Andorra

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Andorra

Andorra (ăndôr´ə), Fr. Andorre (äNdôr´), officially Principality of Andorra, autonomous parliamentary co-principality (2005 est. pop. 70,500), 179 sq mi (464 sq km), high in the E Pyrenees between France and Spain, under the joint suzerainty of the president of France and the bishop of Seo de Urgel, Spain. Andorra la Vella is its capital and only city. Drained by the Valira River, Andorra comprises several high mountain valleys. Highways link the country with Spain and France.

Andorra is administratively divided into seven districts. The people are made up of Andorrans of Catalan stock (about 33%), Spanish (43%), Portuguese (11%), and French (7%), the remaining being mostly recent immigrants from other countries. Catalan is the official language, although Spanish, French, and Portuguese are also spoken. Most of the population is Roman Catholic.

Until the 1950s, farming, woodcutting, and smuggling were the main occupations. Andorra now has a prosperous tourist industry; skiing is particularly popular. Trade is duty-free and lack of taxation is attractive to foreign investment. The banking sector is also important to the economy. Cattle and sheep are raised, and Andorra's farms produce grains, vegetables, tobacco, and grapes. Furniture and cigarettes are manufactured, and distilleries produce brandy and anisette. Iron and lead are mined. A hydroelectric facility near Encamp provides 40% of the country's power.

In the 9th cent., Holy Roman Emperor Charles II is reputed to have made the bishop of Seo de Urgel overlord of Andorra. The French counts of Foix contested this overlordship, and finally in 1278 an agreement was reached providing joint suzerainty. The rights of the count passed by inheritance through the house of Albret to Henry IV of France, and from the French kings to the French presidents.

Long a semifeudal state with an ancient communal agrarian organization, Andorra was traditionally governed by a syndic-led council elected by heads of families. In 1993, the country's first constitution established a parliamentary democracy with executive, legislative, and judicial branches; political parties and labor unions were legalized, and Andorra joined the United Nations. A 28-member legislature, elected by popular vote for four-year terms, now effectively governs the country. The president of France and the bishop of Seo de Urgel remain titular co-princes and serve to link the tiny country with both France and Spain.

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