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Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra ( ), also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, is a small country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyreneesmarker mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of and an estimated population of 84,484 in 2008. Its capital is Andorra la Vellamarker. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, French, and Portuguese are also commonly spoken.

The Principality was formed in 1278, and sovereignty is shared between France and the Bishop of Urgellmarker, Spain. It is a prosperous country mainly because of its tourism industry, which services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually, and also because of its status as a tax haven. It is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is the de facto currency. The people of Andorra have the 2nd highest human life expectancy in the world — 82 years at birth.


Scenery of Andorran mountains
Tradition holds that Charles the Great (Charlemagne) granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for fighting against the Moors. Overlordship of the territory was by the Count of Urgell and eventually by the bishop of the Diocese of Urgellmarker. In 988, Borrell II, Count of Urgell, gave the Andorran valleys to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanyamarker. Since then the Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d'Urgellmarker, has owned Andorra.

Before 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 for help and protection from the Lord of Caboet. 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 and both became Viscounts of Castellbò and Cerdanya. Years later their daughter, Ermessenda, married Roger Bernat II, the Frenchmarker Count of Foix. They became Roger Bernat II and Ermessenda I, Counts of Foix, Viscounts of Castellbò and Cerdanya, and also co-sovereigns of Andorra (shared with the Bishop of Urgell).

In the eleventh century, a dispute arose between the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix. The conflict was resolved in 1278 with the mediation of Aragonmarker by the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the count of Foix (whose title would ultimately transfer to the French head of state) and the Bishop of Urgell, in Cataloniamarker. This gave the principality its territory and political form.

Over the years, the French co-title to Andorra passed to the kings of Navarre. After Henry of Navarre became King Henry IV 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. In 1812–13, the First French Empire annexed Cataloniamarker and divided it in four départements, with Andorra being made part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègremarker).

Andorra declared war on Imperial Germanymarker during World War I, but did not actually take part in the fighting. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1957 as it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1933, France occupied Andorra as a result of social unrest before elections. On July 12, 1934, adventurer Boris Skossyreff issued a proclamation in Urgell, declaring himself Boris I, sovereign prince of Andorra, simultaneously declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell. He was arrested by Spanish authorities on July 20 and ultimately expelled from Spain. From 1936 to 1940, a French detachment was garrisoned in Andorra to prevent influences of the Spanish Civil War and Franco's Spainmarker. 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 Spain.

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 transport and communications have removed the country from its isolation. Its political system was thoroughly modernised in 1993, the year in which it became a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

Andorran coat of arms at Andorran Parliament


Andorra is a parliamentary co-principality with the President of France and the Bishop of Urgellmarker (Cataloniamarker, Spain), as co-princes, in a duumvirate. The politics of Andorra take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, whereby the Prime Minister of Andorra is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system.

The current Prime Minister is Jaume Bartumeu of the Social Democratic Party (PS). Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.

Casa de la Vall, Andorran Parliament
The Parliament of Andorra is known as the General Council. The General Council consists of between 28 and 42 Councilors, as the members of the legislative branch are called. The Councilors serve for four-year terms and elections are held between the thirtieth and fortieth days following the dissolution of the previous Council. The Councilors can be elected on two equal constituencies. Half are elected in equal number from each of the seven administrative parishes and the other half of the Councilors are elected from a single national constituency. Fifteen days after the election, the Councilors 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, the Prime Minister of Andorra, is chosen from among the Councilors.

Candidates for the prime-ministerial nomination can be proposed by a minimum of one-fifth of the Councilors. 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 Prime Minister 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.

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 Councilors 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 Councilors, the Council will vote and if it receives the absolute majority of votes, the Prime Minister is removed.

Law and criminal justice

The 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 Coprinces, 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, and so 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 Coprinces 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 be the leader of the Court.

Foreign relations and defence

Responsibility for defending Andorra rests with Spain and France.


