Head of the government of Andorra

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 25 April 2013

It is a great honour and an emotional time for me, both as an Andorran citizen and Head of the Government of the Principality of Andorra, to participate in the second part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly when Andorra holds the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers.

Andorra has been a member of the Council of Europe for almost 20 years, but this is the first time it has held the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of this Organisation, which has for decades been a benchmark for consultation and agreement among peoples, the spreading of democratic values and respect for fundamental rights.

Holding the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers has been emotional for me. Not so long ago, the legal personality of the Principality of Andorra was not recognised internationally, despite the fact that Andorra was one of the most ancient States of Europe and one of the most stable institutionally. Until our adoption, by referendum, of a constitution in 1993, our very old country was considered to be a sort of rara avis on the continent. Andorra’s accession to the United Nations and the Council of Europe shortly afterwards was the culmination of aspirations of generations of Andorrans who wanted the Principality of Andorra to be fully integrated into the international community. Thanks to its new constitution and accession to the United Nations and the Council of Europe almost 20 years ago, Andorra finally managed to receive international acceptance for its political system. Andorra’s accession to this Assembly, which brings together almost all the peoples of the old continent, was particularly significant.

It may be appropriate to remind ourselves that it was an individual petition against Andorra before the European Court of Human Rights in 1989 that catalysed the domestic constitutional reforms of 1993. We succeeded thanks to the work of this Assembly. You were a driver for our work that resulted in the adoption of the constitution and for the international acceptance of Andorra. The Council of Europe has played an important if not decisive role in the development of the co-Principality. This was not just at the outset, but throughout the past 20 years – through various reports and recommendations adopted by your Assembly and through the transposition of texts adopted by the Committee of Ministers into our internal standards.

Throughout its more-than-60 years of history, the Council of Europe, with its convention system, has managed to give full meaning to a well-known quote of Voltaire, which is more prophetic today than ever. He said: “I would like every public decision maker who is on the verge of doing something very stupid to say to himself, ‘Europe is watching you’”.

After half a century of peace and democracy in western Europe, the memory of the two World Wars is slowly receding into the distance. It might seem that institutions such as this one no longer have a raison d’être, yet the economic and financial difficulties that we have been experiencing show just how fragile the foundation on which our societies rest is. Such crises have strengthened the enemies of human rights and democracy.

The Principality of Andorra is unequivocally committed to the European construction and, more specifically, to the consolidation of human rights, the resolution of conflicts based on dialogue, and the values of democracy. Our commitment harks back to the creation of the Andorran State at the end of the 13th century.

In 1278, after centuries of confrontation, the agreement signed between the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix on the sovereignty of the valleys of Andorra resulted in a unique institutional balance that has resisted all the upheavals of history – a balance that turned Andorra into an oasis of peace and respect for the most fundamental freedoms in a Europe otherwise in convulsion.

Over the centuries, although Andorrans remained vassals of our co-princes, we benefited from more freedom and liberty than most of our neighbours. In more recent times, Andorra has been a refuge, a shelter, and a welcoming country for many people who have been persecuted in conflicts beyond its frontiers, particularly during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War.

Now, perhaps more fundamentally, Andorra has managed to realise the spirit of concord and respect for the rights and freedoms of which the Council of Europe is emblematic today. The Andorran chairmanship-in-office started almost 18 years to the day after our accession to the Council of Europe. As our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Gilbert Saboya Sunyé, stressed in Tirana on 9 November last year, this celebrates our coming of age in the international arena.

Our chairmanship-in-office comes at a crucial time for the Principality of Andorra – a time that is almost as decisive as the process that resulted in the adoption of our constitution in 1993. Almost 20 years ago, Andorra achieved international acceptance and recognition of its political and institutional system. The time has come to ensure the recognition of its economic system. Economic acceptance of the Principality of Andorra by the international community is the major challenge which Andorrans have been confronted with over the past 20 years. The present Government of Andorra certainly intends to take up that challenge.

The growth model built up in Andorra in the second half of the 20th century has had unprecedented success. It quickly transformed a rural economy in a mountainous area into a model economy based on commerce, trade, tourism and the financial sector. That model has been a source of great wealth and comfort for Andorrans, as well as for all residents of Andorra who have come to our country, mainly from neighbouring countries. However, at a time when we intend to modernise our institutions, there are some warning signs that indicate that this growth model is flagging. The traditional sectors of the Andorran economy will continue to be important in the future, but it has become obvious that they must be fleshed out with viable new alternatives.

