Andorra is a country of Europe
with a surface area of 468 km² (density of 166.91 inhab./km²). The population of Andorra is 78,115 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Andorra is the city of Andorra la Vella which has 22,256 inhabitants. Prime minister is Antoni Martí.
"Unity is strength"
The Principality of Andorra is a small state of 468 km² located in Southern Europe, in the Pyrenees massif. It shares borders with France and Spain.
Andorra has the distinction of being governed by both the French President and the Catalan Bishop of the diocese of Urgell according to the feudal law contract called "Paréage".
Enclave within the European Union, the principality has the reputation of being a tax haven. Exclusively mountainous countries, it lives mainly from tourism (winter sports and hiking in summer) and the attraction of its low prices especially regarding tobacco and alcohol.
The Principality of Andorra at a glance
Administrative divisions: 7 parishes
Population: less than 80,000 inhabitants
Main languages: Catalan and Spanish
Current co-princes: Joan-Enric Vives i Sicilia and Emmanuel Macron
Head of the current government: Antoni Marti
Tourism: no restrictions
A mountain range
The Principality of Andorra is located in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains and is a mountainous country, considered to be the highest on the continent, situated between France and Spain and whose peak is the Peak of Coma Pedrosa at 2.942 meters altitude.
The territory is crossed by the Valira, consisting of two arms (the Valira del Nord and Valira d'Orient) which meet in Escaldes-Engordany to continue their journey in direction of Spain under the name of Gran Valira.
La Valira is at the origin of the formation of the three fertile valleys of Andorra in which nestle the cities and the capital of the country, Andorra la Vella.
Remarkable for its verdant nature, Andorra shelters a fauna and a flora preserved in particular in the glacial valley of the Madriu which benefits from the protection of the UNESCO and which is accessible only by footpaths.
Long isolated because of its difficult access, Andorra has become a destination appreciated by hikers who come to discover the mountains, forests and lakes of the country.
In winter, the hikers give way to lovers of sliding sports that invade the four ski resorts of the country.
The climate of the principality of Andorra is of the Mediterranean type but is strongly influenced by its high altitude. The summers are mild without being actually hot while the winters are harsh.
A gift from Charlemagne
According to legend, the Principality of Andorra was created by Charlemagne in appreciation of the support of the population in its fight against the Saracens in 788.
Although the foundation of the independent state dates from this period, the territory was already occupied during prehistory, probably from the Neolithic period, as evidenced by parietal engravings and carved flints discovered during the archaeological excavation campaigns, particularly in Sant Julià Of Loria. The traces of sedentarization dating from the Bronze Age were also confirmed.
The presence of a tribe of Andosins is also mentioned by the Greek historian Polybius in his narrative tracing the crossing of the Pyrenees by the Carthaginian general Hannibal marching on Rome during the Punic Wars in the 2nd century BC.
Andorra will alternately be Visigothic, Arabic and Frankish, to the rhythm of the invasion of neighboring countries before, it is said, to be declared sovereign by the Emperor.
Legends are generally based on truth and if history has been embellished by popular tradition, Andorra becomes an independent state to protect the Frankish border against Muslims in the peninsula Iberian.
Andorra Catalan, the French Andorra
The history of Andorra is however relatively calm because of its isolation.
In the 12th century, the territory is offered to the diocese of Urgell which is still today bishopric seat in Catalonia.
The bishop signed a treaty with the Catalan lords. Andorra becomes a Catalan fief while the bishops of Urgell retain its sovereignty. In 1208, the country passes into the hands of the house of Foix by marriage. Following the disagreement between the Counts of Foix and the Bishops of Urgell, the sovereignty of Andorra is divided into two by contract, paréage.
The Andorrans benefited from the protection of their two sovereigns in exchange for a tax paid in kind.
In the 15th century, Andorra got an authorization to create an assembly confirming its independence.
Along with alliances and wars, the part of the sovereignty of Andorra initially assured by the Counts of Foix belongs towards the end of the 16th century to the house of Navarre.
