and reviewing all appeals of unconstitutionality against laws and treaties. It is composed of four judges, one appointed by each of the co-princes and two by the General Council. They serve eight-year terms. The Court is presided over by one of the judges on a two-year rotation so that each judge at one point will preside over the Court.
Foreign relations, defence, and securityAndorra does not have its own armed forces, although there is a small ceremonial army. Responsibility for defending the nation rests primarily with France and Spain. However, in case of emergencies or natural disasters, the Sometent is called and all able-bodied men between 21 and 60 of Andorran nationality must serve. This is why all Andorrans, and especially the head of each house should, by law, keep a rifle, even though the law also states that the police will offer a firearm in case of need. Andorra is a full member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and has a special agreement with the European Union.
MilitaryAndorra has a small army, which has historically been raised or reconstituted at various dates, but has never in modern times amounted to a standing army. The basic principle of Andorran defence is that all able-bodied men are available to fight if called upon by the sounding of the Sometent. Being a landlocked country, Andorra has no navy.
Before World War I, Andorra maintained an armed force of about 600 part-time militiamen under the supervision of a Captain and a Lieutenant. This body was not liable for service outside the principality and was commanded by two officials appointed by France and the Bishop of Urgell.
Despite not being involved in any fighting during the First World War, Andorra was technically the longest combatant, as the country was left out of the Versailles Peace Conference, technically remaining at war with Germany from its original declaration of war in 1914 until 24 September 1958 when Andorra officially declared peace with Germany.
In the modern era, the army has consisted of a very small body of volunteers willing to undertake ceremonial duties. Uniforms and weaponry were handed down from generation to generation within families and communities.
The army's role in internal security was largely taken over by the formation of the Police Corps of Andorra in 1931. Brief civil disorder associated with the elections of 1933 led to assistance being sought from the French National Gendarmerie, with a detachment resident in Andorra for two months under the command of René-Jules Baulard. The Andorran Police was reformed in the following year, with eleven soldiers appointed to supervisory roles. The force consisted of six Corporals, one for each parish, plus four junior staff officers to co-ordinate action, and a commander with the rank of major. It was the responsibility of the six corporals, each in his own parish, to be able to raise a fighting force from among the able-bodied men of the parish.
Today a small, twelve-man ceremonial unit remains the only permanent section of the Sometent, but all able-bodied men remain technically available for military service, with a requirement for each family to have access to a firearm. A shotgun per household is unregulated. Rifles and pistols require a license. The army has not fought for more than 700 years, and its main responsibility is to present the flag of Andorra at official ceremonial functions. According to Marc Forné Molné, Andorra's military budget is strictly from voluntary donations, and the availability of full-time volunteers.
In more recent times there has only been a general emergency call to the popular army of Sometent during the floods of 1982 in the Catalan Pyrenees, where 12 citizens perished in Andorra, to help the population and establish a public order along with the Local Police units.
GIPAThe Grup d'Intervenció Policia d'Andorra is a small special forces unit trained in counter-terrorism, and hostage recovery tasks. Although it is the closest in style to an active military force, it is part of the Police Corps, and not the army. As terrorist and hostage situations are a rare threat to the country, the GIPA is commonly assigned to prisoner escort duties, and at other times to routine policing.
Fire brigadeThe Andorran Fire Brigade, with headquarters at Santa Coloma, operates from four modern fire stations, and has a staff of around 120 firefighters. The service is equipped with 16 heavy appliances, four light support vehicles and four ambulances.
Historically, the families of the six ancient parishes of Andorra maintained local arrangements to assist each other in fighting fires. The first fire pump purchased by the government was acquired in 1943. Serious fires which lasted for two days in December 1959 led to calls for a permanent fire service, and the Andorran Fire Brigade was formed on 21 April 1961.
The fire service maintains full-time cover with five fire crews on duty at any time: two at the brigade's headquarters in Santa Coloma, and one crew at each of the other three fire stations.
ParishesAndorra consists of seven parishes:
- Andorra la Vella
- La Massana
- Sant Julià de Lòria
Phytogeographically, Andorra belongs to the Atlantic European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Andorra belongs to the ecoregion of Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests.
ClimateAndorra has alpine, continental and oceanic climates, depending on altitude. Its higher elevation means there is, on average, more snow in winter and it is slightly cooler in summer. The diversity of landmarks, the different orientation of the valleys and the irregularity relief typical of the Mediterranean climates make the country have a great diversity of microclimates that hinder the general dominance of the high mountain climate. The great differences of altitude in the minimum and maximum points, together with the influence of a Mediterranean climate, develop the climate of the Andorran Pyrenees.