The current challenge for Andorra continues to be the transformation of its economic growth model. Although that model has worked well, I can identify three fundamental gaps. It is excessively closed – almost endogenous; it cannot be accepted at the international level; and it is insufficiently diversified. For years now, successive Andorran Governments have sought various ways to correct all those weaknesses, which are, of course, interrelated.

Before I say what economic progress has been made over the past few years and talk about some ideas for the future, let me briefly refer to the past. It would be unfair to accuse previous generations of building an excessively closed and non-transparent Andorra because it was probably our best bastion against a Europe that was very different from the one that I hope we will leave to our children. That was our response to a world that was very different from the one that we know now. It goes without saying that the Andorra of exceptions and privileges, of navel-gazing and closing in on oneself and of being exceptional is no longer appropriate in the 21st century. That is why we have sought for a number of years to build a more competitive basis for our economy in Andorra. Economic openness cannot be undertaken or understood without international acceptance of our economic system.

What was Andorra’s starting point? We had an economy based on three sectors that worked very well, but they were all closed in on themselves and the consequence was a lack of transparency in the area of taxation. In fact, the financial sector in Andorra always co-operated in combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism or other criminal activities in Europe and well beyond. We were very conscious of this, and Andorra was never a problem country.

The most significant progress achieved over the past few years relates to co-operation in the combatting of tax fraud. Since the signing of the Paris Declaration in 2009, in which the Principality of Andorra committed itself to making progress in the exchange of tax information at the administrative level, our country has signed about 20 tax information exchange agreements. That has made it possible to start to negotiate, and even to sign some bilateral agreements that eliminate double taxation, which was penalising and expensive in the export of services from Andorra.

We are moving towards being open and accepted by the international community and away from being exceptional. In parallel with the signing of various tax information exchange agreements, the first bilateral agreement to avoid double taxation with the French Republic was signed last year and recently ratified. Andorra has now put in place a new tax model that can be fully accepted by other European tax systems.

To get a sense of how far the reforms being implemented by Andorra have gone, it is important to understand that just two years ago the Andorran tax system was based almost exclusively on indirect taxation, such as taxes on imports of goods and services. In 2011, we introduced individual taxation of tax non-residents. In January 2012, we introduced a corporate tax and tax on economic activity. This January, we reworked all our indirect taxes and merged them into a general indirect tax that is very much like value added tax in many other countries. Furthermore, my government has committed itself to submit to parliament a draft law on the taxation of income from labour and capital before the summer – very soon now – and the objective is to complete the architecture of a new Andorran tax system before the end of the present legislature in 2015.

To summarise, in just four years, Andorra will have moved from a sui generis tax system essentially based on indirect taxation to one that is fully in line with the tax systems of other countries. That will provide a reasonable balance between direct and indirect taxation, with a broad tax base, to avoid any gaps and guarantee the competitiveness of our economy. I would make so bold as to say that few countries are capable of putting in place such far-reaching reforms in just four years. We are a small country, but that does not mean that we incapable of making great efforts.

The fact that Andorra has chosen transparency and co-operation is a clear, sincere and resolute commitment, and I see no possibility for backtracking in this regard. The result of our commitment, which has been made concrete by the setting up of an internationally accepted tax system, must be the signing of bilateral agreements to avoid double taxation, and I remind you that the French Republic and the Principality of Andorra signed an agreement to avoid double taxation just a few weeks ago. We hope that our negotiations with Spain will continue and will be successful, and we also intend to engage in similar negotiations with Portugal. The signing of those agreements will be the cornerstone of our new economic model, which will mean international acceptance of our economy and the setting up of a solid base allowing economic openness with the necessary guarantees.

The first challenge for Andorra was to move from the Andorran exception to international acceptance. The second is to replace closure with openness. Just two years ago, when my team and I took responsibility for governing the country, the Andorran economy was considered to be one of the most closed in Europe – even in the world. In most sectors, foreign capital in our companies was limited to 49% and foreign residents needed to be resident for 10 or 20 years, depending on where they came from, before they could access full economic rights.

