Photo showing the area for the Grau Roig Airport, construction has not yet started...
May 2019 - Andorra Airport back on the radar but not where you think it is!
Yes, the planners have placed a "viable" airport with a runway of 2.5kms up between Grau Roig and the Bordes d`Envalira. The minimum cost with the cheapest facilities is estimated at a mere 200 million euros.** Grau Roig airport would be a perfect location for Grau Roig, weather very much permitting which means in winter it would be better to drive up anyway. Perhaps the planners could include from the airport a 431kph Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train to Escaldes lake which would be good for Escaldes lake. I thought the elections were over ??
** Stop Press.... The cost for a viable airport is now (23rd June 2019- one week since the above article) estimated to be 750 million euros, are you serious ?? Andorra GDP for 2018 was 2.7 billion euros just to put things in perspective.
Avenida Carlemany present day 2019
June 2019 - Anti-terrorism measures reach Andorra
On 7th December 1994 a large lorry had brake failure on the way down through Avenida Carlemany in the years before pedestrianisation. The lorry on its out of control career down the hill reached speeds of 90 km/h before hitting five cars and ending up in a restaurant. This cost the lives of 9 Spanish women, 38 people injured. and with enormous damage to the area. For this to happen again unintentionally is no longer possible as the area is now for pedestrians only and for outside bar and restaurant seating areas. On a serious note that this page is not accustomed to, it is very re-assuring to learn that there are currently four anti terrorist proposals to prevent the intentional unthinkable. The editor urges these to be implemented quickly and efficiently.
June 2019 - Another nail in the coffin for La Seu Airport
As if we need any more nails in the coffin at La Seu Airport the Spanish visiting minister last week extended the GPS approval decision for another 10 months. That has left the technical teams rather dumbfounded as there is no technical reason why approval cannot be stamped now.
The problem lies with the Spanish Civil Aviation authorities being a Government controlled organisation in Madrid. As has been reported here before, and please take time to read more history of this fairy tale, Madrid is not willing to allow a Catalan airport the luxury of opening to commercial traffic while the present independence attitude persists. Andorra which has also invested in the airport was politely reminded too that it is in fact Spanish sovereign soil and airspace. There have been attempts to start small services in the summer, but airlines are legally compelled by insurers and “interested parties” understandably to ensure maximum safety for their passengers. For those mostly chartered planes or air taxis who do not follow this 100% safety rule and operate a service that relies on being nice clear, sunny, windless days in the mountains does not of course work so well. The saga continues but the chances of this now being resolved in 2019 is a big fat zero.
June 2019 - To rent or not to rent, that is the question.
The crackdown on the renting out of unregistered apartments in Canillo continues. We reported in 2016 that a post had been created within the Comu to investigate illegal rental activities, tis has now been followed up by a “report your neighbour” website where you can make reports if you suspect any apartment is rented illegally. The illegality stems from legislation some years ago from pressure by the hotel association that they were losing business by private apartments offering holiday lets. There is now a strict registration and licensing procedure and private apartments can only be let through a registered operator. Categorically passive residents cannot rent their property if it is the one registered as their main address “not even for one night”. I know people do use Air BnB and other internet outlets BUT this is on the wrong side of the law and IF other Comús decide to follow Canillo in investigations it could cost a fine of up to 7,000 euros, together with a breach of residency consideration, so be warned. In Canillo 3 apartments have been denounced on this new website in the past couple of days, and in the past couple of years since the investigations started there have been quite a few fines dished out. It is estimated that of the 6,500 apartments in Canillo, two thirds of them are for rent and an estimated 6% are done so illegally.
July 2019 - Andorra Roundabout Mayhem
The highway code for roundabouts in Andorra does not exist and that is a fact. Obviously, the Andorran highway code was written before roundabouts started springing up. Several years ago, a team of planners decided to put in roundabouts overnight designed to jam tourist coaches or impale an unwitting motorcyclist on sharp metal sculptures. They then added more degrees of difficulty by putting in pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and even concealing them around blind corners (Aldosa/Ordino road junction to name one). Each country has different rules for roundabouts. In Spain for example in a two lane roundabout you have priority in the outside lane at any time while on the roundabout, very different from most other countries, in Portugal it is an offence to pass an exit if you are in the outside lane and so on. With the explosion of cyclists emulating Tour de France and Vuelta routes another degree of difficulty is added. On roundabouts motorists already on the roundabout have right of way (except Greece) but must give way to cyclists on roundabouts in Austria, Germany, Denmark, France, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and the UK whereas In Belgium, Greece and Portugal motorists have right of way over cyclists, even if they are already on the roundabout, while in Italy right of way depends on signage.
