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The Archives from 2015 news around Andorra as it was!

Let`s see what happened or in most cases what has not!

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 Comú approval. This caused the first controversy in 1997 when the Government gave approval for a private helipad without the permission of the Comú  ( 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.

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 Brexit or 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. 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.
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