Forné Molné

Head of the government of Andorra

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 26 September 1996

Let me begin by thanking you, Mrs Fischer, as President of this Assembly, for what you have just said about my country, the Principality of Andorra, and for the constant battle you have waged in this Assembly in support of peace and human rights. .

(The speaker continued in Catalan) (Translation) On this special day, just two years after this honourable Assembly’s approval of the Principality of Andorra’s membership of the Council of Europe, it is a great honour for me to be among you in this prestigious hemicycle to remember a moment that is so important for all Andorrans.

The path that we have pursued in the past two years has been long and strenuous, thanks to the parliamentary activity of Andorran deputies, to the presence of the permanent representatives of Andorra, to the work of the judge and the recently appointed Commissioner for the European Court of Human Rights and to the attendance of numerous experts and technicians from the Andorran administration at sittings of the Council of Europe, among others.

Since the coming into force of the constitution of 1993, our country has had to assimilate notable and deep changes in its legislation and in its politics and institutions. The close co-operation offered by various services of the Council of Europe is a valuable tool, for which I express my sincere gratitude.

As you know, the economic, human and geographical make-up of Andorra is unique. This is due to various historical and conjunctural elements in the present international world order and is comparable to that of countries with a similar but different configuration, such as San Marino, Liechtenstein or Malta.

Co-operation and participation are essential elements of the vitality and effectiveness of this Organisation. One must not forget that the life of the Council of Europe reflects the capacity for reaction of its member nations. The world and Europe in particular, has changed much since 1989. The visible proof of that is this Assembly, which over a few years has welcomed fourteen new members countries, not to mention the new observers.

The interdependence and globalisation of events and trends have unified the world to the point that we cannot remain indifferent to any conflict, danger or injustice. Violent and aggressive extremism, environmental degradation, the insecurity of citizens in great European cities and wars and conflicts that often mix ethnic and religious questions are basic worries for our society and they pose challenges that public authorities have difficulty in overcoming.

The committees of this Assembly are an incomparable framework for work, reflection and information and have as their instruments the reports and presentations from first hand experiences and the neutrality of the external opinions of the deputies present.

The sharing of knowledge, riches, experience and responsibility to favour the democratic development of the countries that, since 1989, have been restructuring their institutions or have attained independence is a constant element in the Council of Europe, despite its meagre human and economic means. That enriching relationship allows all its countries truly and fully to take part in helping to achieve freedom, solidarity and respect for human rights in Europe.

The gravest threats to the peace and future of Europe have changed in recent years. The fall of the Berlin Wall brought to light forces and situations that had been smothered for a long time by the rivalry between two power blocs. The conflicts that are arising now are basically the result of the oppression that was experienced, rather than of fifty years of dreaming of freedom.

Each nation has been trying to adapt to a new social, economic, institutional and political medium in accordance with its past history and its present national conscience. That process has not always been smooth. There is no need to remind members of the enormous differences today in the smooth separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, or of the difficulties of finding a political compromise on the national question within the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

The Council of Europe has the immense task of refining positions, to allow an open forum and to find compromise solutions. The long experience of the administrators present and the will for conciliation among parliamentarians are essential elements in achieving the stability for which our continent yearns.

Europe is not a space with a single interpretation of reality. Unlike great spaces such as North America, this continent does not have, nor will it ever have, a single European language. Europe’s riches come from the multiplicity of languages, cultures and customs. We are a polyglot continent and that, far from being a hindrance, must become our strength. It is one of the continent’s most important and lasting geopolitical characteristics. Catalan, the only official language in Andorra, is progressing thanks to the economic dynamism of the regions bordering on our principality. At the same time, the recent independence of some states and international recognition of central and eastern European countries have given greater impetus to national languages of Finnic origin – such as Estonian or Baltic, Latvian or Lithuanian.

A nation’s own language, as a tool for administrative and economic communication, and for passing down the collective memory, becomes the basis of a nation as a specific culture.

That fact is an element of equilibrium in the stability and opening up of our continent. Europe has immense resources from which it must learn to profit. In parallel with the renaissance of forgotten or repressed languages and cultures, central Europe is developing, for the use of communication, languages such as English or German. It should also continue to exploit the vast potential for communication with the many zones of the world where French and Spanish are spoken. Our duty is to promote those realities by transforming them into elements of progress.

