Until very recently, Andorra's political system had no clear division of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. A constitution was ratified and approved in 1993. The constitution establishes Andorra as a sovereign parliamentary democracy that retains as its heads of state a co-principality.
The fundamental impetus for this political transformation was a recommendation by the Council of Europe in 1990 that, if Andorra wished to attain full integration in the European Union (EU), it should adopt a modern constitution which guarantees the rights of those living and working there. A Tripartite Commission--made up of representatives of the co-princes, the General Council, and the Executive Council--was formed in 1990 and finalized the draft constitution in April 1991.
Under the new 1993 constitution, the co-princes continue 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. As co-princes of Andorra, the President of France and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell maintain supreme authority in approval of all international treaties with France and Spain, as well as all those which deal with internal security, defense, Andorran territory, diplomatic representation, and judicial or penal cooperation. Although the institution of the co-princes is viewed by some as an anachronism, the majority sees them as both a link with Andorra's traditions and a way to balance the power of Andorra's two much larger neighbors.
Andorra's main legislative body is the 28-member General Council (Parliament). The sindic (president), the subsindic and the members of the Council are elected in the general elections to be held every 4 years. The Council meets throughout the year on certain dates set by tradition or as required.
At least one representative from each parish must be present for the General Council to meet. Historically, within the General Council, four deputies apiece from each of the seven individual parishes have provided representation. This system allowed the smaller parishes, who have as few as 350 voters, the same number of representatives as larger parishes which have up to 2,600 voters. To correct this imbalance, a provision in the new constitution introduces a modification of the structure and format for electing the members of the Council; under this new format, half of the representatives are to be chosen by the traditional system, while the other half are selected from nationwide lists.
A sindic and a subsindic are chosen by the General Council to implement its decisions. They serve 3-year terms and may be reappointed once. They receive an annual salary. Sindics have virtually no discretionary powers, and all policy decisions must be approved by the Council as a whole. In 1981, the Executive Council, consisting of the head of government and seven ministers, was established. Every 4 years, after the general elections, the General Council elects the head of government, who, in turn, chooses the other members of the Executive Council.
The judicial system is independent. Courts apply the customary laws of Andorra, supplemented with Roman law and customary Catalan law. Civil cases are first heard by the batlles court--a group of four judges, two chosen by each co-prince. Appeals are heard in the Court of Appeals. The highest body is the five-member Superior Council of Justice.
Andorra has no defense forces and only a small internal police force. All able-bodied men who own firearms must serve, without remuneration, in the small army, which is unique in that all of its men are treated as officers. The army has not fought for more than 700 years, and its main responsibility is to present the Andorran flag at official ceremonies.
Andorra's young democracy is in the process of redefining its political party system. Three out of the five parties that dominated the political scene in past years have dissolved. The Liberal Union or UL, (current head of government Forn's party) is trying to reshape itself and change its name to that of the Andorran Liberal Party (PLA), thus offering a political umbrella to small parties and groups that have not yet found their place. Another party by the name of the Social Democratic Party has been formed and is designed to attract parties previously aligned with socialist ideals. Given the number of parties and Andorra's relative size, no one party controls the General Council; therefore, legislative majorities arise through coalitions. Since the 1993 constitutional ratification, three coalition governments have formed. The current government unites the UL, the CNA (National Andorran Coalition), and another relatively small party with Marc Forn Moln, a Liberal Unionist, as Cap de Govern, or head of government.
The government has continued to address many long-awaited reforms. In addition to legalizing political parties and trade unions for the first time, freedom of religion and assembly also have been legally guaranteed. Most significant has been a redefinition of the qualifications for Andorran citizenship, a major issue in a country where only 13,000 of 65,000 are legal citizens. In 1995, a law to broaden citizenship was passed but citizenship remains hard to acquire, with only Andorran nationals being able to transmit citizenship automatically to their children. Lawful residents in Andorra may obtain citizenship after 25 years of residency. Children of residents may opt for Andorran citizenship after age 18 if they resided virtually all of their lives in Andorra. Mere birth on Andorran soil does not confer citizenship. Dual nationality is not permitted. Noncitizens are allowed to own only a 33% share of a company. Only after they have resided in the country for 20 years, will they be entitled to own a 100% of a company. A proposed law to reduce the necessary years from 20 to 10 is being debated in Parliament.
