J W Serveis is proud to present our very own news desk loosely based upon snippets of the local news of the screws and anything else that may or may not deserve some scrutiny.
Any references to persons or entities living or current are purely allusions and any allusions are merely references, and we bear no responsibility for those who cannot bear it themselves.
This is not a blog, we avoid social media...BUT...
26th September 2016 Heliport gets green light
The long-awaited construction of Andorra's heliport is a step closer to realisation after the team of French engineers examined the site at Encamp which is just above the FEDA electrical station. The initial report by the engineers was favourable, the full written report should be available from October 12 at which time due process will start in the Government for funding for construction. If all of this goes according to plan then construction should start in 2017. However sources have stressed that the devil is in the detail and that the specifics within the written report will be examined.
7th September 2016 More restrictions for holiday rental apartments
In the past few years the Government has been persuaded by hotel operators to clamp down on private apartments being rented for holiday apartments. Other than now officially being registered and whic involves inspections, safety criteria and furnishing standards, new regulations state that in a block where there are 5 or more such rentals the block will be required to have the same access and exits standards as hotels, for example diasbled access and fire escapes. Also they will be required to provide a manned reception which should be interesting. Landlords here though still rely on Air B&B and other online rental sites when it comes to "private" rental arrangements there is not a lot the Government can do in this area. Officially there are 349 registered establishments offering 43, 480 beds, of which 26,998 are registered with 168 hotels. There are 9,983 beds registered with holiday rental apartments, the rest being aparthotels and refugis. In fact the number of beds and hotels has not increased over the past 10 years due to the economic downturn and presumably competition from holiday rentals which have increased.
20th July 2016 - Andorra's banks weather the BPA storm with an increase of 45.214 b of funds under management
18th July 2016 - New Heliport to be situated near the exit of the Dos Valires Tunnels.
It has been announced that the site for the new heliport is likely to be at the Encamp end of the Dos Valires tunnel that joins Anyos with Encamp. The site however is yet to indergo professional studies and yet may be rejected on various operational grounds. Since 2008 the Government has been searching for an acceptable site only to be voted down by nearby residents. It remains to be seen whether finally this project can get under way.
1st June 2016 - Asian hornets closing in on Andorra.
The Asian hornet arrived in parts of Europe some years ago and has been spreading rapidly. There are now colonies near Girona ,la Garrotxa and Ripollès, not too far from Andorra. In fact the sting of the Asian hornet in spite of 5 reported deaths from stings in France this year is similar to that of the wasp and can provoke deadly allergic reactions. The problem with this invasion is that they prey on insects and especially honey bees (each hornet can devour up to 50 bees per day!) and risk seriously upsetting the food chain in nature as well as destroying the honey bees. Their nests are usually very high in the trees and are only used once, so control is difficult. It is also not a good idea to disturb the nest as with any hornets they can get rather protective of their queen. It remains to be seen whether Andorra is just that little too high in altitude for the hornets who usually prefer warmer and more humid climates. Having said that mosquitoes have tended to adapt to Andorra, although not currently a problem, each year they increasingly seem to be making an appearance at lower levels.
9th May 2016 - Naturlandia ( Tobotronc) has a real problem as reported before.
In the high season Naturlandia Park in Sant Julia has more employees than Sant Júlia Comú! As reported before their workforce is twice the size of similar attractions around Europe. No wonder then that they have racked up debt of over 8.5 million euros in the past 4 years, significantly worse than the last time debt was discussed. In the absence though of any public accounts the question arises of the true state of the (mis) management.
2nd May 2016 - Very generous incentives for buying electric or hybrid cars (POST NOTE: This only concerns hybrid cars that require to be plugged in for charging ( if they exist) so in reality it is only good for fully electric cars. I knew it was too good to be true!)
The Government in concert with car sales outlets will subsidise the purchase of a new electric or hybrid car ( "pluggable") to the tune of 9,000 euros
(That is correct, 9,000 euros and 4,000 for second hand). In addition the following incentives (if any are still required) are offered:
Now that sounds like a serious deal if you are seriously considering an electic car. 750.000 euros has been set aside by Government for this scheme and with the Government contribution that means about 95 cars. Not all doom and gloom !!
21st April 2016 : Arinsal water proves upsetting.
A recent outbreak of gastroenteritis in and around Catalunya has had authorities searching for the source of the contamination and have now determined that the source was viral. With over 10,000 people reportedly going down with the bug, it is clear that somewhere in the process of Arinsal water the problem does lie. The Font itself has all but been ruled out, in reality the outbreak lies in the process of bottling. It is not made clear whether the bottles that are purchased from a company in Spain are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is the standard plastic deemed safe to be re-used providing cleaning is thorough in the interim. Most likely it is the bottles which have caused this outbreak although the treatment process of the water after taken from the Font is being thoroughly checked. Before Arinsal water started business again it was closed for many years for many reasons and during that time machinery lay virtually abandoned. Strict testing was in place on this machinery prior to Arinsal water restarting production and remains the subject of routine tests both by Government and daily checks by the company. POST NOTE: It seems that traces of human faeces have been found in the Font water after all, thats not good, stick with beer or wine !!
