Andorra en-us-Andorra.ogg /ænˈdɒrə, officially the Principality of Andorra (Catalan: Principat d’Andorra), also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra,  is a small country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of 468 km2 (181 sq mi) and an estimated population of 83,888 in 2009. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, being at an elevation of 1023 metres. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, French, and Portuguese are also commonly spoken.

The Principality was formed in 1278. The role of monarch is shared between the President of the French Republic and the Bishop of Urgell, Catalonia, 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 Urgell. In 988, Borrell II, Count of Urgell, gave the Andorran valleys to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya. Since then the Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d’Urgell, 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 French 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 Aragon 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 Catalonia. 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 Catalonia and divided it in four départements, with Andorra being made part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègre).

20th century

Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany 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 Spain. 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 Urgell (Catalonia, 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. Andorra is a member of the United Nations as well as a number of other international organizations.

Gender Equity & Women’s Issues

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women


1. The Committee considered the initial report of Andorra (CEDAW/C/AND/1) at its 516th, 517th and 523rd meetings, on 10 and 13 July 2001 (see CEDAW/C/SR.516, 517 and 523). 

(a) Introduction by the State party

2. In introducing the report, the representative of Andorra informed the Committee that Andorra had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on 9 July 2001. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Convention, to which it had acceded in 1997.

3. The representative pointed out that the transformation of women’s status over the past 50 years in Andorra had constituted a peaceful revolution. Previously, women held only decision-making power in the family and were traditionally; excluded from political life. Andorra had accepted a number of international treaties and was committed to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on the five-year follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, which constituted the framework for the empowerment of women and the integration of gender dimension in the administration of the Principality.

4. The Secretariat of State for Family Affairs had been created to address the consequences of social, political, cultural and economic pressures on the family and, in particular, their impact on women. The 1993 constitution prohibited discrimination against women in the enjoyment of civil and political rights and there was no discrimination against women in Andorran legislation. However, widowed and divorced women were required by the marriage law to wait 300 days before remarriage, in order to protect the succession rights of descendants.  This provision was currently being studied by the Government, with a view to its revision.

5. The representative indicated that since women had gained the right to vote in 1970, and to be elected in 1973, there had been a significant increase in the number of women in positions of leadership in the Government, Parliament and local administration. Three of the nine Government Ministers were women, while, at the most recent municipal elections in December 1999, three women had been elected Mayors and twelve C ommune Councilors.

6. Women’s role in economic life was also considerable, however, although legislation provided for equality between women and men in employment, inequalities still existed, particularly as women were concentrated in such sectors as education, health care, administration and tourism. Legislation had been introduced to preclude dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy, to provide for maternity leave and to allow women to reconcile work and family responsibilities. Women and men in Andorra had equal access to education and women outnumbered men in tertiary education. However, female students predominated in the humanities and male students in technical fields of study.

7. The constitution granted comprehensive health and social security rights. Women were well-informed with regard to contraception, but abortion was not allowed under the Penal Code. Information and counseling programs on HIV/AIDS had been launched by the Government since 1993.

8. The representative indicated that the constitution affirmed the right of every individual to physical integrity, and accordingly guaranteed protection from gender-based violence. Data gathered over the last four years indicated that incidents of abuse and aggression against women had increased annually. The Government was considering the introduction of measures, including the creation of women’s shelters, to address this problem. It had signed an action protocol prepared by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which contained guidelines to improve the response of the social, health, law enforcement and judicial sectors to victims. A 24-hour hotline had been established and the Government was implementing the actions agreed upon in the Beijing Platform for Action to address violence against women.

(b) Concluding comments of the Committee


9. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the Government of Andorra for submitting its initial report after accession in 1997. It also commends the State party for its frank oral presentation, which described developments since the submission of the report in July 2000, further clarifies the current situation of women in Andorra and provides additional information on the present status of implementation of the Convention.

10. The Committee commends the State party on its high-level delegation, headed by the Secretary of State for Family Affairs, which presented the report. The Committee appreciates the frank and open dialogue that took place between the delegation and the members of the Committee.

11. The Committee commends the State party for its political will and efforts to ensure the implementation of the Convention and other international human rights instruments. It also commends the Government for its efforts to comply with the recommendations of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and its expressed intention to integrate the results of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on the five-year follow-up to the Beijing Conference into its national policy on women.

