Andorra is one of the smallest countries in the world, covering an area of 180 square miles. The European country has a relatively short international border which stretches 73 miles in length. Andorra shares its international border with Spain and France. The France-Andorra border is 35 miles in length while the Spain-Andorra border is 39 miles long. There are a five official border crossing points found along the Andorra international border, four of which are found on the border with Spain and one that lies on the border with France. With Andorra not being part of the European Union, cross-border movement across its international border is restricted.
France is one of the two countries with which Andorra shares a land border. The border between the two countries spans 35 miles in length, making it Andorra’s shortest international border. The border is also the third-shortest international border in France, with only the France-Monaco, and Netherlands-France borders being shorter. The peak of the Pic de Medecourbe which is also the tripoint connecting Spain, France, and Andorra represents the start of the border from where it extends north-east and later south-east until ending at the other tripoint connecting the three countries. There are four Andorran parishes that are touched by the border: Canillo, La Massana, Encamp, and Ordino. On the French side, the border touches two departements (departments) of Pyrenes-Orientales and Anege. Nine towns in France are found along the border including L’Hospitalet-pres-l’Andorre, Auzat, Porta, Porte-Puymorens, Gesties, Siguer, Lercoul, Aston, and Merens-les-Vals.
Revision of the Border
The two countries agreed to make a small revision on the demarcation of the border in 2001 in a bilateral treaty. The treaty made possible the construction of a viaduct by Andorra which would link the RN22 in France to the Envalira Tunnel. The French town of Porta contested the provisions of the treaty, stating that it was not consulted during the drafting of the treaty. The town’s claims were later dismissed by the Council of State which stated that the town did not have the authority to challenge the bilateral treaty. The Council indicated that the state needed not ask for Port’s input or permission as a municipality on international agreements. The treaty was the only one that was made by the two bordering countries concerning the demarcation of the international border, with the rest of the border being established through custom.
The other country with whom Andorra shares a land border with is Spain. The international border delimiting the two European countries is 39 miles in length, making it the longest of Andorra’s two international borders but one of the shortest international borders for Spain. The tripoint connecting the two countries to France represents the start of the border from where it extends on a generally eastern direction until ending at the other tripoint connecting the three countries. The border is situated in the Pyrenees Mountains and runs next to Andorra’s highest point, the summit of the Coma Pedrosa. One feature that is found on the border is the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, a geological feature that is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the only one in Andorra with the recognition).
While two member states of the EU border the country, Andorra is not a member of the European Union and is also not part of the Schengen Area which allows free cross-border movement. Therefore, cross-border movement across Andorra’s international border is restricted, and one requires to have necessary documents to be allowed to cross the border. The border is well-protected to prevent illegal crossings and smugglings. Crossing the border involves producing passports which are then scanned to check for any criminal records. There are two border crossings found on the Andorra international border.
France-Andorra Border Crossing
The single border crossings found on the France-Andorra international border is the El Pas De La Casa-Porte-Puymorens border crossing. Also known as “The Pass of The House,” the border crossing lies near the Andorra’s Parish of Encamp and lies on the France-Andorra border. The border crossing is situated near a ski resort of the same name, making the crossing popular among tourists. The border crossing is home to the only road border between Andorra and France which lies at an altitude of about 6,000 feet above sea level. The road connects Pas De La Casa to L’Hospitalet-pres-l’Andorre, a border town in France.
Andorra-Spain Border Crossings
Unlike the France-Andorra border, the Spain-Andorra border has four border crossings. The main and most popular border crossing on the Spain-Andorra border is the La Farga de Molas-Juberri-Juberri border crossing. The border crossing lies on the Andorra-Spain border and is situated near a village in Andorra with which it shares a name. The border crossing features a road that connects Andorra’s parish of Sant Julia de Loria to La Seu d’Urgell in France. Another border crossings on the international border is the Tor-Pal crossing which, like its name alludes, connects the Spanish town of Tor to Pal in Andorra through the Tor Road. The Bixessarri-Os de Civis crossing which connects Spain’s Os de Civis to Andorra’s Bixessarri, is another border crossing. The last crossing on the border is the Civis-Fonteneda border crossing which connects the border towns of Fonteneda (Andorra) and Civis (Spain) through a rural track. The two countries share certain cultural characteristics with the most common languages in Andorra being Spanish and Catalan. Due to the close relationship and intertwined cultures shared by the two countries, cross-border movement across the Spain-Andorra border is easier compared to the France-Andorra border despite Andorra not being part of the European Union.
The easy cross-border movement on the Spain-Andorra border makes the border prone to illegal cross-border activity. An example is the smuggling of cigarettes to Spain. The contraband cigarettes are sourced from Andorra which has a low tax on tobacco. Nonetheless, the border is protected and patrolled by the Guardia Civil, a security agency in Spain which is tasked with securing the border from smuggling and other illegal cross-border activities.