17th April 2016 : Pal, Arinsal and Arcalis (Ordino) ski resorts to divorce after a difficult marriage .
It has been announced that the three ski resorts of Pal, Arinsal and Arcalis (Ordino) collectively known as Vallnord with a view to rival their larger neighbour of Granvalira are to part company and go back to being separate resorts. Whilst it is not clear how this will affect ski passes, access and marketing under the joint name of Vallnord, it does seem that an underlying spat between La Massana and Ordino has boiled over yet again. It has been reported here over the years of the underlying drag that the resorts have on the Comù deficits since each year they run at such a huge loss. It would appear that that trend now may have reversed for Pal Arinsal with the advent of the increasingly popular downhill biking course and of course the inclusion in the world cup mountain biking which rates Pal very highly. Sadly Arcalis has no such summer activities, nor in winter is it an actual resort being placed at the end of a rather long valley without a village or hotels. Correct me if I am wrong but in the modern ski era the operation of just a ski resort in the absence of direct income from hotels, restaurants, ski hire etc can never be profit making with the cost of machinery, staff, maintenance and investment. That means that for a small resort like Arcalis the ski passes would have to be about 135 euros per day just to break even, a self defeating solution. It has always been my opinion that if ever a ski resort were to close then Arcalis had to be the prime target. Now that it is back as a separate resort without the marketing punch of the three combined resorts it is a question of how long a parish of just over 3,000 inhabitants can absorb annual losses of up to 3 million euros. Furthermore would the central Government be willing to continue subsidies, after all the closure of a ski resort would be of the worst publicity for Andorra?
1st April 2016 - Some interesting feedback for an April Fools Joke!
Published in the Government ( BOPA) today is the Government proposal to make all passive and active residents who have residency for more than 2 years to sit compulsory Catalan courses and exams which must be passed to ensure residency renewals. The proposal is for all residents facing the second renewal (that is after 2 years for passive residents) they will have to sign a declaration that at the third renewal (after 3 years) they will have attended the intermediate Government language course and must as part of the renewal documents produce the certificate of "diploma oficial de llengua catalana del nivell A2". Those residents who have already been here for longer than 2 years (and regardless of how long) will be given 2 years to produce the certificate to Immigration from the date that the law is passed later this year.
25th February 2016 - Cirque de Soleil or parking?
This year the visiting Cirque de Soleil, known as "Scalada" will be expanded and will take place entirely under cover in a huge tent 4,250 square metres by 16.9 metres high. This will guarantee spectators comfort against the elements that has plagued past perfomances. There will be 22 shows from 2nd to 30th July with a special late show on 11th July at 2300 to coincide with the hosting of the Tour de France ( see article below - scroll down). There will in the tent be a 5,000 capacity with 2,400 paid seating capacity and 2,600 persons standing but with free entry. Tickets will be available online or at the Information Offices between 12th April and 2nd July. Now the expanded capacity has not been welcomed by some sectors of the hotel and shopping associations since Andorra's principal car park will be closed completely from the end of May until however long the tent takes to dismantle after July. We all know the disruption the parking closure causes (and for the annual Fira) but creating a spectacle for an estimated 110,000 spectators must bring some benefit. The real logical solution as has already been considered and has already been considered "too difficult" before is for Andorra to follow what every town in Spain has and that is underground parking under the Plazas, problem solved for the Central parking.
23rd February 2016 - Who is shooting at our Police HQ?
The Director of Police, Jordi Moreno seems to have become the target of some body who does not like policemen. Four shots were fired at Police Headquarters a couple of days ago in an array in the photograph of Police HQ to the left. One of the windows was indeed The Director's office but if the other three shots were intended for that office whoever it is is a very poor shot. In all seriousness any incident of this nature in Andorra is disturbing and we hope the police will find and detain that person before he causes serious injuries. There is no suggestion of personal malice since the incident took place in the early hours of Saturday morning when the offices were empty. It is suggested that the weapon was a 22 rifle, my sources indicate that an impact of a .22 bullet on that type of glass would have passed straight through, more likely a high powered air rifle could have been responsible. Enquiries continue... POST NOTE 4th March 2016. The police have made an arrest and it is one of their own, obviously with a grievance over something, it appears as well that there was a firearm involved. He is named as Francesc Troguet a long serving officer who has now already appeared in Court and was sentenced to 3 years conditional imprisonment which means that he does not serve any time inside, of course his career has been dramatically ended. There is concern that no custodial sentence nor mental health ruling was given and also concerns over why no-one ever saw this coming (The latter is all very well in hndsight). The subject is a hot topic in bars with people noting that if a civilian had fired 4 shots at Police HQ it would have been a very different story!
