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, made Count of Urgell overlord of Andorra.
Andorra has no defense forces and only a small internal police force. All able-bodied men who own firearms must serve, without remuneration, in the small army, which is unique in that all of its men are treated as officers. The army has not fought for more than 700 years, and its main responsibility is to present the Andorran flag at official ceremonies.
For decades Andorra enjoyed its status as a small refuge of fiscal and banking freedom and benefitted from Spanish and French tourists attracted to the country's duty-free shopping. The situation has changed in recent years as Andorra started to tax foreign investment and other sectors. Tourism accounts for over 80% of Andorra's gross domestic product.
Andorra uses the euro and is effectively subject to the monetary policy of the European Central Bank. Slower growth in Spain and France has dimmed Andorra's prospects. In 2010 and 2011 a drop in tourism contributed to a contraction in GDP and a deterioration of public finances, prompting the government to implement several austerity measures.
The Andorran constitution was ratified and approved in 1993. The constitution establishes Andorra as a sovereign parliamentary democracy that retains as its heads of state two co-princes.
Andorra is a small landlocked nation nestled in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains, between France and Spain. Considered one of Europe's microstates, along with Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City, Andorra's total area is 175 square miles (453 square km), approximately two and a half times larger than Washington, D.C.
Andorrans have the longest life expectancy in the world, at 83.51 years. While genetics undoubtedly contribute to a long life, so does diet and exercise. The general population descended from sturdy mountain people who ate a balanced diet and generally got plenty of exercise from raising their crops and livestock.
Food in Andorra is generally Catalan in style. A favorite ingredient or condiment is allioli, literally "garlic and oil." Allioli is actually a kind of eggless mayonnaise, made by crushing garlic and mixing it with olive oil.
It is true that Andorra imports most of the things it consumes and exports very little. Yet Andorra's citizens, employed in the service industries of tourism and retail sales, have prospered for generations. a symbiotic relationship exists: French and Spanish visitors come in droves and spend their euros in Andorra, then Andorrans use the profits from these transactions to import the goods they need from Spain and France.
Andorrans are a minority in their own country; they make up only approximately 38% of the population or about 32,000 native Andorrans. Spanish, French, and Portuguese residents make up the other 62% of the population.