Last June, our Parliament approved a substantive change to the regime governing foreign investment, which now allows up to 100% foreign capital in our companies in all sectors. Furthermore, we have done away with the obstacles to the creation of and participation in foreign businesses and to the participation of foreigners in the professions. In particular, we gave full economic rights to all residents from the very first day of their residency in the Principality. I think that gives you a sense of our efforts.

We hope that the radical changes to our economic model will have consequences that can be observed over the next few years. They certainly show that Andorra is committed to integrating its economy into those that surround us on the basis of co-operation, transparency and fairness. We are convinced that greater integration of economies at an international level will strengthen relations between people and result in a gradual equalisation of citizens’ rights and living conditions. We resolutely believe that human rights, democracy and the rule of law can take root to a greater extent when one ensures economic progress, the generation of wealth, the creation of opportunities for all and the fair distribution of social costs and taxation. That is why our decision to have an economy that is more accepted and more open is in line with our permanent commitment to better co-operation at an institutional level.

When I talked about the weaknesses of the former Andorran economic model, I was talking about an economy that was too closed, was not very diverse and was not internationally accepted. International acceptance and openness go hand in hand, and the reward will be diversification. Through economic diversification, Andorra must return to its competitive differences and advantages to identify its strong points and its weak points. We are resolved to move from the Andorran exception to competitiveness and we know that, to be competitive, we need an economy that is open and integrated. An open and integrated economy requires co-operation, openness and transparency, but we know that that will not be sufficient. We must maintain and strengthen our competitive advantages, by which I mean those that are licit and not the exception.

Let me guess what competitive advantage you are thinking of: light taxation. It is true that Andorra is a country with light taxation. The tax system is acceptable internationally, but the rates are low. That is true and it is legitimate. It is our commitment for the development of a reasonably sized public sector and effective services. When we ask foreign investors why they are interested in Andorra, we hear all sorts of answers but, curiously, light taxation is rarely mentioned as a decisive factor. That is why, when we talk about competitive advantages, we directly associate them with the diversification potential of our economy.

Let me use the cultural and tourist sectors as an example. We have a lot of experience in that regard. Andorra has a population of barely 70 000, yet every year we receive 8 million visitors who are attracted by our winter and mountain tourism and by attractive shopping. In a very small space, Andorra has a concentration of shops, hotels, restaurants, wellness and spa centres, ski trails and other leisure activities. That enables us to think that our country has the right ingredients to develop projects using new communication and information technologies, particularly those related to commerce, shopping and tourism, which will continue to be important for our economy. Let me give another example. Thanks to a union between the powerful Andorran tourism sector and the health and wellness sector, we can offer health tourism. In both cases, the rationale is the same. Using the sectors that are solidly rooted in our country, we want to diversify our economy by opening up new sectors. When we talk about competitive advantages, that is what we have in mind.

Quite a few countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world have light taxation, but Andorra has other advantages and other trump cards. We are visited by a number of tourists: 100 times greater than our population. Andorra has a large concentration of shops, hotels and various leisure activities and the urban world can be found right next to the rural world – all in a very limited territory. That is why we say yes to international acceptance but no to uniformity. Andorrans want to preserve their identity, as we did 20 years ago when we changed our political system to make it internationally accepted. Our constitution preserves our territorial structure as well as our very special institutional architecture, which is unique. We are the only parliamentary Co-Principality, with seven centuries of history. We want to continue down the road of co-operation and acceptance, but we do not want to lose our authenticity. On the contrary, we want to strengthen it. Is that ultimately the philosophy of the European construction process of which the Council of Europe is the guiding light, uniting efforts and building bridges to guarantee the right to be different while having a common system of values that makes it possible for us to live together in harmony?

I have talked about my country’s efforts to be more transparent and co-operative, about the speed with which we have approved and put in place tax reform, and about the change to the paradigm that leads to economic openness and the challenge represented by the diversification of our growth model. As you might imagine, in talking about that I cannot fail to mention the European Union and its relations with Andorra. Since 1986, when Spain formally became a member of the Common Market, Andorra has become an island surrounded by the European Union. The entry of our southern neighbour into the European Economic Community was interpreted by many analysts as the detonator of the major changes that had to be introduced into the Andorran economy. The government of the time was very well aware of this and quickly negotiated and concluded a customs agreement with the European Economic Community which was signed in 1990. This agreement set up a customs union between the Principality and the countries of the European Union – which at that time, before the creation of the European Union, were the countries of the Common Market. After that agreement we had a co-operation agreement in 2003, and an agreement on the taxation of savings in 2004. More recently, Andorra signed a monetary union with the European Union which makes the use of the euro in the Principality official. This constitutes a first step towards closer relations between my country and our European neighbours in the European ocean that surrounds us.