Picture courtesy of Diari d'Andorra
20th February 2016 - Porsche unlimited!
It seems that some Russian chap may have been trying to emulate the advert when he was clocked the other day at 150 kph average speed through the same tunnel of Dos Valires!! He however did not appear to have the special permission and was detained.
11th February 2016 - Statistics on passive residencies and applications.
People ask what the policy is for issuing quotas for passive residencies and would they run out at any time? Historically they have always topped up the quota before it is exhausted as they have done yesterday by issuing 600 new quotas (and each is a family unit not an individual count) in various categories, 490 of which are for Categories A, B and C. This then tops up the existing quota of 500 issued in 2013 which is almost exhausted. Since the change in the law in 2012 the Government has issued 897 passive residency family units, 168 issued from July 2012 to June 2013, 213 from July 2013 to June 2014, 309 between July 2014 and June 2015, with 207 more since that date until today. The number of actual family members in each year is given but as with most reporting of Andorran statistics I cannot reconcile those figures given - best ignored! Globally we are told there are in all categories and in existence as at September 2015 a total of 7,393 passive residents in Andorra, that is an incredible 10% of the population! For those readers more interested in how many of the above I have or am processing, lets just say it is "interesting" and no I am not on a commission with the Government (unfortunately!).
4th February 2016 - James Bond 007 is back starring Antoni Marti in the final epic "The Andorra Referendum"
Antoni Marti has replaced Daniel Craig for what is reported to be the last ever Bond 007 movie, loosely described as Bond's nemesis, a suicide mission. The plot centres around Bond's attempt to lead the people of a micro mountain state, that has enjoyed neutrality and non interference for over 1300 years, to an ever closer union with a shadowy outfit headquartered in Bristles. This shadowy outfit headed by Jean Claude Junkey co-star of the previous blockbuster "Asylum Lunacy" lures the people of a micro mountain state, that has enjoyed neutrality and non interference for over 1300 years to a union where all of its sovereignty, quotas, contracts and way of life is promised to be legally safeguarded in exchange for being much much more happier and wealthier. The plot though is reported to be extremely tedious with a strange combination of deja vu and memory loss where nothing really happens other than political cuddles and vacuous promises. The final scene is where Bond belatedly realises that he has been double crossed by the shadowy outfit in Bristles which suddenly decides that the people of the micro mountain state, that has enjoyed neutrality and non interference for over 1300 years should be net contributors to the shadowy outfit or receive a fine of the same amount. Bond realises that taxes will have to rise from 10% to 48% and IGI from 4.5% to 23.5% to cover the payments demanded. The final scene is Bond heading to Bristles across the former border after sinister sniggers were heard over the other end of the telephone there. Unfortunately on a level crossing Bond's Fiat disintegrates when hit by a high speed gravy train from Bristles after the emergency brake mysteriously failed. The film is expected to be classed as Not Suitable for Children or Adults.
14th January 2016 - Just what is the population of Andorra?
As at 31st December 2015 it's 77,886, an increase of 937 over 2014. That is according to the Comuns ( Parishes) analysis, but it seems to be 7,000 or so more than the Department of Statistics, so why the discrepancy ? The latter it is argued is more reliable as it is derived from many Government sources, whereas those of the Parishes are skewed by people failing to register their departure and other factors. Many people ask what is the breakdown of nationalities living in Andorra, so based on the 2014 statistics, while we wait for the official 2015 break down we have the following:
% ESTIMATED POPULATION BY NATIONALITY 2014:
26th December 2015 - Naturlandia financial problems.
Naturlandia, the park at La Rabassa that houses the Tobotronc seems to have fallen on hard times and has gone begging to the Comù at Sant Jùlia for 300,000 euros to enable salaries to be paid. The Comù holds 88% of the shares of Camprabassa S.A. In 2014 the accounts closed with a deficit of 2.03 million. Whilst a brave face was portraying sustainability and self sufficiency in 2015 with increased income in 2014 of 63% to 3.12 million, the operating cash flow dived a staggering 53%. So where´s the money ? Some reports have indicated that Camprabassa employs double the staff of similar attractions in other countries, also there are long term liabilities of suppliers that remain outstanding. Tobotronc also remained closed for a month due to a Government order ( and fine of 60,000 euros) to rectify short comings in the safety aspect following some serious accidents there over the past few years. With these and other complications, the accounts for 2015 are eagerly awaited in some sectors of the accounts department at the Comù but they may be disappointed as in previous years the with the preference of putting the accounts in a bottom drawer somewhere. One wonders whether the sudden dismissal of the Director Eugeni de Santiago only 2 years after the dismissal of his predecessor is tied up in all of this? Self sufficiency of the park will surely remain a dream and it will be up to the Comù to see to what extent the population of Sant Jùlia are prepared to keep it afloat. A very similar situation to the ski resorts and the strain on Ordino and La Massana Comùs that bear annual losses to keep a vital tourist attraction from closing, but just how vital is Naturlandia? It´s a different type of attraction but
(strangely?) seems to involve the usual mess of accounts and politics.