The creation of the Graz Centre for the promotion and learning of the living languages of Europe is an illustration of that shared will within the Council of Europe. For Andorrans, that is familiar terrain on which we feel quite at home. Our children have a choice of three public – I repeat, public – education systems, based on Catalan, Spanish and French. In all three systems, and on the street, children learn the other two languages spontaneously. They also have English as a fourth language. At the same time, they live with and get used to another Latin language, Portuguese, which is spoken by an important part of the Andorran community. We have the good fortune that our Catalan language is close to Italian because its Latin base has received fewer external additions thanks to Andorra’s isolation over the centuries.

As a consequence of the international recognition of Andorra’s status as an independent state for seven centuries, the country has received the mission to make known at all international levels a language used by 10 million Europeans. Andorra can do that openly, without excluding anyone, in fraternity with the great neighbouring languages – which we also cultivate and appreciate.

We must not forget that our language has found itself in a minority position in many sectors in our own country because of the massive immigration of Spanish speakers and the Spanish language mass media. When we are asked to ratify the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, it is clear that many of those who conceived the convention could not imagine the existence of European states in which one of the minorities is the state’s own nationals. We must consider situations that the commonplace and set phrases do not take into account.

Linguistic diversity is one aspect of Europe’s peculiarities but the geographical, historical and geopolitical originality of Andorra is living proof of the influence of years and centuries of human life in our continent. Diversity is part of our heritage. The experience of countries such as Liechtenstein shows that the space around us is multicultural. Every place has its own speciality and itinerary.

The identity of countries such as Andorra that exist between larger states is a guarantee of the riches that international democracy represents. The preservation of the history, customs, culture and traditions of the European nuclei is not a synonym for conservatism but the opposite. An intelligent future for Europe depends on a necessary cohesion of dialogue and the comparison of experiences by all European states.

Bilateral and multilateral contacts between countries are important. They allow each country to express itself according to its own criteria – without reference to comparative demographic, social, economic or geographical criteria. Perhaps the great challenge for Europeans is that we are the only people who can link in brotherhood cultures as different as those of the Far East and the American West. We can do so because we have served a long and often costly apprenticeship of tolerance and knowledge of other people’s cultures.

More or less the same thing is happening in the case of human rights, which this organisation has been trying to protect for forty-seven years and which represent some of the most fundamental values of Europe and of mankind.

They encompass domains as varied as social and economic rights, freedom of the press and protection of civil society.

There are various mechanisms for sensitising or checking on member states. We are grateful for the work of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights, which accepts personal complaints from individual citizens of the countries that have signed and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

I want to emphasise the importance of other texts of great value, such as the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Andorra has just signed. I must point out that the death penalty was discontinued in Andorra long before it was officially abolished — the last use of it being made in 1944.

Among human rights, freedom of expression, of circulation and of representation are necessary to enjoy initiatives of a political, social and economic nature. Those rights are a guarantee of the democratisation of a state and the individuals who comprise it.

Every individual living in a given space also has a certain number of rights and obligations. Society is in itself a framework of codes and parameters, so it is a mistake to think that individual rights are contrary to collective needs or to the procedures needed for collective decision-making. In that respect, I remind members of a truism that was reconfirmed during the World Conference on Human Rights at Vienna in June 1993: “All Human Rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent, and are related the one to the other.”

The tasks undertaken as part of the basic work of the members of this Organisation are an excellent illustration of that belief, but much remains to be done. Despite my optimism for a united and differentiated Europe, we should not forget that two hours’ flight away from Strasbourg there are peoples who are suffering war. That tragedy must not be foreign to us. We must redouble our efforts to conserve our heritage and to work for a sure and stable future.

