September 27, 2012, 8:33 am
Source: CIA World Factbook
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The town of Encamp, Andorra, as seen from the Vall dels Cortals. Source: Wikipedia.

Andorra is a small landlocked country of about 85,000 people located in the Pyrenees mountains on the border between France and Spain.

Andorrans live in seven valleys that form Andorra's political districts. Andorrans are a minority in their own country; they make up only approximately 43% of the population or about 33,480 native Andorrans. Spanish, French, Portuguese, and other residents make up the other 57% of the population.

Its major environmental issues include


For 715 years, from 1278 to 1993, Andorrans lived under a unique co-principality, ruled by French and Spanish leaders (from 1607 onward, the French chief of state and the Spanish bishop of Seu d'Urgell).

In 1993, this feudal system was modified with the titular heads of state retained, but the government transformed into a parliamentary democracy.

For decades Andorra enjoyed its status as a small refuge of fiscal and banking freedom and benefitted from Spanish and French tourists attracted to the country's duty-free shopping.

The situation has changed in recent years as Andorra started to tax foreign investment and other sectors. Tourism accounts for over 80% of Andorra's gross domestic product.

Andora straddles a number of important crossroads in the Pyrenees.


Location: Southwestern Europe, Pyrenees mountains, on the border between France and Spain

Geographic Coordinates: 42 30 N, 1 30 E

Area: 468 sq km

Land Boundaries: 120.3 km (France 56.6 km, Spain 63.7 km

Natural Hazards: avalanches

Terrain:   rugged mountains dissected by narrow valleys. The highest point is Pic de Coma Pedrosa  (2,946 m) and the lowest point is Riu Runer (840 m)

Climate: temperate; snowy, cold winters and warm, dry summers

Ecology and Biodiversity

See: Pyrenees conifer and mixed forests and Ecoregions of Andorra

People and Society

Andorrans live in seven valleys that form Andorra's political districts. Andorrans are a minority in their own country; they make up only approximately 43% of the population or about 33,480 native Andorrans. Spanish, French, Portuguese, and other residents make up the other 57% of the population.

There has been a redefinition of the qualifications for Andorran citizenship, a major issue in a country where approximately 43% 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 20 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. Until 2008 non-citizens were allowed to own just a 33% share of a company, and only after they had resided in the country for 20 years would they be entitled to own 100% of a company. The country has now opened itself to foreign investors, allowing up to 100% ownership in activities and sectors considered strategic.

Population: 85,082 (July 2012 est.)

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 15.6% (male 6,799/female 6,440)
15-64 years: 71.4% (male 31,545/female 29,037)
65 years and over: 13% (male 5,502/female 5,502) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: 0.274% (2012 est.)

Birthrate: 9.26 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 6.52 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 82.5 years

male: 80.4 years
female: 84.74 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 1.36 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: The national language is Catalan, a romance language related to the Provencal group. French and Spanish are also spoken.

Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): 100%

Education: Education law requires school attendance for children up to age 16. A system of French, Spanish, and Andorran public schools provides education up to the secondary level. Schools are built and maintained by Andorran authorities, who pay also for Andorran teachers. French and Spanish schools pay for their own teachers. About 32% of Andorran children attend the French primary schools, 30% attend Spanish, and 38% attend Andorran schools. Andorran schools follow the Spanish curriculum, and their diplomas are recognized by the Spanish education system. In 1997, the University of Andorra was established. The University of Andorra has two graduate schools; the Nursing School and the School of Computer Science. Students can obtain a degree in business administration, nursing, or education sciences as well as computer science. Students can also follow virtual studies with Spanish and French universities. Out of the 1,415 students enrolled in university in the 2010-2011 academic year, 428 studied at the University of Andorra, 848 in Spanish universities, 110 in French universities, and 29 in other countries.

Urbanization: 88% of total population (2010) growing at an annula rate of 1.1% (2010-15 est.)


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 and developments in transportation and communications have removed the country from its isolation.


The Andorran 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 that guaranteed 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 1993 constitution, the co-princes continue as heads of state, but the head of government retains executive power. The two co-princes serve co-equally with limited powers that do not include veto over government acts. They are represented in Andorra by a delegate. As co-princes of Andorra, the President of France and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell maintain supreme authority in approval of all international treaties with France and Spain, as well as all those that 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 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 General (president of the General Council), the Subsindic, and the members of the Council are elected in the general elections held every 4 years. A Sindic General and a Subsindic are chosen by the General Council to implement its decisions. They serve 4-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.

