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NEWS, OPINIONS AND COMMENTS ( Both welcome and unwelcome)





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... 

Please do send us your feedback or articles on any subject




The BPA/Vallbanc Saga Continues ...

19thJuly 2016 : In 2012  BPA had commissioned a corporate law firm and then hid the findings

La Seu Airport Updates....


July 2016. Time for an Airport update at La Seu


THE HATE MONGERS

There be devils at the gate
Devils who broadcast the seeds of hate
Devils setting brother against brother
Setting son against mother
Few or none are elected
Fewer still are respected
Your gullibility and mine
Provides codeine for their conscience
And a codpiece for their spine.



The stories that follow are generally not part of a sequel and cover various subjects that may be of interest around Andorra...
25th November 2016    The Cloud, what is it ?

Most people by now will know that Andorra Telecom has moved temporarily to its new location while the old building is torn down and a new and futuristic building rises from the rubble. Yesterday the Government approved 1.3 million euros to make a new pedestrian Plaça that will surround the new building which is expected to open in 2019 with an investment of  31 million euros. The building which will be 14 stories high will also house other technolgies and innovations and is expected to create over 300 new positions. This comes at a time when profits at Andorra Telecom have plunged 36% due to the EU removal of hefty roaming charges and which will continue to weigh heavily on Andorra Telecom´s future income. As a word of practical advice on this new roaming fees in Europe which are now 0.5 cents per megabyte, you do of course need roaming data turned on, just please remember to turn it off if travelling outside the EU as it can be TEN euros per megabyte !!!


24th November 2016. Beware those who rent out apartments.

For some years now the Government from presssure by hotel and aparthotel operators have been clamping down on owners renting out their apartments for holiday lets for tourists. We have seen regulations introduced concerning obligatory registration of the apartments as holiday lets, and also regulations relating to where the number of individual rentals in any block must trigger the requirement for a receptionist as well as similar access required by hotels, notably disabled access and fire escapes. Many people though still choose to rent out their apartments through AirB & B and other online sites of which there are many. The Parish of Canillo has now decided to take this one step further and this may well become a precedent for other Parishes:  Out of the 6500 apartments in Canillo they estimate that 4,800 could be suitable for renting and out of those only 700 are registered for the purpose. Canillo is now employing an Inspector whose job it is to identify the use of each of the 4,800 apartments and where the owner is found to be renting for holiday lets he may face an immediate fine of 1,000 to 6,000 euros, so be warned. A quick search on Air B&B returns a result of 300 such places available, seems a logical start point for our Inspector?

27th of September 2016   What is happening with  the accounts of Sant Julia?

There has been an ongoing saga of the operation of Naturlandia and the operational losses of the park with always a question mark over where these losses are being pushed under the carpet. Every year each Parish has to submit its full set of accounts to the Government which acts as a central auditor to ensure public funds are allocated and correctly spent. Those in authority at the Comú of Sant Julia still steadfastly refuse to submit last year's accounts to the Government. A recent survey carried out in a local newspaper found that 92% of those questioned said the account should be submitted immediately with only 8% not interested. Unfortunately none of the accounts are in the public domain so one can only speculate why such a refusal has been made by those in charge.

In fact the next survey could prove to be interesting and that is asking all readers whether or not Andorra should slow down its negotiations with the EU on a special relationship, unfortunately there is no box to tick with the word stop!


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

The four operating banks ( BPA and Vall Banc excepted from these figures) reported an increase of 2.84% of funds under management to 45.214 billion euros representing a historical high. The overall decrease in operating profit of 8.03% is largely attibuted to low inetrest rates which continue to pressure financial margins. Importantly the average solvency ratio of 22.78%, 2 points higher than in 2014, is more than double the 10% ratio demanded by the EU and the global levels of acceptance. The solvency ratio also increased 3% to 71.24% whilst the average return on equity stood at 10.93% and that is more than double the European average of 5%.  Vall Banc itself is negotiating with potential correspondent banks and all in that area appears to be moving smoothly. All of the above vindicate the doom merchants during the BPA scandal that Andorra was set to be the next European banking crisis.


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:


  • FREE installation of charging outlet equipment at your home/garage
  • FREE charging at public charging points
  • FREE parking for 2 hours at any on street parking zone
  • FREE personalised number plate
  • Bus lane access
  • FREE passage through the Envalira tunnel towards the French side
  • FREE annual car tax


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.