File:Andorramap.png|thumb|250px|Map of Andorra with its seven parishes labeled (enlarge map)rect 34 350 121 404 Andorra la Vellamarkerrect 443 148 519 172 Canillomarkerrect 437 363 520 389 Encampmarkerrect 352 443 464 498 Escaldes-Engordanymarkerrect 36 223 155 247 La Massanamarkerrect 284 78 354 103 Ordinomarkerrect 208 567 304 618 Sant Julià de Lòriamarkerrect 651 54 745 83 Francemarkerrect 484 583 560 619 Spainmarker


Andorra consists of seven parishes:

Physical geography

Topographic map of Andorra
Due to its location in the eastern Pyreneesmarker mountain range, Andorra consists predominantly of rugged mountains of an average height of with the highest being the Coma Pedrosamarker at . These are dissected by three narrow valleys in a Y shape that combine into one as the main stream, the Valira river, leaves the country for Spain (at Andorra's lowest point of ). Andorra's surface area is .

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.


Andorra has a temperate climate similar to that of its neighbours, but its higher altitude means there is, on average, more snow in winter, lower humidity, and it is slightly cooler in summer. There are, on average, 300 days per year of sunshine.


Tourism, the mainstay of Andorra's tiny, well-to-do economy, accounts for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 9 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status and by its summer and winter resorts. Andorra's comparative advantage has recently eroded as the economies of adjoining France and Spain have been opened up, providing broader availability of goods and lower tariffs.

The banking sector, with its tax haven status, also contributes substantially to the economy. Agricultural production is limited—only 2% 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 (no tariffs) and as a non-EU member for agricultural products. Andorra lacks a currency of its own and uses that of its two surrounding nations. Andorra used the French franc and the Spanish peseta until 1999 when both currencies were replaced by the EU's single currency, the euro. Coins and notes of both the franc and the peseta, however, remained legal tender in Andorra until 2002. Andorra is negotiating to issue its own euro coins.



The population of Andorra is estimated to be 83,888 (July 2009). The population has grown from 5,000 in 1900, and reached a peak of 84,484 (estimated) in July 2008.

Andorrans are a minority in their own country (31,363),; Spaniards (27,300), Portuguese (13,794), French (5,213), Britons (1,085) and Italians make up 67.7% of Andorra's population.


The national language is Catalan, a Romance language. Most Andorrans also speak Spanish, French or both. Andorra is one of only four European countries (together with France, Monaco, and Turkey) that have never signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities.


The population of Andorra is predominantly (90%) Roman 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 Roman Catholic Church, offering some special privileges to that group. The Muslim community is primarily made up of North African immigrants. Other Christian denominations include the Anglican Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Reunification Church, the New Apostolic Church, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is a small community of Hindus.


Children 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 schools – Andorran, French and Spanish – which use Catalan, French and Spanish, 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. About 50% of Andorran children attend the French primary schools, and the rest attend Spanish or Andorran schools.

In July 1997, the Andorran Government passed a law on universities and shortly afterward, the University of Andorra was established. The 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 only two graduate schools in Andorra are the Nursing School and the School of Computer Science.


Healthcare in Andorra is provided to all employed persons and their families by the government-run social security system, CASS (Caixa Andorrana de Seguretat Social), which is funded by employer and employee contributions in respect of salaries. The cost of healthcare is covered by CASS at rates of 75% for out-patient expenses such as medicines and hospital visits, 90% for hospitalisation, and 100% for work-related accidents. The remainder of the costs may be covered by private health insurance. Other residents and tourists require full private health insurance.

The main hospital, Meritxell, is in Escaldes-Engordanymarker. Its services include 24-hour accident and emergency, anatomy, angiology, pathology, anesthesiology, clinical cardiology, clinical biochemistry, clinical neurology, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, genetics, geriatrics, hematology, immunology, intensive care, internal medicine, medical oncology, microbiology, nephrology and dialysis, neurophysiology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, ophthalmology, otorhinolaringology, orthopedics, pediatrics, physiotherapy, neonatology, plastic surgery, general surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, thoracic surgery, trauma surgery, cardiovascular surgery, parasitology, psychiatry, radiodiagnostics, radiotherapy, urology, and venerealogy.

There are also 12 primary health care centres in various locations around the Principality.


