Co-Princes of Andorra

Coat of arms of High Authorities of Andorra, shown at the badge used by the Co-princes and the Head of Government
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The Co-Princes of Andorra are the two rulers of the Principality of Andorra, a landlocked microstate lying in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. Founded in 1278 through a treaty between the Bishop of Urgell and the French Count of Foix, this unique diarchical arrangement has persisted through medieval times to the present day. Currently, the Bishop of Urgell (Joan Enric Vives Sicília) and the President of France (François Hollande) serve as Andorra's Co-Princes, following the transfer of the Count of Foix's claims to the Crown of France and, thence, to the President of the French Republic.

The Andorran principality has the unique distinction of being ruled by two sovereigns, one of whom (the French president) is the only monarch in the world to be elected by common citizensthough not by the citizens of Andorra, but rather those of France. The French president is also the only person to be a monarch and the head of state of a republic at the same time. Each Co-Prince appoints a personal representative, the French Co-Prince being represented by Thierry Lataste and the Episcopal Co-Prince being represented by Josep Maria Mauri.

Origin and development of the co-principality

Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting against the Moors. The feudal overlord of this territory was at first the Count of Urgell. In 988, however, the count, Borrell II, gave Andorra to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya.[1] The Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d'Urgell, has ruled Andorra ever since.[2]

Before 1095, Andorra did not have any type of military protection, and since the Bishop of Urgell knew that the Count of Urgell wanted to reclaim the Andorran valleys,[2] he asked for help from the Lord of Caboet. In 1095, the Lord and the Bishop signed a declaration of their co-sovereignty over Andorra. Arnalda, daughter of Arnau of Caboet, married the Viscount of Castellbò, and both became Viscounts of Castellbò and Cerdanya. Their daughter, Ermessenda,[3] married Roger Bernat II, the French Count of Foix. They became, respectively, count and countess of Foix, viscount and viscountess of Castellbò and Cerdanya, and also co-sovereigns of Andorra (together with the Bishop of Urgell).

In the 11th century, a dispute arose between the bishop of Urgell and the count of Foix. The conflict was mediated by Aragon in 1278, and led to the signing of the first paréage, which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the count[2] and the bishop. This gave the principality its territory and political form, and marked the formal commencement of Andorra's unique monarchical arrangement.

Over the years, the French title to Andorra passed from the counts of Foix to the kings of Navarre. After King Henry III of Navarre became King Henry IV of France, he issued an edict in 1607 establishing the King of France and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra. In 1812–13, the First French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it into four départements, with Andorra forming part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègre). Following the defeat of Napoleon I, this annexation was reversed and Andorra reverted to its former independence and political state. The French head of statewhether king, emperor, or presidenthas continued to serve as a co-prince of Andorra ever since.

Recent history

On July 12, 1934, Andorra's monarchical system was challenged by an adventurer named Boris Skossyreff, who issued a proclamation in Urgel declaring himself "Boris I, King of Andorra". Though initially enjoying some support within Andorra's political establishment, he was ultimately arrested by Spanish authorities on July 20 of that year after declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell (who had refused to relinquish his own claim to the principality). Skossyfreff was expelled, and was never considered to have been the Andorran monarch in any legal sense.

Before 1993, Andorra had no codified constitution, and the exact prerogatives of the co-princes were not specifically defined in law. In March of that year, a Constitution was approved by a vote of the Andorran people and signed into law by the two reigning Co-princes at the time: President François Mitterrand and Bishop Joan Martí Alanis. It clarified the continuance of the unique Andorran monarchy, and also delineated the precise role and prerogatives of the two Co-princes. Prior to adoption of the Constitution, Andorra paid in odd-numbered years a tribute of approximately $460 to the French ruler, while on even-numbered years, it paid a tribute of approximately $12 to the Spanish bishop, plus six hams, six cheeses, and six live chickens. This medieval custom was subsequently abandoned in 1993.[4]

In 2009, French president Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to abdicate as Co-prince if the principality did not change its banking laws to eliminate its longstanding status as a tax haven.[5]

Contemporary political role

The Constitution of Andorra carefully defines the exact role and prerogatives of the co-princes of Andorra today. The constitution establishes Andorra as a "parliamentary coprincipality",[6] providing for the President of France and Bishop of Urgell to serve together as joint heads of state.[7] The constitution distinguishes between which powers they may exercise on their own (Article 46), and which require the countersignature of the head of the Andorran government, or the approval of the "Síndic General", the Andorran legislature (Article 45).

Powers the princes may exercise on their own include:[8]

Powers the princes may exercise in conjunction with the head of government include:[9]

Each prince is granted an annual allowance by the General Council, which they may dispose of as he or she sees fit.[11] Each appoints a personal representative in Andorra,[12] and in the case of incapacitation of one of them, the constitution provides for the other prince to govern in his or her absence, with the concurrence of the Andorran head of government and/or the General Council.[13]

Certain treaties require the participation of the co-princes (or their designated representatives) in their negotiation process as well as their final approval; these are detailed in Articles 66 and 67 of the constitution.

The co-princes jointly retain the right to propose amendments to the constitution; this same right rests with the General Council.[14] They have no veto power over legislation passed by the General Council, though they do retain a veto over certain international treaties, as described above.

List of rulers

See also


  1. "La formació d'Andorra". Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana. Enciclopèdia Catalana. (Catalan) English version
  2. 1 2 3 Things about the history of Andorra Archived February 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. French Co-prince (Catalan)
  3. "Ermessenda de Castellbò". Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana. Enciclopèdia Catalana. (Catalan) English version
  4. Andorra: Septicentennial for a Ministate, from Time, October 30, 1978.
  5. Sarkozy threatens to renounce Andorran title.
  6. Constitution of Andorra, 1:4.
  7. Constitution of Andorra, 43:1-2.
  8. Constitution of Andorra, Article 46.
  9. Constitution of Andorra, Article 45.
  10. Constitution of Andorra:45:1:E and 71:1-3.
  11. Constitution of Andorra, 47.
  12. Constitution of Andorra, 48.
  13. Constitution of Andorra, 45:3.
  14. Constitution of Andorra, 105.

External links

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