9th December 2015 - Police announce this years enforcement campaign for drink driving.
It always seems strange that the police in Andorra choose to announce when they will be out conducting their random tests but it is done of course with the intent of making people think twice over the festive season . This year they advise that daily from 1900 starting on 11th December 2015 to 0700 on 9th January 2016 they will be out conducting document checks and random breath tests. Now this does not mean that you can have a long boozy lunch and get back by 18.59 hrs as of course they can be any where at any time, the above times for the operation just mean that they will have dedicated resources conducting the checks. As a matter of law, if you are tested and the alcohol level is between 0,5 g/l and 0,8 g/l then you will receive a summary fine of 150.25 euros and possible suspension of your driving license. Above o,8 g/l then you will be detained and dragged before a judge you will face a fine, maximum of one year in prison and up to 3 years suspension of your license. Generally a night in the cells is sufficient for a judge if this is your first offence together with a hefty fine and a suspension of 6 months or more of your license. Refusal to submit to the tests will result in suspension of the license for 3 years ( but strangely makes no mention of prison or fine ??) Have a safe and happy Christmas.
7th December 2015 - Andorra, the minimum wage some interesting comparisons.
With the communal elections around the corner, the minimum wage is always a favourite subject. With a registered 38,658 employees and with the minimum wage set at 962 euros per month Andorra very roughly bisects our two neighbours with France on 1,458 euros and Spain a long way behind on 757 euros per month. The 962 euros per month Andorran minimum wage though is a gross salary and by the time employers have deducted what they are allowed to do ( and mostly, they do: for the CASS portion 5.5%, food and lodging deductions set at 171.26 euros) we see that the take home minimum wage can fall to 737 euros, less than in Spain. The official average wage given by the Government for Andorra is 1,993 euros, but these figures are clearly skewed as according to CASS 70% of employees earn less than 2,000 euros. When comparing the 23 EU countries ( Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy and Sweden do not set a minimum) then Andorra is planted between Slovenia on 791 and the United Kingdom on 1,378 euros per month. Top of the pile is Luxembourg on 1,923 and at the bottom is Bulgaria on 194 euros. For a full list of EU countries please click here and please note how Andorra is right on the average wage of the whole EU!! There again though 82.3% of statistics are made up on the spot!?
23rd November 2015 - Heliport, more grumbles.
Believe it or not but we have to go back to 1992 when the Government first announced the intention to build a heliport in Andorra! Included in that decree was the legal necessity for both Government and Comù approval. This caused the first controversy in 1997 when the Government gave approval for a private helipad without the permission of the Comù ( this just happened to be at La Comella, the same location as the one of the two new proposed sites). Well there were many U turns, electoral pledges, companies set up for helicopter services along with sites identified which varied from the border to "more central locations" and of course Patapou ( long abandoned due to complaints) and now back to La Comella and Engolasters. Even now the Government is saying they will listen to complaints and a site will not be chosen where complaints are made: Nearly 24 years after the Government decree to set up helicopter services we are no nearer. What hope is there for the Andorran space program ?
5th November 2015 - Andorra signs financial information exchange with EU, is this the end of my "confidential" banking?
Does this then mean a new rush of residency applications from EU investors before the end of 2016?? It would seem to be a cheaper route potentially!
20th October 2015 - The only platforms for helicopters are those of complaints.
16th October 2015 - Andorra Telecom facing large fall in revenue from 2018.
Andorra Telecom is the sole provider of telecom services in Andorra, much has been made about a lack of competition here but nevertheless Andorra remains the envy of many countries worldwide with the speed of fibre optics and the first country to completely turn off broadband. With the advent of the EU putting an end to roaming charges within the EU at the end of 2017 and which apparently Andorra Telecom have signed up to (or have been compelled to follow), significant falls in revenue are predicted. For example last year national telecom services revenue was 54 million euros and roaming charges accounted for 36 million euros. This year national services revenue is expected to continue to fall to about 40 million euros but roaming charges are expected to rise to over 40 million euros only to hit the wall in 2018 with the drop in revenue to about 6 million in roaming charges income and this could mean a 50% drop in revenue (Please see the chart opposite). Andorra Telecom plans to counter this with over 20 projects including investments in virtual mobile phone networks in Spain and possibly elsewhere, as there are significant cash reserves of 180 million euros to invest wisely. If that fails there is always the inevitable rise in charges etc!!?