The road to accession has been rejected, at least for today, because it is an impossible option to accept for a country such as Andorra, which has such a small territory. We seek rather to join a structure such as the European Economic Area or something similar which is specifically adapted to small States. We observe that the Union is positively predisposed to such ideas. We are also studying the possibilities opened by the Lisbon Treaty to find a stable solution to relations between Andorra – and countries with characteristics that are similar to ours – and the European Union. However, the process of Andorran reform would be incomplete if it were not accompanied by greater participation by our country in the European internal market. Similarly, European construction would not be complete if it did not find a solution for third countries with very small territories, such as Andorra, which are nevertheless profoundly European. We therefore need the understanding, the complicity and the assistance of our European neighbours.

Over the past few years, as I said, Andorra has made very major efforts indeed. It has opted for transparency and co-operation. We know that that must be continued and that we must work on it daily. We have built a completely new tax model in a very short time. Although that was an issue of internal politics, we have done it in a spirit of co-operation with the outside world. We have managed to open our economy in a very far-reaching way and have extended rights for foreign residents. We are also working on defining a new model of relations between our country and the European Union. However, it is also necessary that Europe be aware of the changes that we are implementing and the very fast pace of our reform implementation.

We certainly believe in multilateralism – and if Europe does not, who will? We believe that all the countries represented in this Assembly and in other forums meet on an equal footing despite their differences and different characteristics. We believe in the fundamental principles that are accepted by all European nations. We cannot renounce that if all countries are to find their place in Europe.

In the 18th century the Andorran politician Antoni Fiter i Rossell advised people in his book “Maxims” to keep the roads leading to the valley of Andorra in poor condition because, the author said, it would then be very difficult for foreign armies to invade our country. He also suggested that we be very careful about foreigners taking up residence in Andorra. This advice was very judicious 300 years ago. However, the economic development of Andorra during the 20th century could not have occurred without the construction of modern roads linking us to France and Spain. Furthermore, the tens of thousands of foreigners who have taken up residence in Andorra because they have found opportunities there that they did not find in their countries of origin, and who have now become Andorrans, have certainly contributed, at least for the most part, to the economic and social progress of our country. So we have moved from a closed, navel-gazing Andorra to an open, transparent and co-operative Andorra.

It will soon be 20 years ago that the Speaker of the Andorran Parliament appeared before your Parliamentary Assembly to formalise the accession of our country into the European concert of nations. At the time, Andorra was perceived by Europe as a very old country that had found its place in the international community; today, we are a country that is in the process of finding its place in a global economy, an economy which must increasingly integrate on the basis of transparency, fairness and the other principles that guide us.

Ladies and gentlemen, parliamentarians, thank you very much for your attention.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Thank you very much indeed, Prime Minister. Members wish to put questions to you. I remind them that they have 30 seconds to ask a question.

I call Mr Beneyto, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr BENEYTO (Spain) (interpretation)

On behalf of the EPP and the Spanish delegation I should like first to congratulate you, as the head of government, on all the successes of the Andorran Chairmanship. We know how committed Andorra is to the rule of law, human rights and democracy. You have come here today to describe the process of reorganisation that is under way in your country. My question concerns the dual-taxation agreement with Spain. When do you think you will approve the agreement regarding income tax? We know that you are also negotiating agreements with other countries that have substantial investments in Andorra, such as Russia.

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

Thank you very much. I need hardly say that Andorra is a very small country, but we have had a great chairmanship, and I am very grateful to you for your kind words. Perhaps I may start with your last question. Prior to 21 June, the government decided that in 2014 and 2015 it would approve the agreements to which you referred. Negotiations are under way with Spain and, in historic terms, our relations are extremely good. There is a terrific climate in relations between the Andorran and Spanish Governments. I have often met the Head of the Spanish Government to discuss the subject, and we will soon have a time-line for conducting the negotiations. I assure you that we are extremely committed to this. We want to have these dual-taxation agreements with all countries. The most important thing, however, is to sign such agreements with Spain and France as well as with Italy and Portugal. I do not know if you are aware of this, but we have different relations with countries other than Spain, including a special agreement with Portugal. This will be debated in parliament very soon, and I think that you know, more or less, how long it is likely to take. However, we will work very hard in Andorra. We are very grateful to the Spanish Government for all its efforts. We very much hope to wrap this up by the end of the year. Andorra needs the agreement very badly, but so does Spain.

