Discovering Andorra

BbOBgudIYAApJNq.jpg-large We are used to hear news about Germany, France, Great Britain… but in the European scenario there are some states of very small size, like is the case of Andorra.  Well, as I am a citizen from Andorra, and I had the opportunity to interview the ambassador of Andorra in Spain, Mr. Jaume Gaytán(Picture I him and myself), by this article I will prove you how influential can be the international role of Andorra today.

First of all I will introduce to you the main character of this interview; his name is Jaume Gaytan, born in 1972 in Andorra la Vella. In regard to his professional career he is graduated in Economics and he also coursed a master in International Relations in Madrid. He had been ambassador in Portugal since 2007 until 2009, and has been responsible for multilateral affairs in the minister of foreign Affairs in Andorra la Vella. Now he is ambassador of Andorra in Spain.

We started our conversation talking about the particular political system of Andorra; once I asked him about that, Ambassador Gaytán defined Andorra as a parliamentary co-principality. That means that the General Council acts as the national parliament, elected sovereignly; the parliament designs the prime minister and the prime minister runs the government together with the ministers that he designates. A very curious institution is the figure of the head of state, who are still the Co-Princes; they keep an historical role, but nowadays their power is much limited compared with their role before the Constitution.

14th march of 1993 was a very important date in our history, as that day was approved by referendum the first Constitution of Andorra, solving definitively the question of Andorran sovereignty and giving Andorra its own international personality. Before that date the sovereignty was in the hands of the Co-Princes, the president of France (French Co-Prince) and the Bishop of Urgell (Episcopal Co-Prince) as a result of a peace agreement dated in 1278.

As long as I was speaking with Jaume we both agreed that sometimes is frustrating to confirm that Andorra is not yet a well-known country. This situation reminds me a supposed rumor about the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy that apparently, when he was elected, he did not know that he was actually the co-prince of Andorra. The ambassador answered that Mr. Sarkozy really knew he was Co-Prince of Andorra, but he probably was not as enthusiastic as others French Co- Princes in his role. This reminds me about his only visit to Andorra, which was a shorter trip compared with the visits of other French presidents; he did not visit the seven parishes of Andorra, as it was the tradition, limiting his official visit to a speech in the capital, Andorra la Vella, together with the Episcopal Co-Prince. In my personal point of view this was a little disappointing, and I hope that the actual president will come and visit us soon and hopefully we will feel more appreciated and better represented by him.

Once this rumor was finally cleared I ask him about the importance of Andorra in the international scene. Ambassador Gaytán explained it perfectly, declaring first of all that “Andorra is a really good example of equality between states, its territory and population is not very relevant compared with other states, geographically Andorra has the same size as the island of Ibiza and a population that is less than 100.000 citizens, but it is not the smallest state in the world, not even in Europe where there are smaller states as Monaco or San Marino. Since 1993 Andorra has the sovereign status that gave the country the conditions for joining the main international organizations, as the United Nations, where as a state the vote of Andorra in the General Assembly has the same value of the vote of the United States, Russia, China, France, Spain or any other member state. Andorra is also member of the Council of Europe, UNESCO, OSCE and other international organizations. Andorra has also diplomatic representations or embassies in Madrid, Paris, Brussels, New York, Vienna Strasbourg, Geneva and Lisbon, and keeps an active role in every important international conference or summit”

Twenty years after the Constitution was approved the international presence of Andorra keeps growing year after year, getting stronger and trying to be more and better known.

Last but not least, as my guest was graduated in economics I thought that it would be a really good idea to ask him about the economic situation and how does that affect to the embassy. With a worried expression he replied me, pointing out that obviously it affects the day by day. He literally said “Andorra is suffering the effects of the economic crisis but fortunately not as much as Spain. In Andorra we have experienced a decrease in tourism, which is really painful because the economy of Andorra is based on trade and tourism; also much of the projects of civil construction have been stopped, but we are managing that by opening and diversifying our economy”. About how the crisis is affecting to the day by day of the embassy he emphasizes saying than important budgetary reductions have been made and now everything is done reconsidering priorities. Asked about how they can do that, he answered:  “With a lot of imagination”.


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