15th October 2015 - Spain removes Andorra from its list of financial paradises.
After strangely being re-admitted some months ago to the list of countries that Spain decided were unco-operative ( Notwithstanding a double taxation agreement that was in the final stages of being agreed) they have decided to officially remove Andorra from their list as did Estonia yesterday. Where does that leave Andorra now? Well the map opposite still reveals that within the EU there are 9 countries that regard us as renegade ( Notwithstanding that Portugal is in the final stages of agreeing a double taxation treaty!). I feel sure that across the pond there would be a huge dollop of yellow as BPA shareholders fight back with counter claims for damages.
5th October 2015 - 1,617 Volkswagen cars may be affected in Andorra.
Of the possible 8 million cars affected in Europe Andorra has calculated that 1,617 makes and models of cars including Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda may be affected by one of the most prolific corporate frauds in history. Specifically the models have been fraudulently programmed ( in most cases but also in others where the engine itself has been modified) to falsely comply with the strict requirements of EURO 5 emissions. It has been stressed that there is no suspicion whatsoever that the Concessions in Andorra had any knowledge of this especially as there is no manufacturing of vehicles in Andorra. Soon to be announced is a calendar of modifications for 2016 which will require all vehicles to be tested and modified to comply with EURO 5 at the expense of Volkswagen of course.
3rd October 2015 - Tour de France and other great events for Andorra.
It has just been announced that Granvalira, the largest ski resort in the Pyrenees, has been awarded the Finals of the World Cup Skiing in 2019. This is a huge coup for Andorra which is now clearly on the map for an increasing number of important sporting events. The Tour De France is expected next year in Andorra as is now a regular appearance of La Vuelta ( known as the Tour de Spain). La Vuelta saw the very first "all Andorra" stage which proved to be very gruelling and not without controversy. This year also saw the successful hosting of the World Cup mountain bike championships.
28th September 2015 - Airbus considers Andorra for fleet registration.
Andorra may have hit the jackpot as Airbus considers Andorra as one of seven countries with tax advantages where they can register their aircraft. Andorra with its proximity to Toulouse and the home of Airbus may have a clear advantage here. San Marino has been registering aircraft for some time and the annual earnings can be up to 45,000 euros per aircraft and per year. Now Airbus are looking to register 600 aircraft and quick maths says that is worth 27 million euros income per year for not doing much at all, so please Andorra seize the initiative. I do recall that Andorra lost a very lucrative deal with Apple ( I think it was Apple some years ago) due to some ineptitude on business negotiations and lack of decison making, let us pray in this case that Andorra can close this deal.
10th September 2015 - Catalunya National Day tomorrow and the start of momentous changes?
Tomorrow although a public holiday is the official start of the election campaign with regional elections to be held on 27th September. Last year, in an unofficial referendum, 80% voted to leave Spain, on a turnout of 40%. All 135 seats in the Catalan parliament are now up for grabs on September 27th. The resulting parliament will also vote in the new President of Catalunya. Pro-independence forces are expected to gain the upper hand in the election - the third in five years. Historically in 1469 the crown of Aragon and Catalunya passed into Castilian control with the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Catalunya had been a powerful sovereign state with its own parliament up to 1162, when it unified with Aragon. But its absorption into Castile, run from Madrid, marked something of a reverse takeover. The Catalan state was officially abolished in 1714; many Catalans believe their culture, traditions and language have been steadily eroded ever since, reaching a nadir under the dictatorship of General Franco (1939-1975). Since the restoration of democracy in the late 1970s, Catalunya has been one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities. Visitors and others to Andorra do ask about these flags...
This is the official flag of Catalunya. This is the unofficial flag of an independent Catalunya.
If the pro-independence block holds a majority, it could begin moves to make a formal declaration of independence within 18 months, such as drawing up an official Catalan constitution (Hopefully this time including Andorra as a neighbouring country- see below !). Is this the EU's next headache ?
9th September 2015 - Category F .... Refugee Residency?
The Government announcement that Andorra is offering to do its share in the refugee crisis is causing quite a stir in local media. The Government have announced that they are offering to take 20 refugees from Syria based on a formula of 3 per 500 million EU inhabitants (not sure how that arrives at 20 ?). In parallel the Pope through the Catholic church has announced that each Catholic church should be prepared to take at least one family, that would mean distributing them amongst the Parishes which the Priests are examining. The public feedback in Andorra ( 468 sq Km) it has to be said is generally negative but putting that aside and sarcastic comments about waving Apostillised Syrian police certificates, the number 20 as small as it seems in the overall scenario is 20 more than Saudi Arabia ( 2.15 m sq Km), Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries have agreed to take in.