Mr ROUQUET (France) (interpretation)

Andorra’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe is coming to an end and, as our President said, it has been very fruitful. We certainly thank you for that, and we are quite impressed. The European Union has signed the final agreement for accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. What obstacles still need to be overcome for this process to come to fruition?

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

Thank you for those kind words. It is true that significant progress has been made in the negotiations under the Andorran Chairmanship. It is also true, however, that major efforts were made previously. We require some definitive answers from the European Union for the process to be completed, which the Council of Europe wants very much, but we will have to wait for the time being.

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain) (interpretation)

On behalf of the ALDE group, I congratulate you, Mr Martí, on your successful Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The central focus of your chairmanship was education, and you used Andorra as a practical example of how education can lead to an increase in democratic values, democracy and respectful pluralism; Andorra has different nationalities living in a small area that is linguistically diverse.

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

It is true that the Andorran Chairmanship has focused on fundamental values and on what the Council of Europe has been doing for the past 60 years. Education is one of the most important issues for Europe.

Let me be perfectly honest. Political classes across Europe have been discredited. We are living in difficult times and it is only through education that we will find solutions to the problems. That is why the Andorran Chairmanship has viewed education in the broadest terms. We need to make real efforts for our children. Politicians should be there to serve young people because they are so important if we are to defend human rights. If we do not do that, the issues will be both economic and social.

Andorra’s education system is special. Of course, some things do not work perfectly in Andorra, but our education system largely works well. We have three free public systems: the Andorran, the Spanish, and the French. The Andorran system is the most recent and was put in place to complement the others for reasons of sovereignty. We have excellent relations with both France and Spain, and have had for many years, which is why we have made the three systems available. There is, however, some imbalance between them because the most-preferred option for Andorrans has recently changed; this is an ongoing problem, but I want to thank the Kingdom of Spain and the French Republic for the fact that we have the three systems, which are so precious to Andorrans.

Sir Roger GALE (United Kingdom)

As the prime minister and the leader of his parliamentary delegation comes to the end of a highly successful presidency, can he tell the Assembly what steps are being taken to hold to account countries – France and Malta are examples – that continue to hold prisoners without trial or people on bail in clear breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights?

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

That is quite a difficult question. I will not give you a political answer, but that is not because I do not want to answer the question.

There is a plethora of small conflicts across Europe, and I was talking to President Mignon about such issues this morning. If there is one way of resolving such conflicts, it is through dialogue. I say that because I come from a country that had no constitution for several centuries and was rather unstable, but we were always open to dialogue. No conflict in Europe can be properly resolved without dialogue. That is my message. Andorra is a small country and we know the importance of dialogue. Andorra has had conflicts throughout its history and nothing would have been achieved without dialogue.

I will perhaps turn the question around. There are, as I said, many conflicts in Europe and many questions revolve around them. One thing that we have been able to show through Andorra’s Chairmanship, and by highlighting the importance of education, is that conflicts can be resolved through dialogue and democratic citizenship. If extremist positions are adopted, and if people do not want to sit around the table and enter into dialogue, conflicts will not be resolved. I am happy to hear the opinions of everyone here in the Assembly.

Mr PAPADIMOULIS (Greece) (interpretation)

I wish you every success at the end of your chairmanship, Mr Martí.

The financial crisis is deepening and inequality is strengthening, boosting the extreme right and undermining the values of the Council of Europe. How are you planning to respond to those threats to democracy and to try to lessen growing inequality? The European Union recently punished a small country – Cyprus – by applying an unprecedented banking solution. You are from another small country, so how does your chairmanship react to that?

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

It is not the Andorran Chairmanship, but rather the Council of Europe, that is able to solve such problems. Next at the helm of the Organisation is Armenia, followed by Austria and then Azerbaijan.