I actually have done this exam and it is not easy at all requiring written and oral passes and considerable study. I have already discovered some community  shock specifically with older pensioners who will now be expected to in effect return to school to ensure continued residency. Also for those residents that are not often here it will be difficult to attend these courses. I do suggest that this is not the best way forward for Andorra and that those affected may wish to  express their displeasure as soon as possible  to those politicians that they may know. I will post updates as this situation becomes clearer.

At 12.01. Thank you for all of  your feedback,. the Government has decided to withdraw this new requirement. Happy April 1st !!!



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 has been discovered that a production team for Porsche were secretly in Andorra for two days in September last year filming the advert for their new, soon to be released Porsche Boxter 718. Apparently those in the know here were able to keep the secret and Porsche were allowed some closed roads and unfettered speed limits for filming in areas including Arcalis, Cortals of Anyos, Coll d'Ordino and the tunnel Dos Valires.


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:


Andorrans 35,424     50,2%      Spanish 17,227    24,4%,       Portuguese 9,360  13,3%,      French 2,731   3,9%,       British 706   1,0%,   Argentinians 518   0,7%,     Filipinos   391    0,6%  Russians 413   0,6%
And a list of minor percentages makes a population of 70,570      100%.

Just as a meaningless addition to this, the foreign population of the prison in Andorra stands at 74%



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?


 

No. Basically this is an extension to an existing agreement which Andorra signed up to in 2011 in which non Andorran resident account holders of EU member states were subject to a 35% withholding tax on earned income from savings and investments with Andorran banks.  The sum is an annual payment to the member EU state of the account holder from the Ministry of Finance based on bank declarations of non-resident accounts. The amount is a fixed sum to each country and contains no personal information of individual account holders. That will be changed from 2017 ( The first return is in 2018 based on 2017 information) when full details of the account holder, sums invested and income earned will be automatically passed to the EU member state of that individual account holder. After this date the 35% withholding tax will no longer apply and will be effectively replaced by this arrangement. This is ONLY for non-residents, if you are a passive or active resident your information will remain "confidential". (Only subject as at present to disclosure based on a judicial request concerning criminal activity or tax evasion from countries with which Andorra has signed a financial disclosure agreement; incidentally there reportedly have been 29 requests and the majority of those were unsuccessful over the years since the financial disclosure agreements were first signed).


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.


 

It has been reported here (24th June 2015) that two proposed sights for the new heliport are to undergo a feasibility study by French experts to determine whether it should be sighted at La Comella or Engolasters. As with the previous site at Patapou which was abandoned as a potential site due to complaints from very important people who live there, the same fate seems to be brewing for the two latest locations. Patapou has set a precedent so the complaints against the two sites on the other side of the valley should succeed unless on that side of the valley the helicopters are much quieter and safer as noise and safety are the chief complaints from the residents platform at La Comella ( yet to hear from Engolasters). Everyone is pointing the finger to other areas such as Sant Julia where presumably the same complaints would then arise. I have the feeling this will drag on somewhat and whilst a helicopter service would be good for Andorra, I have not seen any sensible projections that this could be a commercially viable project along the lines of the helicopter taxi from Nice to Monaco?



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:


Parc central d’Andorra la Vella (Depart), Escaldes-Engordany, Vila  / Collada de Beixalís, Anyós - La Massana, Ordino, Coll d’Ordino, Canillo, Encamp, Carretera de l’Obac / Av. Tarragona / Av. Salou, Sant Julià de Lòria, Juberri / La Peguera / Aixirivall, Fontaneda / Collada de la Gallina, Canòlich, Aixovall, La Comella, Cortals d’Encamp (Arrival). Just a mere 138 Km with a 5230 m total climb and the course is described as a "killer" ! The stage is set to start at 13:30 (CET) and the finish is expected around 17:40

Dijous 3 Sept:  Departure 12th stage. Andorra - Lleida departs Escaldes at 1300 via the Spanish Frontier.

For maps and info please click here.



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.


25th March 2015 - Andorra has two and a half Co-Princes not just two!!!