4th September 2015 - Arcalis ski resort still sliding.
Some of the snippets of news items below mention the finances of the Vallnord ski slopes and the accrued annual losses last year the subject of some creative accounting. Pal-Arinsal finally look to be turning in an operating profit and it was expected for last season to be 700,000 euros. Well that was until the main cable needed replacing which we all know caused inconvenience to the start of the biking season. What is the bill for replacement? Well it is reported to be...you guessed it... 700,000 euros. Of course there is some "discussion" with Doppelmayer as to who should pay what. It is a shame as Pal in particular is every year beginning to rejoice in the mountain biking success and the welcome income that is bringing in. At the other end of the other valley Arcalis has reported losses last year of 2.9 million ( roughly in line with historical losses of recent years). and they have since announced ticket reductions to attract more skiers. The question still remains though how long can a small ski resort keep racking up annual losses on this scale?
1st September 2015 - STOP PRESS
A hearse was last seen heading towards the French border last night having been reported stolen. It is unclear at this stage whether there were any additional occupants. The hearse remains missing ! - UPDATE 4th September 2105 - An arrest has been made and the car has been recovered near Bezier in France. No additional occupants were involved but it remains a mystery why the French chap, a non resident, should steal such a conspicuous vehicle? I have heard of planning your own funeral but that's going a little too far !!
31st August 2015 - Two great sporting events come to Andorra.
We should pat ourselves on the back for Andorra hosting both La Vuelta ( Tour de Spain) and the World Cup Finals of the 2105 Mountain Biking. From today the teams arrive, all the major sporting teams here this week in their glory. La Massana and Andorra in general have a buzz and they have done a grand job to prepare for the events and we wish the organisers all the very best. The only thing out of their control is the weather and after a great late summer heatwave the heavens are set to open with the first cold front of Autumn. For those looking to see or avoid road closures for La Vuelta, I have appended below the schedule for Wednesday 2nd Sept when Andorra hosts the first ever "all Andorra" leg ( 11th Stage). For the Vallnord World Cup you can click here and be warned that there will be considerable traffic disruption near the finish line on the road to Arinsal.
La Vuelta: Wednesday 2 Sept: 11th Stage. Andorra / Andorra. Itinerary:
6th August 2015 - Phew what a scorcher...
Andorra suffered its hottest July since records began in 1935 with average temperatures at Andorra La Vella of 23 degrees. We all know that during the day it was stifling hot but the maximum temperature recorded was 37.7 and that is below the record of 39 degrees in 1994. It is also worthy to note that in one location they recorded 28 sequential days of maximums above 30 degrees. These temperatures provoked the flash flooding in Sant Julia and Escaldes where between 30% and 70% above the average rainfall was recorded for the month and 90% of that all fell in 3 days.
16th July 2015 - Never mind the Grexit....
With all the focus on Grexit ( or not) nobody has focussed on our Head of Government and his intentions to reach a special agreement for Andorra and the EU which would safeguard Andorra's "sovereignty" while integrating somewhat into the EU ( Scroll down and see 13th March 2015). I can only term( Andorra Entrance) this as "Andotrance" or "Antrance" to match the "Grexit"! Regardless of what prefix is suitable the suffix " trance" is worryingly defined in Collins Dictionary as " any mental state in which a person is unaware or apparently unaware of the environment, characterized by loss of voluntary movement, rigidity, and lack of sensitivity to external stimuli" or in the Online Dictionary "Detachment from one's physical surroundings, as in contemplation or daydreaming". I think the heat is getting to me!
24th June 2015 Heliports, Casinos and Passports, not necessarily in that order.
A Heliport will be in operation most likely at Engolasters or La Comella by the end of 2017 after the completion of a feasibility study by the end of this year by French technicians. With a promised regular service to Barcelona this must be welcome news, at least until you read about the last proposed heliport at Patapou with a promised start time of the end of 2013 but which was ditched due to protests. One can only wonder whether the same fate awaits? And while we are on the subject of dates, the new Casino is to be up and running by the end of 2016. That must be good news ( for some, for others not so good) until you read about the last proposed Casino date that was to be in operation by mid 2014, again another gem from 2012. Finally for those that could benefit from an Andorran passport the proposal by one of the political parties is to reduce the wait time from 20 years to 10 years in accordance with long established advice from the EU and UN. That must be good news until ( here we go again).. never mind this though is the 3rd attempt to pass this law and there does at least seem to be some more optimism. Perhaps at the same time they could look at not making the required study and interview exam of Andorran culture, heritage and language a little less daunting? Dual citizenship would be very appealing, but I am starting to dream.