Let me at least try to answer part of your question. It is important to remember that we are experiencing a difficult set of circumstances, where politics in general is heavily criticised. We need to look to the future, but we will have a future only if our politics nurture social cohesion. If we do not do that, we leave the door wide open to extreme views, which is a dangerous prospect for those in Europe who hold freedom dear. We are living in historic times in Andorra and we do not want anything to jeopardise stability in either our country or neighbouring countries, because there may be a domino effect if one country is destabilised. That is why we need more than ever to continue our efforts. Unfortunately, many countries are in economic crisis. It is most important that we try to foster social cohesion, but it is also important that we raise awareness. We need to get people to understand that this is not going to last the whole century.

Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary)

Dear excellency, two years ago I had the opportunity to pay a visit to the Parliament of Andorra, and I was amazed at your country’s deep devotion to democratic principles and respect for the rights of national minorities. As the head of government of a country that holds the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, how would you help the Council of Europe to strengthen the rights of traditional national minorities, especially the right to territorial autonomy?

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities gives rights to members of those minorities, not to minorities as a group, that is true. If a minority coming from another country nevertheless represents a significant proportion of the population, they need to have their rights fully respected, but at the same time, there must be an open dialogue with them. Without it, certain problems can arise, both small and large. There are several countries where minorities are represented in the national Parliaments. That is a decisive step and is very important for democracy.

You cannot talk about social cohesion when there are problems of racism or problems because of origin. If we do not understand that, as a fundamental value of European construction, we will have understood nothing about Europe today.

Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain) (interpretation)

You have been talking about practical things and explaining the details. The problem is that there are many people who think they are in the vanguard in clamping down on tax evasion and tax havens. However, you have shown us in practical terms how to clamp down. Your country has perhaps double the GDP per head of that of the United States and Japan. We have 6 million unemployed people in Spain, so now really is the time to clamp down on tax evasion.

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

Any country that views itself as serious has to abide by its international commitments. Andorra, as I have said, has signed many agreements on the exchange of information – with Spain, France and many other countries.

The first thing is that countries must abide by their commitments. Secondly, Andorra has done something I would very much like to explain to this August Assembly. In the space of five years, we have managed to devise a brand new fiscal model, which has required a great deal of determination on all sides. Without political commitment, you will not achieve anything.

I recognise that tax havens are a big problem for many countries, but Andorra is often referred to as a country that is indeed complying with its international obligations, and we are not on any of the OECD’s list of countries that are refusing to co-operate. We have been transparent and have co-operated: that is our road map and we are not going to abandon it. There is no point in talking just for the sake of talking in this Assembly; rather, I refer you to the real efforts our country is making.

This is a really important issue for me. A subject very close to my heart is equality, and to achieve that you need money. Of course, you have to work according to international standards of transparency, as well as abiding by the law.

I should say once again how delighted I am at the state of our relations with Spain, and I hope those good relations will continue.

Mr BATAILLE (France) (interpretation)

On 12 November 2004, Andorra ratified the revised European social charter. However, it did not accept the additional protocol that provides for a system of collective complaints. Thanks to that system, social partners and NGOs can turn directly to the European social rights committee to ask it to take a position on an alleged violation of the charter. Does Andorra envisage accepting that system of collective complaints soon?

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

You are right. Andorra must make certain efforts. I have said to this Assembly something that I have already said to the Andorran Parliament – that we need to legislate to give more rights to trade unions and instil a right to strike. That is important; we cannot think only about economic development and growth. Workers have legitimate claims. Their rights are guaranteed in the constitution, but we need to legislate as quickly as possible to put the provisions in place. That is yet another priority of the government that I have the honour to head. We often talk about the economy. It is said that Andorra is a tax haven, which is not true. But you are right, Mr Bataille, to ask that direct question. We are working on the issue.

Mr REISS (France) (interpretation)

Since Andorra joined the Council of Europe, its successive governments have made every effort to fully integrate your country into the system for the protection of human rights. On 29 June 2012, Andorra signed the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, while on 22 February 2013 it signed the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. Do you think that Andorra will be in a position to rapidly ratify those conventions? They have not yet been ratified by enough States for them to come into force.

Mr Martí, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

I believe that the Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned that, but I am more than happy to answer your question. The conventions are due to be ratified by our parliament this year.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

That brings to an end the questions to Mr Martí. We thank you for answering them and for your interesting and informative address. We are grateful for your Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, which you carried out with great skill. I wish your successors all the best; Armenia will have the chairmanship for the next six months.