In 1865 Lord Arthur Henry Nieves supposedly purchased 16 acres of land in La Messana, Principality of Andorra  ( That is not my spelling mistake of La Massana)  and is planning to build a castle there. Apparently after years of service to the community of La Messana, Lord Arthur was granted under "fons honorum," the honorable title of territorial prince. The heir to all of this, Territorial Highness Prince Arthur Louis Pagan Nieves has apparently re-established an honorary diplomatic residence with the purpose of representing the principality of Andorra in the United States of America. To the right is a picture of Prince Thingy conveniently pointing out where Andorra is and posing for the camera obviously in La Messana which looks a bit similar to a Mexican landscape. Their website is quick to point out "as territorial titles holders, we do not receive any salary nor financial support from Andorra. We are not and we do not claim to be the prince and princess of Andorra. We are the title holders representing the House of Homestead, which was established in Andorra". They are also owners of a complete high definition television production facility (?).

13th March 2015 - The Head of Government in Brussels to re-iterate is mandate for an EU accord.

Well, a picture says a thousand words here:




11th March 2015- The cops get their man: Burglary latest !

A German man was arrested in connection with the recent crime spate in Andorra that saw a number of commercial and private establishments including The Topic in Ordino, Coma Pedrosa, Camping Xixerella to name but a few ( There were over 20 in all reported). In each case the M.O. was the same in that the safe was removed and was taken away to be later broken into. In some cases this M.O. had become so repetitive that a few savvy establishments emptied the safe before this devious villain ran off with a very empty and heavy chunk of metal. Sadly a tips jar went missing in one restaurant, and in another where it is easy to open the cash draw of a till, it was all too much for this brainiac who took the whole till plus screen attached. Little is known yet of the villain who has disturbed the always tranquil and crime free beauty of Andorra, except that he is German and has an impressive record ( in other countries). He is to appear in Court today and was believed to be acting alone. He has now been charged, and detained and the police are satisfied there is no accomplice.

6th March 2015- Andorra's first very equal taxation treaty!

The French parliament has finally approved the terms of the double taxation treaty with Andorra after being kicked out 5 times. The problem is here that Sarkozy's former government initiated the discussions and reached a draft agreement. Hollande's gang then quietly added a contentious clause that basically would allow the French Government to tax French nationals, resident of Andorra, as if they were still living in France. This though is not about to happen as it is only in the event that Hollande's gang forces through huge changes to the French taxation system to allow them to tax French nationals wherever they may live. Sarkozy's former party the UMP now in opposition were up in arms that the Socialists would even consider taxing French nationals abroad, hence the delays. The problem is that the clause still remains inserted, and although Hollande's gang don't stand a garlic's chance of changing the system in this parliament and based upon current opinion polls will be consigned to "le Scrapeep" at the next election, there is no imminent threat. Suffice to say after the elections here the treaty will  be ratified in its current form.

6th February 2015- The Annexation of Andorra.

This week saw the final version of the hypothetical constitution for Catalunya, carefully drafted by a presiding Judge and overseen by the all-important committee. Someone forgot to include Andorra as one of the neighbouring States which led to suggestions that Catalunya may be planning to annex the country if it ever became independent.  Andorra has only been officially recognised by Catalunya for 700 years so there was indeed an element of wriggle room. We understand that it was a simple error and that of course Andorra will now be included. Having said that how often do we describe Andorra as a country in the Pyrenees between France and Catalunya?

4th February 2015 The demise of Ski Art.

Ski Art was the second biggest local tour operator in Andorra and this week the company has closed its doors and the Directors are no where to be seen. Lo and behold there is an estimated outstanding amount due to the 200 or so local hotels and clients of € 700,000, and as some sources are now suggesting, possibly as much as €1,500,000. So where is the investigative journalism?  20,000 or so tourists annually passed through the booking portal, lets assume a 10% commission for each ( some years ago they charged a staggering 25% commission) and lets say each booking has an average value of €200. That is an estimated income of €4,000,000 and commission would be €400,000. The overheads amount to a website, locally rented office and a dozen or so staff: let's say conservative total expenses at €180,000. Total estimated creditors outstanding as above € 700,000 - € 1,500,000. Something isn't right, perhaps the owner/directors will one day explain their "business model" especially as clients paid this company directly and then the company paid the hotels. It's all very convenient to suggest that the closure of Orizonia in Spain last year was the reason for all of this.

10th January 2015. The first Double Taxation Treaty ( CDI).