19th June 2015 - Andorra back on the list of fiscal paradises.
A political row has blown up after Spain decided to put Andorra back on the list of uncooperative regimes, a new word for fiscal paradises. The head of Government Antoni Marti was quick to "disclose" that this must have been an error by Spain and that with the forthcoming double taxation treaty and also with all that Andorra has implemented in the past few years it surely could not be true. Spain itself seems decidedly quiet on this issue although the Minister of the Hisienda in Spain agreed from La Seu whilst our ministers were at some business meeting in Toulouse that most likely the inclusion of Andorra was indeed an error, so who is responsible and why no official apology from Spain? Well now Spain is blaming the EU Commission for releasing this list and they are not the most receptive lot especially to own up for a mistake if that is what it is? Wotta mistaka da maka or na da maka!? Post note 24th June 2015: Andorra still is on the Spanish list of uncooperative regimes as at today so maybe not a mistake? It is strange as the two countries today have proudly announced that the double taxation treaty that has taken so long to negotiate between them is on the point of being ratified!
12th June 2015 - Elton is coming!
The date of 18 July 2015 has been fixed for a concert by Elton John at the Poliesportiu Stadium in Andorra La Vella. Whilst not on the scale of International venues with a 4,000 capacity it seems that Elton John approached the authorities here with an interest to play in Andorra. Unconfirmed rumours also have it that he is charging 800,000 euros appearance fee. That would make tickets a minimum of 200 euros each when they come on sale soon to be announced, we will see. Meanwhile I wonder if he would be interested in passive residency ? POST NOTE: Tickets are now on sale from here from 90 to 175 euros. The general feeling is that is too expensive and sales are slow!
9th June 2015- Andorra Ultratrail 2015, not for the faint hearted.
Andorra Ultratrail (Known also as the Ronda Dels Cims) final inscriptions are open for 25th -28th June, a 170 km course that takes in all of the summits of Andorra and has a gradient differential of 13,500 m. The Ultratrail is growing in international stature every year and additionally it has attracted participants for the first time also from China, Mexico, Ireland, Uruguay, Turkey, Russia and New Zealand. Ultratrail is on its way to becoming a major world event. It is also gaining a reputation of one of the toughest of the world circuits and in 2014 the winning time was 30:20 hours and many participants took over 60 hours to finish. In addition to the super fit course there are other shorter courses which allow for maximum participation including a more appealing 10 km walk ( 750 m gradient) which is open to all. All start and finish lines are in Ordino, from Friday morning 25th the start of the ultratrail through to Sunday 28th June.
6th June 2015 - Bishop of La Seu denies rumours of renouncing Co-Prince status, but what about a Monarchy?
The second denial on a referendum, although it seems to have already taken place with the Bishop of La Seu proclaiming that the title of Co-Prince will carry on as the people of Andorra want it to. Now it is not so well documented that Andorra had a legitimately approved Monarchy for 8 days in July 1934. A Russian born chap called Boris Skossyreff managed to convince enough Parliamentary Consellers that with his appointment as "Boris I, Prince of the Valleys of Andorra, Count of Orange and Baron of Skossyreff … Sovereign of Andorra and defender of the faith" and with promises to turn Andorra into the leading financial and casino centre along the lines of Monaco, that he was the better choice for the future of Andorra rather than the Co-Princes. Boris himself designed his own flag, printed 10,000 copies of his constitution, and declared war on the Bishop of Urgell. But it was not to be as on July 20 Skossyreff was unceremoniously dragged away screaming by the Spanish Guardia Civil and taken out of Andorra, first to Barcelona and then on July 23 to Madrid, where he was imprisoned until he was expelled from Spain in November. After returning to France he was reported to have served on the Eastern Front in the war as a special officer and may have died in Vilnius in 1989. One can only wonder what would have happened if the Monarchy had actually survived!
Also for the sake of completeness in my drive for perfection in the assimilation of irrelevant trivia, Andorra only had one Co-Prince between 1793 and 1806 when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte renounced his title on the French side.
4th June 2015 - Another record broken.
Andorra is probably only one of few countries in the world if not the only one where the police routinely announce when they will be out and about on random breath test operations mainly over holiday periods (In Andorra a test result of between 0,51 gr/l and 0,80 gr/l will result in a summary fine and anything from 0,81 onwards means detention and being hauled before the Courts). This of course does not mean that there are no random tests between these times and if you have an accident you will be sure to be tested. It seems though this did not stop one Portuguese national 47 years old who decided on last Friday night at 2100 that he was fit to drive after a few drinks. In fact once he had smashed into a bus stop (fortunately no-one was injured) the police tested him and found he had an incredible alcohol content reading of 4,54 g/l or in the other conversion method that is 454 mg/dL (anything from 300-400 mg/dL is generally accepted to be potentially fatal!!). This is a record for Andorra and possibly in most other countries including Portugal. I would be really interested to know what equivalent volume of alcohol this is in terms of shots of Grappa? Next time he can stagger to the bus stop on foot rather than try to drive there as he will not have a driving license for many years to come.