The General 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 Council to meet. Historically, within the General Council, four deputies from each of the seven individual parishes provided representation. This system allowed the smaller parishes, which have as few as 800 voters, the same number of representatives as larger parishes, which have up to 6,600 voters. To correct this imbalance, a provision in the 1993 constitution introduced a modification of the structure and format for electing the members of the Council; under this format, half of the representatives are chosen by the traditional system, while the other half are selected from nationwide lists.

Every 4 years, after the general elections, the General Council also elects the head of government, who, in turn, chooses the other members of the Executive Council. The current Executive Council has eight ministers.

Government Type: parliamentary democracy (since March 1993) that retains as its chiefs of state a coprincipality; the two princes are the president of France and bishop of Seu d'Urgell, Spain, who are represented in Andorra by the coprinces' representatives

Capital: Andorra La Vella - population 25,000 (2009)

Administrative Structure: 7 parishes (parroquies, singular - parroquia); Andorra la Vella, Canillo, Encamp, Escaldes-Engordany, La Massana, Ordino, Sant Julia de Loria

Independence Date: 1278 (formed under the joint sovereignty of the French Count of Foix and the Spanish Bishop of Seu d'Urgel)

Legal System: mixed legal system of civil and customary law with canon (religious) law influences. Andorra has not submitted an International Counrt of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction declaration; and accepts International Criminal Court (ICCt) jurisdiction. The judicial system is independent. Courts apply the customary laws of Andorra, supplemented with Roman law and customary Catalan law. Civil, criminal, and administrative cases are first heard by the batlles court--a group of four judges, two chosen by each co-prince. Appeals and serious offenses are heard in the Tribunal of Courts. The High Court of Justice consists of a civil court, a criminal court, and an administrative appeals and social security court. The five-member High Council of Justice governs the judicial system. The Constitutional Tribunal is the highest constitutional body.

International Environmental Agreements

Andorra is party to international agreements on Biodiversity, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, and Ozone Layer Protection


Access to improved water supplies: 100%

Access to improved sanitation: 100%


Although less than 2% of the land is arable, agriculture was the mainstay of the Andorran economy until the upsurge in tourism. Sheep-raising had been the principal agricultural activity, but tobacco-growing is lucrative. Most of Andorra's food is imported.

Agricultural products: small quantities of rye, wheat, barley, oats, vegetables; sheep


Natural Resources: hydropower, mineral water, timber, iron ore, lead

Land Use:

arable land: 2.13%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 97.87% (2005)


Tourism, retail sales, and finance are the mainstays of Andorra's tiny, well-to-do economy, accounting for more than three-quarters of GDP. About 9 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status for some products and by its summer and winter resorts. The banking sector also contributes substantially to the economy.

With some 258 hotels and 400 restaurants, as well as many shops, the tourist trade employs a significant portion of the domestic labor force. There is a fairly active trade in consumer goods, including imported manufactured items, which, because they are taxed at lower rates, are less expensive in Andorra than in neighboring countries.

Andorra's comparative advantage as a tax haven eroded when the borders of neighboring France and Spain opened; its bank secrecy laws have been relaxed under pressure from the EU and OECD.

Agricultural production is limited - only 2% of the land is arable - and most food has to be imported, making the economy vulnerable to changes in fuel and food prices. The principal livestock activity is sheep raising.

Manufacturing output and exports consist mainly of perfumes and cosmetic products, products of the printing industry, electrical machinery and equipment, clothing, tobacco products, and furniture.

Many Andorrans have supported the country's reform initiatives over the years, believing that Andorra's continued prosperity required fuller integration with the European Union. Andorra's tax status has had a significant effect on its relationship with the EU, with which Andorra began negotiations in 1987. An agreement that went into effect in July 1991 set duty-free quotas and placed 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 allowances. In June 2004 Andorra signed a series of accords with the EU in the fields of economic, social, and cultural cooperation. Tax legislation was also approved that taxed interest from monetary products and fixed-interest investments belonging to non-residents, while maintaining bank secrecy.

Andorra is a member of the EU Customs Union and is treated as an EU member for trade in manufactured goods (no tariffs) and as a non-EU member for agricultural products. Andorra uses the euro and is effectively subject to the monetary policy of the European Central Bank.

Slower growth in Spain and France has dimmed Andorra's prospects. In 2010 and 2011 a drop in tourism contributed to a contraction in GDP and a deterioration of public finances, prompting the government to implement several austerity measures.

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.

GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $3.169 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $37,200 (2011 est.)

Industries: tourism (particularly skiing), cattle raising, timber, banking, tobacco, furniture

Currency: euros (EUR)




Agency, C., & Department, U. (2012). Andorra. Retrieved from


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