Andorra | Freedom House

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In March 2009, French president Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to resign as co-prince of Andorra if the principality did not improve its banking laws and increase transparency. The Andorran government proposed legislation in September that would ease bank-secrecy rules. The Social Democratic Party took power in the April parliamentary elections, defeating the incumbent Liberal Party of Andorra.

As a co-principality, Andorra was ruled for centuries by the French head of state and the bishop of Seu d’Urgel, Spain. The 1993 constitution retained the titular co-princes but transformed the government into a parliamentary democracy. Andorra joined the United Nations that year and the Council of Europe in 1994, but it is not a member of the European Union (EU).
In April 2009, the country held national elections, bringing the Social Democratic Party to power with 14 out of the 28 seats in the Consell General, or parliament. The Reformist Coalition, including the incumbent Liberal Party of Andorra which had ruled for 15 years, won 11 seats, and the remaining 3 seats were taken by Andorra for Change. Jaume Bartumeu of the Social Democratic Party replaced Albert Pintat as the Cap de Govern (Head of Government) in June.

In the first half of the year, the Pintat government continued to implement banking reforms as required by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which led to Andorra’s removal from the OECD “gray list” in April 2009. The country has participated in the EU Savings Tax Directive since 2005, which provided 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.

In March 2009, French president Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to renounce his title as co-prince if Andorra did not increase the transparency of its banking system. The government proposed a law in September that lifts bank secrecy on information requested by other countries; the law was expected to be implemented in 2010.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Andorra is an electoral democracy. Popular elections to the 28-member Consell General, which selects the executive council president, or head of government, 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. However, more than 60 percent of the population consists of noncitizens, who have no right to vote.
Transparency International did not review or rank Andorra in its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index. However, the country implemented several financial reforms during the year in an attempt to open its economy, which resulted in Andorra’s removal from the OECD “gray list” in April.
Freedom of speech is respected across the country. There are two independent daily newspapers (Diari d’Andorra and El Periodic d’Andorra), and residents have access to broadcasts from neighboring France and Spain as well as unrestricted internet access.
Although the constitution recognizes the state’s special relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, the government no longer subsidizes the Church. 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 country’s roughly 2,000 Muslims has still not been built. While requests to convert public buildings or former churches for this purpose have been denied, the government does provide the Muslim community with public facilities for various religious functions. Academic freedom is respected.
Freedoms of assembly and association are generally respected, and domestic and international human rights organizations operate freely. Although the government recognizes that both workers and employers have the right to defend their interests, there are no laws guaranteeing the right to strike, penalizing antiunion discrimination, or regulating collective bargaining. There have been few advances in labor rights since the creation of a registry for associations in 2001, which enabled trade unions to gain the legal recognition that they previously lacked. However, the government passed a law in January 2009 that guarantees unions the right to operate.
The 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. Prison conditions meet international standards.
Under Andorra’s restrictive naturalization criteria, one must marry a resident Andorran or live in the country for more than 20 years to qualify for citizenship. 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. Nearly 7,000 such immigrants have legal status, but 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. Legislation passed in November 2008 fully opened up 200 key economic sectors to foreign investment. Also under the new law, noncitizens can now hold up to 49 percent capital in other established sectors. All foreign investment restrictions are expected to be lifted within five years.

Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, and recently gained significant representation in government, taking 10 out of 28 seats in the April 2009 parliamentary elections.There are no specific laws addressing violence against women, which remains a problem. In 2009, there was a 40 percent increase in reports of physical abuse over the previous year. 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.