Andorra has a road network of , of which is unpaved. The two main roads out of Andorra La Vellamarker are the CG-1 to the Spanish border, and the CG-2 to the French border via the Envalira pass near Pas de la Casamarker. In winter, the main roads in Andorra are usually quickly cleared of snow and remain accessible, but the main road out of Andorra on the French side (RN-20/22) is less frequently cleared and is sometimes closed by avalanches. Other main roads out of Andorra La Vella are the CG-3 and CG-4 to Arcalismarker and Palmarker, respectively.

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 Barcelonamarker and Barcelona Airportmarker, and also to Toulousemarker and Toulouse Airportmarker, in each case taking approximately 3 hours. Bus routes also serve Girona Airportmarker and Portugal via Lleidamarker. Bus services are mostly run by private companies, but some local ones are operated by the Government. The private bus companies are Autocars Nadal, Camino Bus, Cooperativa Interurbana Andorrana, Eurolines, Hispano Andorrana, and Novatel.

There are no railways, ports, or airports for fixed-wing aircraft in Andorra. There are, however, heliports in La Massanamarker, Arinsalmarker and Escaldes-Engordanymarker with commercial helicopter services. Nearby airports are located in Barcelona, Toulouse, Perpignan, Reus, and Girona. The closest public airport is Perpignan - Rivesaltes Airportmarker, which is away and has short-haul services to several destinations in the United Kingdom and France. La Seu d'Urgell Airportmarker, a small airfield south of Andorra currently used only by private aeroplanes, is being studied by the Catalan government as a possible future airport for public aviation services.

The nearest railway station is L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorremarker east of Andorra which is on the -gauge line from Latour-de-Carolmarker, ( ) southeast of Andorra, to Toulousemarker and on to Parismarker by the French high-speed trains. This line is operated by the SNCF. Latour-de-Carol has a scenic metre-gauge trainlinemarker to Villefranche-de-Conflentmarker, as well as the SNCF's -gauge line connecting to Perpignanmarker, and the RENFE's -gauge line to Barcelonamarker .

Media and telecommunications

In Andorra, mobile and fixed telephony and internet services are operated exclusively by the Andorran national telecommunications company, SOM, also known as Servei de Telecomunicacions d'Andorra (STA). The same company also manages the technical infrastructure for national broadcasting of digital television and radio.

By the end of 2010, it is planned that every part of the country will have Fibre-Optic to the Home for internet access at a minimum speed of 100 Mbps.

There is only one Andorran television station, Ràdio i Televisió d'Andorra (RTVA). Radio Nacional d’Andorra operates two radio stations, Radio Andorra and Andorra Música. There are three national newspapers, Diari D'Andorra, El Periòdic, and Bon Dia as well as several local newspapers.


Andorran flag on balcony, Ordino

The official and historic language is Catalan. Because of immigration, historical links, and close geographic proximity, other languages such as Spanish, French and Portuguese are also commonly spoken.

Andorra is home to folk dances like the contrapàs and marratxa, which survive in Sant Julià de Lòriamarker especially. Andorran folk music has similarities to the music of its neighbors, 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 Vellamarker and Saint Anne's dance in Escaldes-Engordany. Andorra's national holiday is Our Lady of Meritxell Day, September 8.

See also


  1. Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 1991
  2. Departament d'Estadística, Govern d'Andorra:
  3. Things about the history of Andorra French Co-prince
  4. CIA World Factbook (2009)
  5. CIA World Factbook (2008)
  6. Departament d'Estadistica, 2008
  7. Travailler en Andorre (May 2006), Govern d'Andorra, Servei d'Ocupació, p.30.
  8. List of specialities with coverage by CASS at Hospital Nostra Senyora de Meritxell (2009),, Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  9. Agència de Mobilitat, Govern d'Andorra
  10. L'Hospitalet. La RN 20 coupée à cause d'une avalanche, La Depeche, 17 December 2008.
  11. Public transport of passengers, Servei de Planificació i Gestió del Transport, Govern d'Andorra, 2009.
  12. Heliand - Serveis (2009).
  13. Helitrans - Services (2009).
  14. La Generalitat es reuneix amb els pobles afectats per l'aeroport (31 October 2008).
  15. SNCF Map
  16. Google map
  17. SOM Newsletter, March 2009.

External links

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