Freedom in the World
You are here
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Andorra continued in 2007 to participate in the European Union Savings Tax Directive, which is aimed at ending the country’s status as a major tax haven.
As a co-principality, Andorra was ruled jointly for 715 years, from 1278 to 1993, by French and Spanish leaders; since 1607, this has involved the French head of state and the bishop of Seu d’Urgel, Spain. The 1993 constitution modified this feudal system, keeping the titular co-princes but transforming the government into a parliamentary democracy. Andorra became a member of the United Nations that year and a member of the Council of Europe in 1994, but it is not a member of the European Union (EU).
In April 2005, the country held national elections, returning the Liberal Party of Andorra (PLA) to power with 42 percent of the vote and 14 out of the 28 seats in the Consell General (parliament). However, the PLA lost the absolute majority it had gained in the 2001 elections. The Social Democratic Party (PS) doubled its support, winning 12 seats. The remaining two seats in the Consell were taken by CDA–Segle 21, a union of the two center-right parties (Andorran Democratic Center Party, or CDA, and Century 21, or S21). PLA leader Marc Forne stepped down as cap de govern (executive council president) and was replaced by former foreign minister Albert Pintat Santolaria.
The Pintat government continued to implement reforms required by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to remove the country from its list of uncooperative tax havens. In 2004, Andorra had agreed to participate in the EU Savings Tax Directive, which provides a way to tax revenue from savings accounts held by EU citizens in a member state other than their country of residence or in certain non-EU countries; it took effect in July 2005.
Andorra is an electoral democracy. About 80 percent of registered voters participated in 2005 elections for the Consell General, which selects the executive council (cabinet) president, or head of government. Popular elections to the 28-member Consell are held every four years. Half of the members are chosen in two-seat constituencies known as parishes, and the other half are chosen through a national system of proportional representation.
The people have the right to establish and join different political parties, and an opposition bloc exists. However, more than 60 percent of the population consists of noncitizens, who have no right to vote and face a number of hurdles that bar them from becoming citizens. As a result, there is little participation by non-Andorrans in government and politics.
The country currently participates in the EU Savings Tax Directive, which is designed to reduce tax evasion via “offshore” accounts. Because of a lack of available information, Transparency International did not review and rank Andorra in its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedom of speech is respected across the country. There are two independent daily newspapers (Diari d’Andorra and El Periodic d’Andorra), access to broadcasts from neighboring France and Spain, and unrestricted internet access.
Although Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion and the constitution recognizes a special relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, the state has ceased providing the Church with subsidies. There are no restrictions on proselytizing, and religious minorities like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to seek converts. Despite years of negotiations between the Muslim community and the government, a proper mosque for the roughly 2,000 Muslims residing in the country has still not been built. The Muslim community’s 2003 request to convert some public buildings into a mosque was turned down by the government. Similar requests made to the Catholic bishop to use a former church were not well received. The government does provide the Muslim community with public facilities for various religious functions. Academic freedom is respected, and the country boasts 100 percent school participation and literacy for children under 16.
Freedoms of assembly and association are generally respected. Domestic and international human rights organizations operate within the country with little government interference. Although the government recognizes that both “workers and employers have the right to defend their own economic and social interests,” there is neither an explicit right to strike nor legislation penalizing antiunion discrimination. A law regulating collective bargaining has been expected from the parliament for some time. There have been few advances in labor rights in the country since the creation of a registry for associations in 2001, which has enabled trade unions to gain the legal recognition that they previously lacked.
The country’s judicial system, which is based on Spanish and French civil codes, does not include the power of judicial review of legislative acts. Police can detain suspects for up to 48 hours without charging them with a crime. The country does not maintain a military force and depends on France and Spain for the defense of its borders. Prison conditions meet international standards.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance criticized Andorra in 2003 for its restrictive naturalization criteria. Even though a majority of those living in Andorra are noncitizens, a person can become a citizen only by marrying a resident Andorran or by residing in the country for more than 25 years. Prospective citizens are also required to learn Catalan, the national language. Although they do not have the right to vote, noncitizen residents receive most of the social and economic benefits of citizenship.
Immigrant workers, primarily from North Africa, complain that they lack the rights of citizens. Although about 7,000 immigrants have legal status, many hold only “temporary work authorizations.” Temporary workers are in a precarious position, as they must leave the country when their job contract expires.
Citizens have the right to own property, but noncitizens can own only 33 percent of a company unless they have lived in the country for 20 years or more. A proposed law to reduce this requirement to 10 years is pending in the parliament.
Women enjoy the same legal, political, social, and professional rights as men, although they are underrepresented in government. Today, only four women occupy seats in the parliament. There are no specific laws addressing violence against women, which remains a problem across the country. There are no government departments for women’s issues or government-run shelters for battered women. Abortion is illegal, except to save the life of the mother.