Andorra is the last independent survivor of the March states, a number
of buffer states created by Charlemagne to keep the Muslim Moors from advancing
into Christian France. Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter
to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors. In the 800s,
Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, named the Count of Urgell Overlord
of Andorra. A descendant of the Count later gave the lands to the diocese
headed by Bishop of Seu d'Urgell.
In the 11th century, fearing military action by neighboring lords, the
bishop placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Spanish
nobleman. Later, the Count of Foix, a French noble, became heir to Lord
Caboet through marriage, and a dispute arose between the French Count and
the Spanish bishop over Andorra.
In 1278, the conflict was resolved by the signing of a pareage, a feudal
institution recognizing the principle of equality of rights shared by two
rulers. This pareage provided that Andorra's sovereignty would be shared
between the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell of Spain. The
pareage gave the small state its territory and political form.
Over the years, the title was passed between French and Spanish rule
until, in the reign of the French king Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established
the head of the French state and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell as Co-princes
Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream
of European history, with few ties to countries other than France and Spain.
In recent times, however, its thriving tourist industry along with developments
in diplomatic activity, transportation, and communications have removed
the country from its isolation.
Andorra held elections in March 2001 and returned Head of Government
Marc Forne to power. Three major parties with clear political tenets emerged
in those elections: the conservative, ruling, Andorran Liberal Party (PLA)
headed by Forne; the Democratic Party (PD), recently renamed as Andorran
Democratic Center Party (ADCP); and the more left of center Social Democratic
Party (PS). The PLA is a reorganization of the former Liberal Union. The
other two were born from the remains of political formations now inactive
but which at one time had parliamentary representation. Since the ratification
of the Constitution in 1993, three coalition governments have been formed.
The current government headed by Marc Forne won an absolute majority with
15 seats; the PD obtained 5 and the PS 6. Forne was sworn in as Cap de
Govern, or head of government, on April 12, 2001.