Origin and history of the name
The name "Andorra" probably originates from a Navarrese word andurrial, which translates as shrub-covered land.
Main article: History of Andorra
Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors. Overlordship over the territory was passed to the local count of Urgell and eventually to the bishop of the diocese of Urgell. In the 11th century a dispute arose between the bishop and his northern French neighbour over Andorra.
In 1278, the conflict was resolved by the signing of a parage, which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the French count of Foix (whose title would ultimately transfer to the French head of state) and the bishop of La Seu d'Urgell, in the Catalonia region of Spain. This gave the small principality its territory and political form.
Over the years the title passed to the kings of Navarre, and under the king of France Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra.
In the period 1812–14, the French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it in four departments (Segre, Ter, Montserrat and Boques de l'Ebre). Andorra was also annexed and made part of the district of Puigcerdà (departament of Segre).
From August 8 to October 9, 1933 France occupied Andorra as a result of social unrest before elections.
On July 6, 1934 the Russian Boris Skossyreff was proclaimed king by the Andorran government. On July 14, a group of the Guardia Civil (Spanish militarized police) entered Andorra and took him to Barcelona, and later to Madrid to be expelled to Portugal.
From July 1936 to June 1940, there was a French detachment in Andorra to prevent influences of the Spanish Civil War and Franco's Spain. (June 1940 is the month of the French surrender to Germany.)
On September 25, 1939, Andorra signed a peace treaty with Germany, having been forgotten on the Treaty of Versailles and remaining legally at war. Andorra stayed neutral throughout World War II.
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 transportation and communications have removed the country from its isolation and its political system was thoroughly modernised in 1993.
Main article: Politics of Andorra
Until very recently, Andorra's political system had no clear division of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial 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.
The way in which the two princes are chosen makes Andorra one of the most politically distinct nations on earth. One co-Prince is the man or woman who is currently serving as President of France, currently Jacques Chirac. The other is the current Catholic bishop of the Spanish city of La Seu d'Urgell, currently Joan Enric Vives i Sicilia. As neither prince lives in Andorra their role is almost entirely ceremonial.
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.
See List of Co-Princes of Andorra
Main article: Parishes of Andorra
Andorra consists of seven communities, known as parròquies (singular parròquia Engl.: parish)
Main article: Geography of Andorra
Befitting its location in the eastern Pyrenees mountain range, Andorra consists 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 is slightly cooler in summer.
Main article: Economy of Andorra
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 yet mint its own euro coins; in October 2004, negotiations between Andorra and the EU began on an agreement which would allow Andorra to mint their own coins.
Main article: Demographics of Andorra
Andorrans constitute a minority in their own country; only 33% hold 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 Castillian (Spanish), Portuguese and French are also commonly spoken. The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism.
Main article: Culture of Andorra