Positive aspects

12. The Committee welcomes the fact that human rights treaties are directly applicable in the national legal system and that specific elements of some treaties have been reflected in legislation.

13. The Committee welcomes the fact that Andorra acceded to the Convention without reservations and signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2001.

14. The Committee notes with satisfaction the establishment of the Secretariat for Family Affairs as the machinery to deal with women’s issues and to ensure the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. It commends the Government for its commitment to include the recommendations of the Committee in the next four- year programme of the Secretariat for Family Affairs.

Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention

15. The Committee notes that there are no significant factors or difficulities that prevent the effective implementation of the Convention in Andorra.

Principal areas of concern and recommendations

16. The Committee is concerned by the persistence of patriarchal patterns of behaviour in Andorra, as well as by the existence of negative stereotypes relating to the roles of women and men in the home, the workplace and society. The Committee is particularly concerned that, while women are rapidly becoming integrated into the world of paid employment, men are not becoming involved in parental and household tasks at a comparable rate.

17. The Committee recommends that high priority be given to efforts to eradicate traditional stereotypes that perpetuate direct and indirect discrimination against women. It encourages the State party to strengthen educational measures, beginning at a very early age, and to increase collaboration with women’s and other civil society organizations, the media and the private sector in order to achieve a greater balance in the roles and responsibilities of women and men, particularly in the sharing of family duties.

18. Welcoming the commitment of the State party to collect data disaggregated by sex, the Committee is concerned by the absence, in both the report and in the answers to the questions posed by the Committee, of statistical information disaggregated by sex on the areas covered by the Convention.

19. The Committee urges the Government to collect data disaggregated by sex in order to provide information on the de facto situation of women in all areas covered by the Convention and on the progress made in its implementation. Such information will provide the basis for the design of appropriate policies and programmes to accelerate and assess the achievement of equality.

20. While taking into consideration the fact that Andorran society is experiencing important economic, social, cultural and demographic changes, the Committee encourages the Government to take a gender perspective into consideration in the design of future policies and programs.

21. The Committee is concerned about the situation of women migrant workers, in particular those who work in the tourist industry.

22. The Committee urges the State party to provide full details on the situation of women migrant workers in its next report and on the enjoyment by women working in the tourist industry of the rights in the Convention.

23. The Committee is concerned about the situation of women in employment. It expresses concern about the highly segregated labor market, the large percentage of women in low paid jobs and in unpaid family labor. It is concerned at the wide gap in pay between men and women and the fact that women may not receive equal pay for work of equal value, and that there is no specific legislation which prohibits discrimination in employment in general, and which guarantees equal pay for work of equal value in particular.

24. The Committee urges the State party to monitor consistently the situation of women with respect to paid employment and unpaid family labor. It recommends that the State party consider the introduction of legislation on equal employment opportunities and for positive action as provided for in article 4.1 of the Convention. It also recommends that the State party avail itself of the existing research and practice on equal pay for work of equal and comparable value in order to overcome pay inequity.

25. The Committee is concerned at the existence of several discriminatory laws, including the provision on the Marriage Law requiring widowed or divorced women to wait 300 days before remarriage.

26. The Committee urges the State party to revise its existing legislation, including the Marriage Law, to comply with the Convention.

27. The Committee is concerned about the punitive abortion laws that could cause women to seek unsafe and clandestine abortion.

28. The Committee suggests the State party consider the revision of such punitive laws according to the Committee’s general recommendation 24.

29. The Committee is concerned that the State party’s efforts to eliminate de jure inequality between women and men have not been matched by efforts to eliminate inequality de facto.

30. The Committee encourages the State party to monitor carefully the impact of legislation, policies and programmes to eliminate inequality between women and men and to take steps to ensure that equal rights are enjoyed de facto. It requests the State party to include detailed information on the impact of legislation, policies and programmes aimed at achieving de jure and de facto equality between women and men.

31. The Committee urges the State party to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention as soon as possible, and to submit its instrument of acceptance to article 20.1 on the Committee’s meeting time.

33. The Committee requests the wide dissemination in Andorra of the present concluding comments in order to make the people of Andorra and, in particular, government administrators and politicians aware of the steps that have been taken de jure and de facto to achieve equality for women and the future steps that are required in that regard. It also requests the Government to continue to disseminate widely, and in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

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