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With an area of 464 km², the Principality of Andorra is one of the smallest countries in the world (and about half the size of Berlin). In Europe only Liechtenstein, San Marino, the Vatican, the island Malta and Monaco are smaller countries.
The mountainous country lies south of the Pyrenees main ridge between France in the north (Pyrénées Orientales and Ariège) and Spain in the south and west. Approximately two fifths of the national territory lie above 2 400 m, the highest elevation is the Pic Alt (Coma Pedrosa) with 2 946 m. The centre of the country is the valley of Andorra la Vella, through which the only major river in the country, the Valira, flows. The capital of the country is Andorra la Vella with a population of just under 21,000. The city is 1,100 metres above sea level.
Moderately cold winters and short, warm summers determine the mountain climate in Andorra. The temperatures vary depending on the altitude, in the valleys values above 30 °C are reached in summer, the average temperatures in January with 2.4 °C and in July with 19.4 °C. The average temperatures in Andorra are given by the mountain climate. While in the lower altitudes an average rainfall of around 800 mm per year is measured, in the mountains up to 2,000 mm fall. Snow lies here for five to eight months of the year.
Flora and Fauna
Pines, birches and pines have replaced the original oak forests in large parts of the country. In the subalpine zone, red pines and black spruces predominate, and junipers and box trees also grow here. Alpine mats can be found above the tree line from about 2,300 m upwards.
The animal world corresponds essentially to the Central European fauna with hedgehogs, moles, weasels, foxes, badgers and squirrels. Chamois and marmots live in the mountains. The bird life is species-rich, there are golden eagles, griffon vultures, dirty vultures and bearded vultures. A special feature of the Andorran fauna is the Pyrenean Desman, an insectivore related to the mole, which is about 14 centimetres long and feeds in the mountain streams.
Andorra has 83 000 inhabitants today, only about one third of them are Andorrans. Since the beginning of the 1960s, the population has increased tenfold due to the influx of foreigners. The strongest foreign group are the Spanish with about 33%, the French with 6%, the Portuguese with 16% and other nationalities with 7%. About 95% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics. About two thirds of the total population live in the cities of Andorra la Vella and Les Escaldes.
Population growth is 5%, mainly due to immigration, life expectancy 83.5 years. Both are the highest figures in the world, as established by a reliable official body. The official language is Catalan; French and Spanish are important commercial languages.
According to the constitution of May 1993, Andorra is a constitutional principality without its own princes. Official heads of state are still the bishop of the Spanish city Seo de Urgel and the French president, both are represented in Andorra by a permanent delegate. These co-princes have the right to object to legislation and international treaties. The government of Andorra is headed by the Prime Minister (Antoni Martí Petit, since 2011). The legislative power lies with the General Council (“Conseil Général de les Valls”) with 28 deputies elected for four years each.
The most important parties in the country are the Demòcrates per Andorra and the Partit Socialdemòcrata. Andorra is divided into seven municipalities (Parròquies): Canillo, Encamp, Ordino, La Massana, Andorra La Vella, Sant Julià de Lòria and Escaldes-Engordany.
Andorra is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. The most important economic sector is year-round tourism and trade in imported goods, which are sold duty-free and almost tax-free (around 80% of the gross domestic product is generated by services). The most important trading partners for imports and exports are the neighbouring countries Spain and France. The number of tourists is estimated at a good nine million a year, most of whom visit the country as transit passengers for cheap shopping. But also the winter sport has strongly rising tendencies. Another important economic sector is the financial sector.
Andorra has only levied VAT (4%) since 2006 and the EU withholding tax since 2005. Andorrans are still exempt from direct taxes. However, a 5% profit tax on economic activities was introduced in 2011. A tax of the same amount is levied on profits of companies.Due to the difficult natural conditions, agriculture plays virtually no role; only about 3% of the working population is employed here and only 3% of the land area can be used for arable farming. In the valleys, tobacco and potatoes are the main crops, while only cattle and sheep are important in livestock farming.
Industrial production is limited to wood and tobacco processing plants, and textiles are also produced. Hydropower is the most important natural resource. However, the country’s own energy production is no longer able to meet demand since consumption has increased. The small national territory means that there is no rail or air traffic. The road network covers some 270 km and is very well developed. The Andorran currency is the euro.