The Principality of Andorra is a small country in the south of Europe that covers an area of 468 km2. It is located in the Pyrenees between Spain and France and has an average altitude of 1,996 metres above sea level. Its capital is Andorra la Vella, it comprises seven parishes with a total population of 84,484 inhabitants (in 2008), and the official language is Catalan.
Snow and nature: Andorra has a high-mountain Mediterranean climate with cold winter and mild summer temperatures. The Principality has a high percentage of sunny days and a dry climate. It has two skiable domains, which comprise several ski stations, and a leisure and cross-country skiing complex:
- Grandvalira, which was formed by the merger of Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig and Soldeu-El Tarter.
- Vallnord, which arose from the alliance of the Pal, Arinsal and Ordino-Arcalís ski stations.
- Naturlandia. Located in the Rabassa zone, with a maximum altitude of 2,160 metres above sea level and a minimum of 1,960 metres. It has 15 km of signposted tracks, of which there are 5 with varying difficulties.
Culture and architecture: Andorra has more Romanesque monuments per square metre than any other country in the world. The church of Santa Coloma, built in the ninth and tenth centuries AD, is one of the few churches in the world with a cylindrical bell tower, which dates from the twelfth century. The country has architectural styles as different, for example, as the churches of Meritxell and Sant Joan de Caselles.
Shopping: The second sector is predominated by the processing industries (cigarettes, cigars and furniture) and basic industry. The third sector currently accounts for an estimated 80% of Andorra’s GDP, with tourism as the main stalwart of the Andorran economy. Every year Andorra is visited by nine million people, attracted by its status as a tax haven, its ski stations and the difference in prices with respect to neighbouring countries.
Economics and government: Andorra is a social democracy ruled by law and has a parliamentary political system. Its heads of state are the Bishop of Urgell and the President of the French Republic.
Although the Principality does not have an official currency, it has been using the euro as a de facto currency since 1 January 2002. The Principality has grown because of tourism and, particularly, because of its status as a tax haven.
Education: In Andorra there coexist three different education systems, with centres of primary and secondary education and vocational training:
- 1. Andorran. Reports to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Youth.
- 2. Spanish. Reports to the Spanish Ministry of Education.
- 3. French. Reports to the French National Ministry of Education.
- 4. Higher education. 1997 saw the foundation of the University of Andorra, a public institution that has collaboration agreements with diverse Spanish and French universities.
Financial system:The financial system is one of the main pillars of the Andorran economy. The Principality of Andorra is considered a tax haven and each year offers the possibility of passive residency status. It is characterised by its financial reputation, which has been earned on account of the sound, rigorous application of international regulatory standards. In comparison with other sites of finance, the Andorran financial system, which is mainly focused on banking, is typified by a solvency and liquidity achieved by conservative and prudent management.
Andorra does not have a central currency-issuing bank. The Andorran National Finance Institute (INAF) is the executive technical body that supervises financial institutions and has powers comparable to those of supervisory bodies in other countries. Andorra does not have its own currency and adopted the euro on 1 January 2002.
The Association of Andorran Banks (ABA) defends the interests of its members before the Government of the Principality. It represents Andbanc, BIBM, Banca Privada d’Andorra, Crèdit Andorrà and BancSabadell d’Andorra.
Andorran banking in general is in constant and direct contact with the international financial markets and operates with the utmost transparency in order to facilitate the transactions of companies and individuals when dealing abroad.