When in precipitation, a global model characterized by convective and abundant rains can be defined during spring and summer, which can last until autumn ; In winter, however, it is less rainy, except in the highlands, subject to the influence of fronts from the Atlantic, which explains the great amount of snowfall in the Andorran mountains. The temperature regime is characterized, broadly, by a temperate summer and a long and cold winter; in accordance with the mountainous condition of the Principality.
EconomyTourism, the mainstay of Andorra's tiny, well-to-do economy, accounts for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 10.2 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status and by its summer and winter resorts.
One of the main sources of income in Andorra is tourism from ski resorts which total over of ski ground. The sport brings in over 7 million visitors annually and an estimated 340 million euros per year, sustaining 2,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs at present since 2007.
The banking sector, with its tax haven status, also contributes substantially to the economy. The financial system comprises five banking groups, one specialised credit entity, 8 investment undertaking management entities, 3 asset management companies and 29 insurance companies, 14 of which are branches of foreign insurance companies authorised to operate in the principality.
Agricultural production is limited; only 5% of the land is arable, and most food has to be imported. Some tobacco is grown locally. The principal livestock activity is domestic sheep raising. Manufacturing output consists mainly of cigarettes, cigars, and furniture. Andorra's natural resources include hydroelectric power, mineral water, timber, iron ore, and lead.
Andorra is not a member of the European Union, but enjoys a special relationship with it, such as being treated as an EU member for trade in manufactured goods and as a non-EU member for agricultural products. Andorra lacked a currency of its own and used both the French franc and the Spanish peseta in banking transactions until 31 December 1999, when both currencies were replaced by the EU's single currency, the euro. Coins and notes of both the franc and the peseta remained legal tender in Andorra until 31 December 2002. Andorra negotiated to issue its own euro coins, beginning in 2014.
Andorra has traditionally had one of the world's lowest unemployment rates. In 2009 it stood at 2.9%.
Andorra has long benefited from its status as a tax haven, with revenues raised exclusively through import tariffs. However, during the European sovereign-debt crisis of the 21st century, its tourist economy suffered a decline, partly caused by a drop in the prices of goods in Spain, which undercut Andorran duty-free shopping. This led to a growth in unemployment. On 1 January 2012, a business tax of 10% was introduced, followed by a sales tax of 2% a year later, which raised just over 14 million euros in its first quarter.
On 31 May 2013, it was announced that Andorra intended to legislate for the introduction of an income tax by the end of June, against a background of increasing dissatisfaction with the existence of tax havens among EU members. The announcement was made following a meeting in Paris between the Head of Government Antoni Marti and the French President and Prince of Andorra, François Hollande. Hollande welcomed the move as part of a process of Andorra "bringing its taxation in line with international standards".
PopulationThe population of Andorra is estimated at . The Andorrans are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalan descent. The population has grown from 5,000 in 1900.
Two-thirds of residents lack Andorran nationality and do not have the right to vote in communal elections. Moreover, they are not allowed to be elected as prime minister or to own more than 33% of the capital stock of a privately held company.
LanguagesThe historic and official language is Catalan, a Romance language. The Andorran government encourages the use of Catalan. It funds a Commission for Catalan Toponymy in Andorra, and provides free Catalan classes to assist immigrants. Andorran television and radio stations use Catalan.
Because of immigration, historical links, and close geographic proximity, Spanish, Portuguese and French are commonly spoken. Most Andorran residents can speak one or more of these, in addition to Catalan. English is less commonly spoken among the general population, though it is understood to varying degrees in the major tourist resorts. Andorra is one of only four European countries that have never signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities.
According to the Observatori Social d'Andorra, the linguistic usage in Andorra is as follows:
ReligionThe population of Andorra is predominantly Catholic. Their patron saint is Our Lady of Meritxell. Though it is not an official state religion, the constitution acknowledges a special relationship with the Catholic Church, offering some special privileges to that group. Other Christian denominations include the Anglican Church, the Unification Church, the New Apostolic Church, and Jehovah's Witnesses. The small Muslim community is primarily made up of North African immigrants. There is a small community of Hindus and Bahá'ís, and roughly 100 Jews live in Andorra.
SchoolsChildren between the ages of 6 and 16 are required by law to have full-time education. Education up to secondary level is provided free of charge by the government.