Andorra has signed the first double taxation treaty with Spain but with a couple of surprise inclusions that have not gone down well with the opposition and parts of the community. In the fine print the  financial disclosure included a provision to include groups of people as well as individuals and also allows back dating to 2010, the date of the original financial disclosure agreement between the two countries. This may allow the right for Spain for example to disclose all Spanish investors in a particular Andorran bank fund dating back to 2010 ( subject to the usual dictate that this involves tax evasion or proceeds of crime and is not a "fishing expedition"). Now this has come as a surprise to many of the powers to be who apparently had not been informed and are not happy. Both Parliaments need to ratify the agreement expected to come into effect from 2016, but again with election year in Andorra there are plenty of politics to be played out.

18th September 2014 - Agreement on Double Taxation with Spain

The sticking point on negotiations on a treaty between Spain and Andorra was the absolute insistence by Spain of an automatic exchange of fiscal information between the two countries. Spain has now agreed not to pursue this but rather to wait for the matter to be included in the directives from the OECD, the principles which Andorra has signed up to from 2017. The door is now open for the signing of a treaty this December during the visit of Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish President in December 2014. This will be the first ever visit to Andorra by an incumbent Spanish President. All of this comes in the middle of the controversy surrounding the accounts of former President of Catalonia’s Generalitat Jordi Pujol and his children in Andorran banks and the judicial actions underway. Official sources denied that this was discussed between Rajoy and the head of Government Antoni Marti in their meeting yesterday at Moncloa Palace in Madrid.

10 September 2014- Referendum, now Andorra is talking about it!!

Whether by coincidence or not following on from my previous articles it seems that at the meeting by the Head of Government with the Pope at the Vatican the Pope steadfastly has refused any change on the abortion laws here. It has now been suggested at a high level that Andorra should consider a referendum on this matter and while doing so the cat appears to have escaped the bag in that a Minister suggested one step further and have a full referendum on the future political setup of the country. It may just be that it is time for Andorra to become one of the world's newest Republics rather than the historical quirk of the co-princeps. Just how much this idea becomes a hot topic will be very interesting. POST NOTE: The Head of Government and many leading politicians were very quick to slap that down stating that the current status quo has led to many centuries of successful co-existence.

07 September 2014- Referendum fever

Whilst the global community stares in disbelief as to why the 300 year old successful union of the United Kingdom should ever want to rip itself apart, the referendum day for Catalunya also fast approacheth. In this case though the polls indicate a clear YES (depending on which polls you believe), but without any provision in Spanish law either for the referendum or independence so there will be some hard bargaining. Some Andorran Ministers have offered support for Catalunya but in reality it is unlikely to affect Andorra even if Spanish tanks do encircle Barcelona!? Perhaps the pretender to the throne of Scotland King Alex 1st who is about to be offered virtually full autonomy as a last ditch attempt by the NO campaigners to keep together the Union should suddenly urge his YES followers to vote NO the night before, full autonomy after all is really what most Scottish people wanted in the first place.

06th September 2014- IRPF or no IRPF, That is the question.

A former Counsellor Eusebi Nomen has announced that he has a long list of serving and former Ministers who are against both the IRPF (new income tax from 2015) and the automatic sharing of financial information which Spain has made obligatory for them to sign a double taxation treaty with Andorra. He says that both steps are steps backward and he will stand in the 2015 elections together with this yet unknown list of supporters on an anti IRPF and double taxation treaty platform. It is well known that there are grave misgivings on the course that Andorra has chosen at the highest levels and he is to offer a new direction. The Liberals have also jumped on the band wagon being against the IRPF. This is all very interesting and promising but without knowing the new direction and what effect that would cause on the global overlords it remains to be seen if this could become a feasible alternative.

28th January 2014 The Great Arinsal Cash Machine Mystery

Will the person(s) who stole the Andbank cash machine from it's long standing position in Arinsal kindly replace it as soon as possible as it is causing considerable inconvenience to long standing users. I am trying to ascertain from Andbank whether they intend to run a personal cash delivery service to Arinsal in the interim but it does not seem optimistic, nor does the prospect of any replacement. If anyone would like to start a pressure group to campaign for re-instatement please feel free to do so !



23rd January 2014 "Unlimited" downloads over fibre optics.

