The Archives from 2016 news around Andorra as it was!
It is interesting to see what has transpired or in most cases what has not!
18th December 2016: Finally the Heliport looks as if it is all systems GO !!
The Government has chosen a location in Encamp for the new proposed heliport near to the electricity company HQ called FEDA. Not only has the green light been given from the technical report by French Engineers who have found the site to be suitable for helicopter operations at a site altitude of just less than 1,500 m, but also a recent meeting in Encamp to explain the Government plans and operation of the Heliport has met without the protests and complaints that have dogged other proposed sites such as La Comella and Patapou.The Government also has apparently had no objection from properties within 300 metres of the proposed site, a distance stipulated in the administrative regulations. Consequently infrastructure works are now scheduled to commence in 2017 with a budget of 1.5 million euros and be completed in 2018 with a similar budget for construction envisaged.
15t December 2016 GMT?
Ever since the early days of Franco Spain changed from GMT to Central European Time +0100 (CET). Portugal has remained on GMT and now the intention of returning to GMT has once again been mooted by the Spanish Government since the bilk of the country lies west of the GMT time zone. The change may take place as early as this year in March 2017 or 2018. Andorra historically had remained on European time as the Greenwich Meridian passes well to the west. If Spain does decide to go back to GMT it will present some difficulties to adapt since for example Barcelona Flight times will need to be calculated and many people may well be asking why the Novatel Andorra by Bus takes only 1 hour 20 minutes to get to the airport !!?
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%