I think the point here is just to be very careful and remember this rule for Andorra which most likely will be included soon in the Andorra Highway Code:
Approaching a roundabout continue in the lane you are in until you are on and then to get off get in or to the off lane unless you are staying on in which case get off the off lane to the in and off at the next….. unless you are a cyclist.
August 2019: Spain has a point, a speeding point.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that a foreign driving license should be subject to the same legal conditions as a Spanish license and be subject to suspension or revocation. Spain follows jurisprudence and therefore now that precedent will be followed. This arises unfortunately with a Spanish chap who had had his Spanish license revoked and was caught driving. He claimed the Andorran license which he had exchanged when he became resident allowed him to drive in Spain. The Court disagreed and awarded him a 64,800 euros fine. They also went on to say that there is no inherent reason why foreign licenses cannot be subject to partial points such as speeding. This may raise some concern for some residents here that are regularly caught in 90 km zones at 220 km/h and rightly so. However, the legal position has been made clear, but the practical enforcement has not. To log foreign driving licenses for speeding points and other moving offences by the authorities there would involve monumental computer and administrative changes which just may not be practical. Suffice to say though that in a serious offence where the Court is involved Spain has the right now to suspend or revoke your Andorran license. What I don´t understand is how could this resident have exchanged a Spanish license that had been withdrawn, unless there is no close relationship with the two Transport Departments as we are led to believe and that Spanish (and some other countries` licenses) are not sent back to the country of origin ? On that basis the Andorran resident can say he just lost his original Andorran license and get another?
A September visit from President Macron, our Co-Prince.
It has been announced that President Emmanuel Macron will visit Andorra for a day and a half on Friday 13th (!) and 14th September 2019. This will be the first visit by the French Co-Prince since Francois Holland in July 2014. It has not been made clear yet whether the order as last time for all businesses and Government offices to close to promote flag waving will be given but be aware that he may visit all seven Parishes, so there will be travel and traffic issues. It was also announced that this very strangely will somehow link with Andorra v France 2020 European Championship Qualifying, Group Stage match at the Stade de France on September 10th. Perhaps the returning victory parade may clash with the visit?
November 2019 - Finally that path from Arinsal to La Massana
Since the date when Karl Benz drove the first car on a road in 1886 there has been a slight increase in traffic. None more so in many eyes of residents here than the Arinsal to La Massana Devils Highway where cars compete with mountain bikes, pedestrians and the occasional straying horse, all contained within the parameters of a winding and perilous width of tarmac. This situation has become more exasperated by Vall Nord reporting to have the 5th most popular mountain bike downhill course in the world. Many of these bikers decide to use the inevitable Devils Highway for their return. For years it has not taken any degree in rocket science to see that an easily built, cantilevered path over the river from Arinsal to La Massana would provide a haven of safety for both aspiring hikers and bikers in their attempts to defy tragedy by running the gauntlet on the tarmac.
Well, it may be about to happen!!! This project was voted the most popular in the now annual vote for a public project. 1,737 people registered and voted for the 23 projects available with 964 votes received for this new path. The winning project receives 300,000 euros to get things underway. Now those thinking "well yes but this is not going to happen" may be interested to learn that last year`s winner (False but real looking trees to provide wind energy) is due to be started mid February, so this just may be set to happen!
November 2019 Online E-Commerce Estonia style!
Estonia is the model that the Andorran Government is studying to look at “E-Companies”. This concept would allow a company to base itself in Andorra and pay Andorran tax rates, it would not allow any physical Residency for shareholders or directors. It would be an online application where a digital company is set up. In Estonia, the only country that currently has this form of company and rates as the third highest place for start-up companies in Europe boasting such names as Skype and Transferwise to name but a couple. Since 2017 Estonia has had over 11,000 applications for such companies which allows a fully operational company, online banking, digital signatures etc. It would be up to the Government to vet and conduct checks on the applicants like the current checks for residency. All in all, this seems an exciting proposal for Andorra so what is the catch? Well it would have to be the bank compliance since an account would be essential. This would seem to run against the current (unwritten) policy that a “non-resident” company shows commitment to Andorra, preferably in terms of residency for one or more of the shareholders, but also such as offering employment opportunity, commercial premises perhaps or other visible commitments. Estonian banks have possibly been able to do this as the country is already a member of the EU, just how this would be regarded in Andorra would be a different kettle of fish and may be regarded contrary to the other main ( and unwritten) policy that Andorra should not just be used as a base for tax advantages over neighbouring countries. I think this initiative will be quietly dropped; I cannot see Andorra implementing this at this point in their efforts to become a responsible low tax country?