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Andorra

The Principality of Andorra is a very small landlocked state in southwestern
Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains in between France and
Spain. Once isolated and impoverished, it is currently a prosperous country
mainly because of tourism and its status as a tax haven. Andorra is also
part of the Catalan Countries.

                                            National motto: Virtus Unita
History                                               Fortior
                                          (Latin: Unity provides Strength)
                                        Official
Tradition holds that Charlemagne        language         Catalan
granted a charter to the Andorran
people in return for their fighting the Capital          Andorra la Vella
Moors. Overlordship over the territory  French co-prince Jacques Chirac
was passed to the local count of Urgell
and eventually to the bishop of the     Bishop of Urgel
diocese of Urgell. In the 11th century  and Spanish      Joan Enric Vives i
a dispute arose between the bishop and  co-prince        Sicilia
his northern French neighbour over      Head of
Andorra.                                government       Marc Forn Moln
                                        Area             Ranked 178th
In 1278, the conflict was resolved by   - Total         468 km2
the signing of a pareage, which         - % water       Negligible
provided that Andorra's sovereignty be
shared between the French count of Foix Population       Ranked 184th
(whose title would ultimately transfer  - Total (2002)  67,627
to the French head of state) and the    - Density       144.5/km²
bishop of La Seu d'Urgell, in           Independence     1278
Catalonia. The pareage, a feudal        Currency         Euro¹
institution recognising the principle
of equality of rights shared by two     Time zone        UTC +1
rulers, gave the small principality its National anthem  El Gran Carlemany
territory and political form.
                                        Internet TLD     .AD
Given its relative isolation, Andorra   Calling Code     376
has existed outside the mainstream of     (1) Prior to 1999: Fr. franc and
European history, with few ties to                   Sp. peseta
countries other than France and Spain.
In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with
developments in transportation and communications have removed the country
from its isolation and its political system was thoroughly modernised in 1993.

Politics

Until very recently, Andorra's political system had no clear division of
powers into executive, legislative, and judiciary branches. Ratified and
approved in 1993, the constitution establishes Andorra as a sovereign
parliamentary democracy that retains the co-princes as heads of state, but
the head of government retains executive power. The two co-princes serve
coequally with limited powers that do not include veto over government acts.
They are represented in Andorra by a delegate.

Andorra's main legislative body is the unicameral General Council of the
Valleys (Consell General de les Valls), a parliament of 28 seats; members
are elected by direct popular vote, 14 from a single national constituency
and 14 to represent each of the 7 parishes, with members serving four-year
terms. The Andorran government is formed by the General Council electing the
Head of Government (Cap de Govern), who then appoints ministers to the
cabinet, the Executive Council (Govern).

Defense of the country is the responsibility of France and Spain.

Parishes

Andorra consists of seven communities known as parishes (parrquies,
singular - parrquia):

   * Andorra la Vella
   * Canillo
   * Encamp
   * Escaldes-Engordany
   * La Massana
   * Ordino
   * Sant Juli de Lria

Geography

Befitting its location in the eastern Pyrenees mountain range, Andorra
consist predominantly of rugged mountains of an average height of 1,996 m
with the highest being the Coma Pedrosa at 2,946 m. 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 870 m).

Andorra's climate is similar to its neighbours' temperate climate, but its
higher altitude means there is on average more snow in winter and it's
slightly cooler in summer.

Economy

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 neighbouring 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. The principal
livestock activity is sheep raising. Manufacturing output consists mainly of
cigarettes, cigars, and furniture.

Andorra is not a full member of the European Union, but enjoys a special
relationship with it, e.g. it is 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
neighbours. Prior to 1999 these were the French franc and Spanish peseta,
which have since been replaced by a single currency, the euro. Unlike other
small European states that use the euro, Andorra does not mint its own euro coins.

Demographics

Andorrans constitute a minority in their own country; only 33% holds the
Andorran nationality. The largest group of foreign nationals is that of
Spaniards (43%), with Portuguese (11%) and French (7%) nationals
representing the other main groups. The remaining 6% belong to other
nationalities.

The only official language is Catalan, the language of the Catalan Countries
it is part of, including the neighbouring Spanish autonomous region of
Catalonia, with which Andorra shares many cultural traits, though Spanish
and French are also commonly spoken. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism.
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