As of the 1st of this month subscribers to Andorra Telecom's fibre optic internet package ( applicable to the €39 per month or more tariff) will now enjoy 150 Gb of downloads monthly at the top speed of "up to" 100 Mb/s. After that quota has been reached the speed slows dramatically to the old ADSL download rate. Many people were caught out last year with some serious bills after the old download limit of 120 Gb was exceeded, no-one appeared to inform the user once the limit was reached and for 1€ each Gb over the top, the bills added up. What they did not make clear (and still have not) is that not only do downloads count but also very importantly so do the uploads. So for a couple of kids on a file sharing platform that was left permanently on the limit was easily breached: Now although it will be free to go over the 150 Gb, it will be so slow that the kids may even lose interest!!

18th November 2013   The end of the plastic bag

As of today all the usual plastic bags which the authorities describe as "for one sole use" are prohibited. No longer will you be able to buy these for 2 centimes from the supermarket checkout. The replacement that they are allowed to sell to you is a plastic bag that can be used for 12 to 15 times which they are not allowed to sell for the current 2 centimes. It remains to be seen what price they will charge, hopefully something sensible so suffice to say bring your own carrier bags like our grand parents used to!

15th November 2013  Keep snow chains in the car

Legislation is being rushed through to bring into force for this winter ( it must have crept up without the politicians noticing) to provide for fines where the Andorran registered car has no special equipment for snow and ice. Every year between 1 November and 15 May when there is snow or ice on the road ( a little subjective perhaps)   all Andorran cars must carry at least snow chains. For those that do not have contact tyres or snow chains the fine will be €180. For those with contact tyres and no chains the fine will be €60. Even 4 x 4s it seems must carry those snow chains. Now very unfortunately everyone who lives in Andorra knows that the worst culprits are the tourist cars who insist on driving to the point where they simply cannot get any further and get out to try to put on the chains, and this always happens in the middle of the road. They are exempt from this new law!

6th November 2013  Andorra signs Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax

On November 5th 2013 Andorra quietly became the 60th country to sign the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (MCMAATM) at the offices of the OECD. This is the theory of the agreement: The Multilateral Convention provides for all forms of mutual assistance: exchange on request, spontaneous exchange, tax examinations abroad, simultaneous tax examinations and assistance in tax collection, while protecting taxpayers’ rights.

While the Convention contemplates the automatic exchange of information, this aspect of the agreement requires further separate agreements between the individual countries. The automatic exchange of information would not be permitted under current Andorran banking laws. In fact there is not a lot of difference from the 17 or so international accords Andorra has signed for the Agreements for Financial Disclosure,  the procedure requiring judicial authority for release of information. Once again (Article 26 of this new agreement) emphasises that there are to be no fishing expeditions, the requesting country requiring to submit thorough proof ( as well as footing the bill).  The Convention has been described as a minefield which in reality may never actually be workable.

21st October 2013  Hallo hallo....

There has been a little bit of an argument recently between the police and the legal world here in Andorra. The Police adamantly refused access to lawyers to advise suspects when they choose to make an admission to a crime. The Chief of Police stated adamantly that under the penal code legal assistance can only be requested and granted once a person is detained and not before as in the case of a suspect who may wish to conveniently admit to some facts. Once made he is then obviously detained and then can get that legal assistance! This interpretation has now been very quickly removed and suspects whether or not detained can have now legal assistance. It seems there are still prominent areas of the Administration that are clearly struggling to follow Andorra into the "opening up" of the country to the world in the 21st Century ( I might need that lawyer now!!)

11th October 2013  Andorra's new fiscal border controls

As from 1st January 2014 Andorra will limit what you can bring in and take out in cash and equivalents at the borders. Up until now there have been no exchange controls in Andorra, the only controls were in France and Spain when "exporting" cash to Andorra. So those who bring their cash up in suitcases will now have to run two gauntlets of an Andorran control as well as the French and Spanish. The limit decreed for importing and exporting physical cash is €10,000 per person or the equivalent in cheques and other financial instruments ( presumably valuable metals as well). Those who fail to declare and are caught face a fine of 25% of the excess cash starting at a minimum of €600. Not quite as draconian as the Spanish, but who knows what happens if you then cross the border after being caught already at the Andorran side of the border. I have not yet had wind of any proposed exchange controls via bank transfers !