2nd June 2015 - Andorra may lose one Co-Prince.
Andorra is termed as a co-principality and the two historical constitutional Co-Princes since the 12th century are the Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell and the Count of Foix. Originally an independent County until 1607 Foix became part of France and the duties of the Co-Prince were assumed by the Monarch Henry IV. Since the Republic was formed the President of France has assumed the role of Monarch and thus is the only democratically elected Monarch!
Ever since Pope Francesc was appointed in 2013 rumours have been rife that he wishes to renounce the link of the Catholic church to the duties of sovereignty over Andorra as the historical Co-Prince. The current Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell Joan-Enric Vives is due to be transferred to Barcelona to cover the retirement of the incumbent Bishop there. Rumours are now stronger than ever that the Pope may use this opportunity to break the historical link. The issues of abortion and civil liberties are always a thorny issue for the church and the last time the church ruled out any thought of legalising abortion in Andorra there were mute calls for a referendum as to whether Andorra could sever this link. These calls that were very quickly put to rest nevertheless there were and still are political versus religious strains on both sides. Whether the title of Co-Prince could be transferred to the duties of King Felip VI of Spain, or the President of the Generalitat of Catalunya remains to be seen and with the French Elections on the horizon, it appears we may be swapping the other Co-Prince President Hollande for Sarkozi again or perhaps even Le Pen ( That would be interesting). Of course there still is the Republic option, lets wait for the referendum rumours to start again.
31st May 2015 - Andorran Olympians head to the small country Olympics in Iceland.
We all wish our athletes the best of luck as they depart today for Iceland for the 16th "Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE)" otherwise known as the small countries Olympic games held every 2 years. Andorra evidently decided against a patriotic fanfare departure for the athletes who unceremoniously boarded a coach from the bus stop on a roundabout in Andorra La Vella, although some local papers did manage a group photo. Golf is the latest sport to be added as in the main Olympic disciplines in RIO from 2016, hence I am proud to announce that my son Ramon is representing Andorra as part of the small country's Olympic team. In all, over 50 athletes will participate in 12 disciplines and they return on Sunday 7th June.
UPDATE: 6th June 2015 - the final medal table, Ramon came 12th in the golf!
9th May 2015 -Cyclists beware, Spanish Duana must have nothing to do.
A group of cyclists were detained for a couple of hours yesterday as they were not able to produce the invoices for the bikes they were riding into Spain, not something you really put in your saddle bag. The Spanish authorities claimed that there may have been an intent to avoid import tax into Spain. With a number of professional cyclists now living and training here we hope that they put aside ideas of a conspiracy to import bikes to Spain by riding them over the border! What if this was extended to cars !?
25th April 2015 -Vallnord now offering annual passes.
For the first time and for 1 euro more than last years ski pass, that is 176 euros, you can right now buy a new pass for 2015/2016. By doing this you can enjoy unlimited rides on all of the summer facilities such as cable cars and chairlifts (especially if you are a downhill mountain biker) as well as the whole of the next ski season. Furthermore Vallnord have just announced that they intend in future to keep Arcalis resort open every year ( snow permitting) to 1st May. This new pass is well worth buying before the summer, Andorra is also hosting the World Cup Final Mountain Bike Championship in September.
13th April 2015 - Personalised number plates available.
Since November 2014 any resident has been able to apply for personalised number plates for their Andorran car. Although the norm in UK, Belgium and the USA, Andorra has decided to cash in and offer personalised plates for an application fee which varies from 300 euros to 6,000 euros with a flat annual tax of 200 euros. Combinations of 1-2 numerical characters and 3-5 letters offer applicants some interesting inuendos, particularly as officials at the Transport Department may have a problem with Catalan as the first language. Such plates as PEN 15, ORG 4SM and DICKO may slip through the net. Applicants can apply at Government and get a decision within one month. The old plate is to be retained by the owner and re-attached for when the car is sold.
Andorra bank ratings are now several points above Spain's after their recent downgrade. The ratings (Mooody's look after Morabanc, and Fitch look after both Credit Andorra and Andbank) have recently been confirmed as stable, Morabanc with an A2 rating and both Credit Andorra and Andbank maintain their A- status. These ratings mean that Andorra has one of the safest banking systems. Both credit agencies though said that Andorra can not expect any upgrades with the current crisis in neighbouring countries. Andorra's sovereign rating according to Standard and Poor's was also stable at a creditable A / A-. As yet Andorra remains resilient to the financial disaster around it.22nd June 2012.