There are three systems of school, Andorran, French and Spanish, which use Catalan, French and Spanish languages respectively, as the main language of instruction. Parents may choose which system their children attend. All schools are built and maintained by Andorran authorities, but teachers in the French and Spanish schools are paid for the most part by France and Spain. 39% of Andorran children attend Andorran schools, 33% attend French schools, and 28% Spanish schools.
University of AndorraThe Universitat d'Andorra is the state public university and is the only university in Andorra. It was established in 1997. The university provides first-level degrees in nursing, computer science, business administration, and educational sciences, in addition to higher professional education courses. The only two graduate schools in Andorra are the Nursing School and the School of Computer Science, the latter having a PhD programme.
Virtual Studies CentreThe geographical complexity of the country as well as the small number of students prevents the University of Andorra from developing a full academic programme, and it serves principally as a centre for virtual studies, connected to Spanish and French universities. The Virtual Studies Centre at the University runs approximately 20 different academic degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels in fields including tourism, law, Catalan philology, humanities, psychology, political sciences, audiovisual communication, telecommunications engineering, and East Asia studies. The Centre also runs various postgraduate programmes and continuing-education courses for professionals.
TransportUntil the 20th century, Andorra had very limited transport links to the outside world, and development of the country was affected by its physical isolation. Even now, the nearest major airports at Toulouse and Barcelona are both three hours' drive from Andorra.
Andorra has a road network of, of which is unpaved. The two main roads out of Andorra la Vella are the CG-1 to the Spanish border near Sant Julia de Loria, and the CG-2 to the French border via the Envalira Tunnel near El Pas de la Casa. Bus services cover all metropolitan areas and many rural communities, with services on most major routes running half-hourly or more frequently during peak travel times. There are frequent long-distance bus services from Andorra to Barcelona and Toulouse, plus a daily tour from the former city. Bus services mostly are run by private companies, but some local ones are operated by the government.
, one of the two stations serving Andorra. Andorra has no railways, although the line connecting Latour-de-Carol and Toulouse, which in turn connects to France's TGVs at Toulouse, runs within of the Andorran border.
There are no airports for fixed-wing aircraft within Andorra's borders but there are, however, heliports in La Massana, Arinsal and Escaldes-Engordany with commercial helicopter services and an airport located in the neighbouring Spanish comarca of Alt Urgell, south of the Andorran-Spanish border. Since July 2015, Andorra–La Seu d'Urgell Airport has operated commercial flights to Madrid and Palma de Mallorca, and is the main hub for Air Andorra and Andorra Airlines. As of 11 July 2018, there are no regular commercial flights at the airport.
Nearby airports located in Spain and France provide access to international flights for the principality. The nearest airports are at Perpignan, France and Lleida, Spain. The largest nearby airports are at Toulouse, France and Barcelona, Spain. There are hourly bus services from both Barcelona and Toulouse airports to Andorra.
The nearest railway station is L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre east of Andorra which is on the -gauge line from Latour-de-Carol southeast of Andorra, to Toulouse and on to Paris by the French high-speed trains. This line is operated by the SNCF. Latour-de-Carol has a scenic trainline to Villefranche-de-Conflent, as well as the SNCF's gauge line connecting to Perpignan, and the RENFE's -gauge line to Barcelona. There are also direct Intercités de Nuit trains between L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre and Paris on certain dates.
Media and telecommunicationsIn Andorra, mobile and fixed telephone and internet services are operated exclusively by the Andorran national telecommunications company, SOM, also known as Andorra Telecom. The same company also manages the technical infrastructure for national broadcasting of digital television and radio. In 2010 Andorra became the first country to provide a direct optical fiber link to all homes and businesses.
The first commercial radio station to broadcast was Radio Andorra, which was active from 1939 to 1981. On 12 October 1989, the General Council established radio and television as essential public services creating and managing the entity ORTA, becoming on 13 April 2000, in the public company Ràdio i Televisió d'Andorra. In 1990, the public radio was founded on the Radio Nacional d'Andorra. As an autochthonous television channel, there is only the national public television network Andorra Televisió, created in 1995. Additional TV and radio stations from Spain and France are available via digital terrestrial television and IPTV.
There are three national newspapers, Diari d'Andorra, El Periòdic d'Andorra, and Bondia as well as several local newspapers. The history of the Andorran press begins in the period between 1917 and 1937 with the appearance of several periodicals papers such as Les Valls d'Andorra, Nova Andorra and Andorra Agrícola. In 1974, the Poble Andorrà became the first regular newspaper in Andorra. There is also an amateur radio society and news agency ANA with independent management.