10th October 2013- Vallnord

The financial problems surrounding the ski resort of Vallnord continue to simmer with various "options" being discussed. They have always denied that a foreign investor would be required or welcome. Now we are told that there are two private investors negotiating, most notably an American conglomerate who according to sources may acquire up to 51% of the company. There have been counter rumours that none of these negotiations are serious and it is political posturing only by the executives. Whatever happens we can all go skiing this year at least as passes are now on sale and at a discount until October 28th.

17th September 2013 Proposed changes in rental contracts

The Government has accepted a new proposal to examine the law on rental contracts in which it is proposed to make the legal term 2 years instead of the current 5 years. This is a positive move since 5 years is often too long for a landlord to in effect lose control over his property particularly in a rising market where he may wish to sell but would not be able to do so.
On another matter affecting rental contracts, current temporary legislation that allows one month's notice to over-ride the three months stated in the contract may be coming to an end. The Association of Estate Agents (AGIA) has now requested this legislation be removed, there are also currently two cases  before the courts to determine this, so be prepared in future to give three month's notice. Also as a post note AGIA has held a series of meetings as they are very unhappy that any changes in the rental conditions are being proposed without their input, especially a clause about properties being allowed to be sublet, let's see what transpires from these proposals. As the law currently stands the 1 month notice rule for tenants still remains in effect.

12th September 2013. Annual car inspections changes

As of today for those cars subject to the ITv ( equivalent of the MOT mechanical inspection) and who fail, the grace period for re-examination has been increased from 4 days to 15 days. This means that if the car failed, say for brakes, then you now have 15 days to get them fixed and return to prove such without paying for another testing. The original 4 day grace period was always difficult, a welcome improvement.

3rd July 2013. Wanna bet?

The go ahead for a casino in Andorra will be given shortly, they are looking to open in the second half of next year. The fact that they have not yet found a premises ( Another "Heliport" protest inevitable) and that they are talking about a croupier school here for training may make the start date optimistic to say the least.

28th June 2013. There are taxes and there are taxes.

Most of what Andorra is trying to achieve in bringing itself inline with an angry Europe and the world community are understandable and inevitable. However soon to be levied on any place, and place includes a taxi, shop, hotel or common area, that has music or television broadcast in public will be a "royalties tax".  For example a taxi who happens to play music over the radio will have to pay €20 per month. A hotel that has an average of 30 rooms occupied will end up paying over € 22,000 per year based on a tax per TV and/or music per room occupied. The tax is being introduced as it is now apparently the norm in France and Spain. It's a shame Andorra has to use these particular countries as a bastion of financial common sense, and more importantly for kicking the motor of the tourist industry while it is lying on the floor in need of help`.

13th May 2013.  The continuing slippery slopes at Vallnord.

Well the figures for the last ski season are out and they have already had some preliminary meetings as to how to deal with the accrued deficit, financing charges and of course the income. In fact last season will be remembered for probably having too much snow. Arcalis suffered due to avalanche risks, and in all areas the piste machines could not cope. La Massana have announced preliminary figures of a deficit of €2.5million for Pal and Arinsal, while Arcalis in Ordino itself has managed a deficit of € 2 million. La Massana have emphasized that if they were to strip away the cost of debt and debt service the deficit would only this season have been €100,000, while Ordino have proudly announced the customary waving of €1million in debts owed to the Comu. If we could all make debt disappear then what a great solution to the Sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Now if only they could (agree on and) find a private investor.  Anyone want a punt,  the deficit is only about €32 million?? ( Too many "if onlys....)
UPDATE: It is proving difficult to attract local private investment...now I wonder why that is ?

11th April 2013.  FATCA Regulations

Later this year the new FATCA regulations for USA Nationals come into effect. In summary the IRS in America has decided to order every bank on the planet to disclose annually all accounts of USA citizens where so ever they may be. Now the penalty for not complying with big brother is fines imposed on the banks with a threat to cancel the banking license of that poor entity to operate in the America. Given that the vast majority of the world banking clearing system is based there, no bank can afford not to comply. This will apply to Andorra too where the initial attitude of some banks here has been to suggest no more USA citizen's bank accounts. It would appear now though that they may be satisfied by the client signing a full disclosure agreement.