In 1589, the King of France died without heir and the crown was given to Henri III of Navarre who converted to Catholicism and acceded to the throne of France under the name of Henri IV.
Since then, Andorra has been run by two co-princes, the King of France (and later the President of the Republic) and the Bishop of Ugell.
Andorra benefits from the tax exemptions granted by France and Spain but also its neutrality in the conflicts since it does not have an army.
Still actual nowadays, Andorra's co-principality status was twice suspended during the French Revolution and in 1812 when the Emperor Napoleon 1st included the territory in the department of Segre. The Treaty of Paris gave it its independence again in 1814.
The Principality of Andorra, which has long since been turned into a hinterland, began to attract tourists in the 19th century and turned to the outside world, notably with the construction of a road network in the following century that linked it to Spain and, later, to France. A first ski resort developed in 1934.
Nevertheless, the country is experiencing periods of social unrest and revolts against the co-princes. An adventurer of Russian origin known for enjoying rich women and a bit con man, Boris Skossyren, will enjoy this difficult time. A good speaker, he promises to make Andorra a rich tax haven just like Monaco. A few days after his arrival in the country, he proclaimed himself King of Andorra and took the name of Boris I.
This unlikely reign ended a week later on the orders of Albret Lebrun then French President and the Bishop of Urgel. Boris Skossyref is expelled from the principality.
During the second half of the 20th century, Andorra continues to modernize and its population will grow rapidly, its tourism potential encouraging the Andorran exiles to return to settle in the country.
The Political life in Andorra
The Principality of Andorra has long been managed in a feudal way and does not undergo any real reform until 1981.
The purpose of the reform was to modernize the institutions and separate the executive and legislative branches. The former Council of the Earth becomes the General Council, the right to vote is granted to all Andorrans over 18 in 1985 and the Constitution approved by the co-princes is adopted in 1993.
Since then, Andorra has been recognized as a State, including the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
At present, the country is governed by Antoni Marti from the Democrats for Andorra.
An economy based on tourism
The Principality of Andorra has long lived through the exploitation of its natural resources, pastoralism and tobacco cultivation.
But with the enthusiasm of winter sports, Andorra has succeeded in opening up to the outside world. Today, the principality has three major ski resorts including Grand Valira which with its 210 kilometers of track is the largest resort in the Pyrenees.
At the same time, mountaineers and hikers appreciate the many marked trails that allow them to travel the country and especially the Madriu valley. To welcome green tourism enthusiasts and summer visitors, ski resorts organize different activities such as mountain biking during the good season.
Always seeking to multiply its tourist offers, Andorra now offers its visitors to enjoy the benefits of thalassotherapy.
A rapidly expanding population
The population of the Principality of Andorra has stagnated for around 5,000 inhabitants and it is necessary to wait for the development of tourism to see its demography explode following the return of exiled Andorrans and the massive arrival of immigrants. Today, Andorra has more than 80,000 inhabitants but only 30,000 real Andorrans who are therefore in a minority in their own country.
The Spanish, Portuguese and French represent respectively 33, 17 and 6% of the total population. This percentage is also explained by the fact that the granting of Andorran nationality is very severe. The exponential increase of the population is at the origin of a strong urbanization of the country.
The vast majority of the inhabitants of Andorra (90%) are Roman Catholic.
Catalan is the official language of the country but Spanish, French and Portuguese are also used because of the cosmopolitan character of the population.
The Principality of Andorra is a safe destination for tourists. No vaccination is required and the health care system is comparable to that of France.
As we have seen, tourism has for several decades become the main economic resource of Andorra.
Hiking, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing attract many travelers in winter as in summer.
But the Principality also has some treasures well hidden in small villages or in the medieval streets of Andorra la Vella, the capital of the country.
Andorra is also attached to its traditions and folklore and visitors are seduced by the traditional dance of the Contrapàs or the fires of the Saint John.
Finally, gastronomy of terroir makes it possible to appreciate the typical dishes of the mountains like the trinxat made of green cabbage, potatoes and bacon. On 17 January, plates of escudella are distributed in Andorra la Vella on the day of Saint Anthony.