Freedom in the World
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Andorra continued updating its financial laws throughout 2012 in order to meet international standards. In April, a survey distributed by the Union of Workers of Andorra la Vella showed widespread concern for corruption and abuse in the workplace. Meanwhile, a new law was implemented in June to reform the application process for residency permits.
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 these 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. While Andorra is not a member of the European Union (EU), the country began using the euro in 2002 as its sole circulating currency.
The April 2009 national elections brought the Social Democratic Party to power with 14 of the 28 seats in the Consell General, or parliament. Jaume Bartumeu replaced Albert Pintat Santolària as the cap de govern (head of government) in June.
After two years of government deadlock, including the failure to pass a national budget, Bartumeu on February 15, 2011 requested that Andorra’s two co-princes dissolve parliament and hold early elections. In the April 3 polls, the Democrats for Andorra won a decisive victory, securing 20 parliamentary seats. Antoni Martí became the new head of government.
The Andorran government has worked in recent years to address the country’s reputation as a tax haven and bring its financial laws into compliance with the standards of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, including a plan to introduce a value-added tax with a rate of 4.5 percent by the start of 2013. The Foreign Direct Investment Law of July 2012 newly allows foreign individuals and companies, including both residents and non-residents, to own 100 percent of an Andorran company. In October 2012, after years of political impasse, Andorra announced its 2013 budget, including the continued gradual implementation of corporate and income taxes for nonresidents.
Andorra is an electoral democracy. Popular elections are held every four years to the 28-member Consell General, which selects the executive council president, or head of government. 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 do not have the right to vote.
In June 2011, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) released a report finding some “shortcomings” in Andorra’s bribery laws, and calling for tougher penalties for bribery and influence peddling. GRECO also highlighted the fact that there are still no adequate campaign finance transparency laws. GRECO is set to release a follow-up report in 2013.
Freedom of speech is respected across the country. There are two independent daily newspapers, Diari d’Andorra and El Periòdic d’Andorra, and two free weekday papers, Bon Dia and Diari Més. There is only one Andorran television station, operated by the public broadcaster Ràdio I Televisió d’Andorra, though residents have access to broadcasts from neighboring France and Spain. Internet access is unrestricted.
Although the constitution recognizes the state’s special relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, the government no longer subsidizes it. 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 still has 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. While the government recognizes that both workers and employers have the right to defend their interests, the right to strike is not legally guaranteed. There are also no laws in place to penalize antiunion discrimination or regulate collective bargaining, though the government passed a law in 2009 that guarantees unions the right to operate. In March 2012, results of a survey by the Union of Workers of Andorra la Vella showed widespread concern for workplace corruption, as well as physical and psychological abuse of workers. Although the government showed concern over the report, no specific steps have been taken to investigate the issue. In October and November 2012, police unions organized a strike to protest unkept promises, especially in the area of pension reform. Reportedly constructive meetings were held in November between the two leading police unions and the minister of the interior, though no official decisions were announced by year’s end.
The government generally respects the independence of the judiciary. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. Police can detain suspects for up to 48 hours without charge. 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. In 2012, Andorra introduced a new law on residency, which applies to all those seeking non-work residency permits and affects applicants as of June 27, 2012. Applications are assessed under three categories of residency, including a passive residency for individuals who can show they are financially self-sufficient, business residency for individuals that own foreign companies, and a cultural residency for renowned artists and other public figures.
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 2008 fully opened 200 key economic sectors to foreign investment. This law also gives noncitizens the right to hold up to 49 percent capital in other established sectors.
Women enjoy the same legal rights as men. Fifteen seats were captured by women in the 2011 parliamentary elections, making Andorra the first European country to elect a majority female legislature, and the second globally, after Rwanda. However, there are no specific laws addressing the problem of violence against women, nor are there any government departments for women’s issues or government-run shelters for battered women. Abortion is illegal, except to save the life of the mother.