Now Monsieur Hollande has been watching this carefully for he has proudly announced that he would like to see similar full disclosure for French nationals where so ever they may be. Just as Andorra and other countries have recently complied with the directives, mainly instigated by France, to remove themselves from the list of financial paradises ( Andorra opted for the 35% EU withholding tax for non resident accounts), Monsieur Hollande is proposing that failure of countries to allow full disclosure of all accounts and wealth of French Nationals resident or not resident in any third country will result in that country being cast back into the financial paradise cage. Just how much of a threat this is remains to be seen. Also what remains to be seen is whether the Andorran authorities have the hair on their chest to defend the system here against such pressure from one of it's historical rulers.

9th April 2013. Speeding fines, to pay or not to pay?

Andorran registered cars driving in Spain, France and any other country are immune from fines from radar traps unless stopped by the police after or in relation to a similar offence such as not wearing a seat belt. The same immunity applies to foreign registered cars in Andorra that set the radars flashing here.  There is a new  EU agreement that comes into force at the end of the year that permits the inter change of information between EU countries and also makes compulsory the payment of fines for foreign registered cars in EU countries. Andorra however is not a  party to this agreement and there continues to be no proposals for Andorra to sign separate agreements with any other country. What they are looking at though is the possibility of employing a private company to notify Andorrans ( for fines in Spain for example) and to notify foreigners offending in Andorra that they should pay the fine. If the Governments of Andorra and another country do employ a private company the payment still will not be obligatory, nor will there be any repercussions if the driver does not pay. It would appear then that the status quo of immunity continues.

2nd April 2013. Andorra's first double taxation Agreement

Andorra has signed its first double taxation treaty with France. This will avoid the 35% services tax in France for Andorran companies and vice versa for French companies trading in Andorra. Similar treaties with Spain and Portugal are now being pursued.

26th February 2013. Don't go over the border with a fat wallet..or suitcase!

Always in the news are seizures by (mostly)  the Spanish authorities of cash being imported or exported to and from Andorra above the allowance. Andorra is outside the EU so normal allowances apply and that is €10,000 cash each maximum without declaring anything. Now if they find  persons as they have announced today, four persons were found to be carrying € 55, 910 between them, they WILL seize all the money and leave you each with €1,000 which they deem appropriate for living expenses.  It does not end there, as the fiscal authorities are likely to fine the persons again an equal amount as to the total amount which they were carrying. From time to time they do have operations and are always vigilant for suspicious behaviour, be warned!

21st February 2013 I saw an eyesore.

La Querola of Ordino is a futuristic apartment complex designed by Architect Jean Nouvel. For those who may not have seen this aesthetic work of beauty, I enclose a photo:



Very unfortunately they have found a font/swamp/well which emerges under the proposed reception area. It seems this has come as a shock to the Council of Ordino who knew nothing about it. Consequently the project may have to be abandoned and so all the fields and trees will just have to stay.  I know this font area quite well from my walks. Nice building though !?
Post Note: They seem to have sorted the problem, probably a large tap or something, so the scar in the landscape is well visible.

19th February 2013. Property transactions update

Property transactions are down 25% on this time last year according to today's article. Once again full mention is made of the hope for a revival of interest in the property with the new requirements to invest to secure passive residency. This seems to be the theme every couple of months or so.  Very soon at the end of June we will see the first anniversary of the new law and they will be able to gauge what effect if any the new law is having!

21st January 2013. Are the French playing politics with the winter access routes?

The French authorities have now closed the access to Andorra for several days due to the heavy snow and avalanche risk. This is causing some friction politically as the road itself is clear, but the danger of avalanches persists according to the Ariege authorities. Whereas in Andorra all avalanche areas are dynamited, there is a reluctance to do so on the French side, it is easier to close the pass. There are local murmurs that if at the end of the road there were French ski resorts, everything would be open very quickly. Some years ago this was precisely why all the ski tour operators switched from Toulouse airport to Spanish airports, coaches being stuck in France for several days. For those residents who do use the French side please take note. ( I am reliably informed that some Andorrans ignore the French barrier by driving around it. I suppose when you reach your destination they aren't going to turn you back !?

2012 Archives
13th December 2012 Andorra goes smoke free.

The smoking prohibtion in public places came into effect today. Fines range from €30 to €10,000 for both the culprit and the owner of the establishment. It is expected to be policed by public complaint. The fines for owners of premises have been structured so as to deter them from turning a blind eye. So far today no evidence of smoking in coffee shops have been observed. The bars open later !?

