Friday, February 5, 2010


Andorra is nestled high in the Pyrénées Mountains on the French-Spanish border. An autonomous and semi-independent coprincipality, Andorra has been under the joint suzerainty of the French state and the Spanish bishops of Urgel since 1278. It maintains closer ties to Spain, however, and Catalán is its official language. In the late 20th century, Andorra became a popular tourist and winter sports destination and a wealthy international commercial center because of its banking facilities, low taxes, and lack of customs duties. In 1990 Andorra approved a customs union treaty with the EU permitting free movement of industrial goods between the two, but with Andorra applying the EU's external tariffs to third countries. Andorra became a member of the UN in 1993 and a member of the Council of Europe in 1994. In 2002, Andorra shut down an incinerator that was emitting 1,000 times the dioxin levels permitted by the EU.

A parliamentary coprincipality composed of the bishop of Urgel (Spain) and the president of France. Their representatives are listed above. The principality was internationally recognized as a sovereign state in 1993.

All but lost between France and Spain, like the fairy tale tea under the mattresses, the pocket-sized princedom of Andorra officially Principat d'Andorra, consist of only just a few hundred kilometres of mountainous landscapes and meandering rivers. The country is one of the smallest in the world with an area of 468 sq km and a population of 67,627. The capital is Andorra la Vella (population, 1998 estimate, 21,513). The tiny country is unique in Europe because you can’t find a place situated below 900 metres. The mountaintops even reach over 3000 metres above sea-level.

As recently as 1960, Andorra was virtually cut off from the rest of the world, a semi-autonomous principality conceived late in the thirteenth century to resolve a quarrel between the counts of Foix in France and the bishops of La Seu. There are still no planes or trains, but Andorra's current role is as a drive-in, duty-free supermarket: the main highway through the tiny country is clogged with French and Spanish tourists after duty-free products.

Total area: 174 sq mi (451 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 83,888 (growth rate: 1.1%); birth rate: 10.3/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.7/1000; life expectancy: 82.51; density per sq mi: 412

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Andorra la Vella, 23,000

Languages: Catalán (official), French, Castilian, Portuguese

Ethnicity/race: Spanish 43%, Andorran 33%, Portuguese 11%, French 7%, other 6% (1998)

Religion: Roman Catholic (predominant)

Monetary units: Euro