By creating a modern legal framework for the country, the 1993 constitution has allowed Andorra to begin a shift from an economy based largely on duty-free shopping to one based on international banking and finance. Despite promising new changes, it is likely that Andorra will, at least for the short term, continue to confront a number of difficult issues arising from the large influx of foreign residents and the need to develop modern social and political institutions. In addition to questions of Andorran nationality and immigration policy, other priority issues will include allowing freedom of association, dealing with housing scarcities and speculation in real state, developing the tourist industry and renegotiating the relationship with the European Union.
Principal Government Officials
Co-Prince--Jacques Chirac, President of France
Co-Prince--Juan Marti Alanis, Bishop of Seu d'Ugell, Spain
Head of Government--Marc Forn
Sindic General--Francesc Areny
Ambassador to the United States--Juli F. Minoves Triquell
conventional long form: Principality of Andorra
conventional short form: Andorra
local long form: Principat d'Andorra
local short form: Andorra
Data code: AN
Government type: parliamentary democracy (since March 1993) that retains as its heads of state a coprincipality; the two princes are the president of France and bishop of Seo de Urgel, Spain, who are represented locally by coprinces' representatives
Capital: Andorra la Vella
Administrative divisions: 7 parishes (parroquies, singular - parroquia); Andorra la Vella, Canillo, Encamp, La Massana, Escaldes-Engordany, Ordino, Sant Julia de Loria
Independence: 1278 (was formed under the joint suzerainty of France and Spain)
National holiday: Mare de Deu de Meritxell, 8 September (1278)
Constitution: Andorra's first written constitution was drafted in 1991; approved by referendum 14 March 1993; came into force 4 May 1993
Legal system: based on French and Spanish civil codes; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: French Coprince Jacques Chirac (since 17 May 1995), represented by Mr. Frederic de Saint-Sernin (since NA); Spanish Coprince Episcopal Monseigneur Joan Marti Alanis (since 31 January 1971), represented by Mr. Nemesi Marques Oste (since NA)
head of government: Executive Council President Marc Forne Molne (since 21 December 1994)
cabinet: Executive Council or Govern designated by the Executive Council president
elections: Executive Council president elected by the General Council and formally appointed by the coprinces for a four-year term; election last held 16 February 1997 (next to be held NA 2001)
election results: Marc FORNE Molne elected executive council president; percent of General Council vote - 64%
unicameral General Council of the Valleys or Consell General de las Valls (28 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote, 14 from a single national constituency and 14 to represent each of the 7 parishes; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 16 February 1997 (next to be held NA February 2001)
election results: percent of vote by party - UL 57%, AND 21%, IDN 7%, ND 7%, other 8%; seats by party - UL 16, AND 6, ND 2, IDN 2, UPO 2
Judicial branch: Tribunal of Judges or Tribunal de Batlles; Tribunal of the Courts or Tribunal de Corts; Supreme Court of Justice of Andorra or Tribunal Superior de Justicia d'Andorra; Supreme Council of Justice or Consell Superior de la Justicia; Fiscal Ministry or Ministeri Fiscal; Constitutional Tribunal or Tribunal Constitucional
Political parties and leaders:
Liberal Party of Andorra (Partit Liberal d'Andorra) or PLA [Marc Forne]; Liberal Union or UL [Francesc Cerqueda]; National Democratic Group or AND [Ladislau Baro Sola]; National Democratic Initiative or IDN [Vincenc Mateu Zamora]; New Democracy or ND [Jaume Bartomeu Cassany]; Unio Parroquial d'Ordino or UPO [Simo Duro Coma]
note: there are two other small parties
International organization participation: CCC, CE, ECE, ICRM, IFRCS, Interpol, IOC, ITU, OSCE, UN, UNESCO, WHO, WIPO, WToO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Juli Minoves-Triquell (also Permanent Representative to the UN)
chancery: 2 United Nations Plaza, 25th Floor, New York, NY 10017
telephone:  (212) 750-8064
FAX:  (212) 750-6630
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Andorra; the US Ambassador to Spain is accredited to Andorra; US interests in Andorra are represented by the Consulate General's office in Barcelona (Spain); mailing address: Paseo Reina Elisenda, 23, 08034 Barcelona, Spain; telephone: (3493) 280-2227; FAX: (3493) 205-7705
Flag description: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), yellow, and red with the national coat of arms centered in the yellow band; the coat of arms features a quartered shield; similar to the flags of Chad and Romania, which do not have a national coat of arms in the center, and the flag of Moldova, which does bear a national emblem