5th December 2012. Now you build a heliport, now you don't.

The heliport planned for Patapou in Andorra La Vella ( see 22nd June 2012 below) has been cancelled due to opposition by local residents. The search for a heliport location continues, I suppose they will have a problem with local residents wherever they try to select!   Post note from 2015....I suppose they are still looking for a suitable site ??

4th December 2012. Andorra's Sovereign rating tweaked down.

Standard & Poor's today downgraded the rating of Andorran Sovereign bonds by one notch from A to A- for the long term and from A-1 to A-2 for the short term both with a negative outlook (see 22nd June 2012 below). Standard & Poor's gave the reasons for the downgrade as the proximity to EU problems, especially Spain, a 14% fall in employment since 2006 and a continuing outflow of population primarily caused by the downturn in the construction industry. On the long term comments they noted Andorra's opening up to foreign investment and business and that the means taken to re-invigorate the economy were well received by the ratings agency.  It should be noted that the T & C rating for Andorra remains a prize AAA rating ( this is the likelihood of Andorra requiring non sovereign financing). I t should also be noted that Spanish Sovereign bonds are currently rated BBB- not far from junk status.

From this author's point of view it remains to be seen whether the costs of the new central administration being set up to police and receive the new taxes out weigh the benefits. It is well proven that a central administration does not create wealth but sucks it in and creates long term liabilities, especially on the pension front of those who administer....careful now!!


31st October 2012. The slippery slope at Vallnord.

The opening of Vallnord ski pistes is earmarked for 1st December 2012 (as always). Vallnord which comprises Arinsal, Pal and Arcalis ski resorts has just obtained a €4 million standby credit from the bank consortium with a due payback date of 1st July 2013. Last year the Vallnord consortium lost €3.5 million to bring it's accumulated losses to over €30 million. If ever there was a need to pray for early snow and a good season, this is it. The last two seasons have been poor and if it happens this year, the unthinkable may have to be considered.....  Let us Pray !!

31st August 2012.  French see red at the 90 day rule.

France has summoned the head of Government for a dressing down over various matters including their objection to the new 90 day residency rule, demanding that the former 183 days be re-instated. Also as part of the Economic Opening of Andorra, Double Taxation Treaties are an integral part. However until the precise level of proposed income tax here is fixed France in particular is refusing to sign any agreement (seems logical). This and other issues are now pushing back these treaties, as yet Andorra has no Double Taxation Treaties.


28th July 2012.

Since the peak number of salaried employees in Andorra in December 2009, a total of just over 41,000, the latest figures reveal a drop of over 4,000 salaried employees to 37,000. This is a drop of over 10% of the workforce. The biggest drop is in the construction industry, many of the former salaried employees from Spain and Portugal have return home as there simply is no work. The concern now is becoming the sustainability of the Andorran Government pensions and the potential deficit as the ratio of workers to pensioners narrows dramatically.

11th July 2012

It is announced today that the new tunnel de "Dos Valires" from La Massana to Encamp will open on the 31st July 2012. This long awaited tunnel will cut travel times to the French side, and also importantly bring the expansive pistes of Granvalira a lot more accessible to La Massana. Post note: It has opened! Also it has caused linguistic scholars to shudder as techically the "riu Valira" is feminine, so it should be the tunnel del "Dues Valires". Who cares, its open !!

29th June 2012


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.




The new Heliport which the Government has decided to build at the Roc de Patapou in Andorra La Vella (the hospital side of the valley under the Pic de Carroi) has run into severe opposition from residents of the area. Protests have been called, but the Government is standing firm. A regular passenger helicopter service is expected to come into operation by the end of 2013 between Andorra and Barcelona.




18th June 2012.

The proposed Casino (wherever and if  they decide to build it) will not be open to Andorran residents similar to models in Monaco, Macau and Singapore amongst others. Andorra intends to put a maximum limit of €15,000 that can be bought in in cash, and when that runs out its the good old hole in the wall dispenser. This corresponds to a new law on Bingo winnings where any winning in excess of €15,000 must now be declared (presumably that will apply to the Casino). Speculation is rife as to where they may place such a Casino, presumably near to the new Heliport !  For those of you that may not know the Punt de Trobada towards the Spanish border was purpose built to be a Casino before Andorra got cold feet and changed its mind some twenty years ago.




Hallo

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