March 14 – Constitution Day in Andorra

Posted on March 14, 2017

Many of us in the United States realize how very important our Constitution is. It lays out some really crucial parts of our government - including three separate branches, checks and balances so that none of the branches can be dictatorial, separation of church and state, the rule of law, and many of the individual rights and freedoms we most cherish. The U.S. Constitution even has the crucial ability to grow and change with the times.

One thing that is interesting is that many of these features have been adopted by other, newer republics. The influence of the U.S. Constitution can be seen in similarities of phrasing and even entire passages as well as in similar ideas. Of course many nations choose a more centralized form of government like that of the United Kingdom - the Prime Minister is basically chosen from the majority party at parliament, so the executive branch and legislative branch are not actually separate. 

Capital of Andorra, Andorra la Vella
Andorra's constitution is not all that similar to the U.S. Constitution. It has a lot of likenesses, such as guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but Andorra is a principality, and the heads of state are two "co-princes." When I hear the word "prince," I assume it's a hereditary post handed down within a royal family - but in this case, Andorra's two princes are (1) whoever has been elected as President of France, and (2) the Bishop of Urgell, who is a high-ranking priest in the Catholic religion!

It turns out that the co-princes have only limited powers. So in that way they are like modern royalty - Queen Elizabeth II has little political power in the U.K., for example. The head of the government - the person with most of the executive power - is called "Head of Government" (how practical!) and acts like a Prime Minister does.

In addition to the co-princes and the Head of Government, Andorra has a parliament - the folks who make the laws - called the General Council of the Valleys.

Andorra is the only nation in the world with co-princes. It's special in other ways, too - it's really mountainous, it is known as a tax haven and therefore a great place to buy stuff, it's really mountainous, and it has been at peace for basically 1,000 years. (Technically, it was part of the Allies, declaring war on Nazi Germany during WWII, but given the tiny size of the nation, its lack of resources, and its location high in the Pyrenees Mountains, there was no "action" there!)

Did I mention that it is really mountainous in Andorra? LOVE IT!

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