CultureThe official and historic language is Catalan. Thus the culture is Catalan, with its own specificity.
Andorra is home to folk dances like the contrapàs and marratxa, which survive in Sant Julià de Lòria especially. Andorran folk music has similarities to the music of its neighbours, but is especially Catalan in character, especially in the presence of dances such as the sardana. Other Andorran folk dances include contrapàs in Andorra la Vella and Saint Anne's dance in Escaldes-Engordany. Andorra's national holiday is Our Lady of Meritxell Day, 8 September.
Among the more important festivals and traditions are the Canólich Gathering in May, the Roser d'Ordino in July, the Meritxell Day, the Andorra la Vella Fair, the Sant Jordi Day, the Santa Llúcia Fair, the Festivity from La Candelera to Canillo, the Carnival of Encamp, the sung of caramelles, the Festivity of Sant Esteve and the Festa del Poble.
In popular folklore, the best-known Andorran legends are the legend of Charlemagne, according to which this Frankish King would have founded the country, the White Lady of Auvinyà, the Buner d'Ordino, the legend of Engolasters Lake and the legend of Our Lady of Meritxell.
Andorran gastronomy is mainly Catalan, although it has also adopted other elements of French and Italian cuisines. The cuisine of the country has similar characteristics with the neighbors of the Cerdanya and the Alt Urgell, with whom it has a strong cultural ties. Andorra's cuisine is marked by its nature as mountain valleys. Typical dishes of the country are the quince all-i-oli, the duck with winter pear, the lamb in the oven with nuts, pork civet, the massegada cake, the escarole with pear trees, confited duck and mushrooms, escudella, spinach with raisins and pine nuts, jelly marmalade, stuffed murgues with pork, dandelion salad and the Andorran trout of river. To drink, the mulled wine and beer are also popular. Some of the dishes are very common in the mountainous regions of Catalonia, such as trinxat, embotits, cooked snails, rice with mushrooms, mountain rice and mató.
Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque art are one of the most important artistic manifestations and characteristics of the Principality. The Romanesque one allows to know the formation of the parochial communities, the relations of power and the national culture. There are a total of forty Romanesque churches that stand out as being small austere ornamentation constructions, as well as bridges, fortresses and manor houses of the same period.
Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees was included as UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage in 2015. Also the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley became Andorra's first, and to date its only, UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, with a small extension in 2006.
SportsAndorra is famous for the practice of winter sports. Andorra has the largest territory of ski slopes in the Pyrenees and two ski resorts. Grandvalira is the largest and most popular resort. Other popular sports played in Andorra include football, rugby union, basketball, and roller hockey.
For roller hockey, Andorra usually plays in CERH Euro Cup and in FIRS Roller Hockey World Cup. In 2011, Andorra was the host country to the 2011 European League Final Eight.
The country is represented in association football by the Andorra national football team. The team gained its first competitive win in a European Championship qualifier on 11 October 2019, against Moldova. Football is governed in Andorra by the Andorran Football Federation - founded in 1994, it organizes the national competitions of association football and futsal. Andorra was admitted to UEFA and FIFA in the same year, 1996. FC Andorra, a club based in Andorra la Vella founded in 1942, compete in the Spanish football league system.
Rugby is a traditional sport in Andorra, mainly influenced by the popularity in southern France. The Andorra national rugby union team, nicknamed Els Isards, plays on the international stage in rugby union and rugby sevens. VPC Andorra XV is a rugby team based in Andorra la Vella actually playing in the French championship.
Basketball popularity has increased in the country since the 1990s, when the Andorran team BC Andorra played in the top league of Spain. After 18 years the club returned to the top league in 2014.
Other sports practised in Andorra include cycling, volleyball, judo, Australian Rules football, handball, swimming, gymnastics, tennis, and motorsports. In 2012, Andorra raised its first national cricket team and played a home match against the Dutch Fellowship of Fairly Odd Places Cricket Club, the first match played in the history of Andorra at an altitude of.
Andorra first participated at the Olympic Games in 1976. The country has appeared in every Winter Olympic Games since 1976. Andorra competes in the Games of the Small States of Europe, being twice the host country in 1991 and 2005.
As one of the Catalan Countries, Andorra is home to a team of castellers, or Catalan human tower builders. The, based in the town of Santa Coloma d'Andorra, are recognized by the, the governing body of castells.