According to tradition, Andorra's independence goes back
to Karl the Great's time. He withdrew the 803 area from the
Moors. His son Louis the Pious gave it 819 to the Bishop of
Urgel in Catalonia, but the area was disputed. In 1278
Andorra was placed under the joint dominance of the Bishop
of Urgel and the Count of Foix. The latter surrendered its
rights to France's head of state in 1607. This purely feudal
arrangement was abolished during the French Revolution but
reintroduced by Napoleon. Andorra still pays his two regents
a symbolic fee, the so-called questia.
Andorra's status was long unclear. There was no
constitution, political parties and trade unions were
basically banned. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Andorra. Formally, the two regents, the bishop of Urgel and the president of France, had all power, but no
clear definition of their areas of competence had been made
since 1278. The regents each had deputies in Andorra (veguers)
and there was also a general council (Consell general de
las valls d'Andorra) with 28 well appointed members.
The Council acted as supreme administrative body but had no
right to enact laws. Since 1982, however, they had to
appoint a six-man government and a head of government.
Andorra was an age-old society where changes over the
years have been few. During the 1980s, however, the
constitutional problems began to be discussed more and more.
This led to Andorra conducting a referendum in March 1993,
in which a large majority of the people entitled to vote
voted in favor of Andorra's first constitution, which came
into force two months later. Andorra thus became a sovereign
state. Admittedly, the system was maintained with the two
regents, but these were now given only symbolic power.
Political parties and trade unions were also formed, and
general voting rights were introduced to a parliament with
28 seats. For the first time in Andorra's history, the
government got the right to tax the residents. The first
election to the new parliament was held in December 1993,
see State of the State and Politics. Andorra joined the UN
in 1993 and in the Council of Europe in 1994.