Andorra has had the good fortune to enjoy stability and peace for more than 700 years. When the first pariatges were signed – the arbitration that we have considered as a sort of pre-constitution – the two co-lords enjoined each other and the people to dismantle all fortifications. That was in the thirteenth century and is why, if you visit Andorra – and I invite you to do so – you will find no fortresses. Our most treasured monuments are simple Romanesque churches and chapels, the doors of which are always open. Do not look for city walls or the remains of battlements because few of their stones remain. On Monday, I expressed my wish before the Assembly of the United Nations that all over-armed powers – big, small and middling – should one day imitate those admirable Andorran forebears of ours in that sincerest form of pacifism, which they made possible by scrapping weapons for a start.

Unfortunately, even in those parts of Europe which have been living in peace for so many years, the spectre of the work crisis – work is one of a person’s basic rights – is weighing down governments with doubts about the future and about maintaining wellbeing and extending it to all social classes and ages.

In spite of so many efforts and good intentions, there is less work. It must be better distributed.

If we have a cold look at the problems piling up in Africa, so near the south of Europe, we must be lucid enough to accept European responsibility for the potential development of those tormented lands: first through external colonisation and then through varied forms of internal tyranny.

I do not know whether I can say anything to you that has not been said time and again in this forum. I do not know whether my words have the strength that I intended. As was the custom then, people from the mountains of Andorra – which are already bearing the first signs of snow – to the plain in the centre of our continent shared one common idea with Charlemagne: the force of arms. As is the custom now, Europe is growing and spreading throughout the rest of the world through dialogue, by recognising differences and through a wish for peace, freedom and tolerance.

May it be so for centuries to come. (Applause)


Thank you very much, Mr Forné Molné, for your most interesting statement. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to thirty seconds and no more. Colleagues should ask questions and not make speeches. The first question was to go to Mr Solé Tura but, as he is not present, I call Baroness Hooper.

Baroness HOOPER (United Kingdom)

I thank the Cap de govern for his interesting speech and I noted his remarks about minority rights in Andorra. In view of the large number of non-Andorran nationals resident in his country, what practical steps is the government taking to preserve the national and cultural identity of Andorra – particularly in the context of his comments about the choice of languages offered in schools?

Mr Forné Molné, Head of the government of Andorra

Thank you, Baroness Hooper. As I said in my speech, there are three different systems of learning in Andorra. Schools face difficulties because half of them conduct lessons in foreign languages – Spanish and French. Since 1973, the government has sent people to all schools to teach Catalan and the geography and history of the country: it is what we call the “Andorrisation” of schools. There is no problem in Andorran schools in that regard; the Government and the Parliament of Andorra insist upon it.

The culture of Andorra is fundamental to all Andorrans and it represents an important change for them. When those who are now aged 50 were in school, the population of Andorra was about 12 000 and most of those people – perhaps 80% – were Andorrans. Now the population is 65 000 and about only 20 000 are Andorrans. Most of the others are Spanish – mainly Catalan – and then Portuguese, French and other European nationalities.

The government is co-operating with our friends to integrate the teaching of Andorran culture, geography and history in schools. That is a continuing effort: pupils must learn their own lessons and the Andorran material as well. I hope that I have answered the question.

Baroness HOOPER (United Kingdom)

I learnt of this issue when I led the Parliamentary Assembly’s delegation to observe the first elections to be held in Andorra under the new constitution. At that time, preserving the cultural identity of Andorra included the question of voting rights for those who are not Andorran nationals. Has there been any change in that regard?

Mr Forné Molné, Head of the government of Andorra

The question of Andorran nationality and of civil and political rights has changed a great deal since the last European war, when people such as I were born. I am the son of a foreigner and an Andorran national, and I did not have full rights. The right to vote was not given to Andorrans who were born in Andorra until the third generation. Therefore, the jus sanguine was very important. The jus sanguine has now changed to the jus soli – even for fathers’ countries. Now any Andorran who is born in Andorra — whether the son of Andorrans or foreigners – can be Andorran if he stays in the country.

We face a problem in that other European countries allow their nationals to retain citizenship rights. In order to preserve our country’s identity, people can become Andorrans through marriage to Andorran nationals or through twenty-five years of residence in the country if they renounce their previous nationalities. However, that is a nonsense because even if they say, “I am not Spanish or French”, they can return to the countries of their birth at any time and assume those nationalities.

It is important that those who live in Andorra and who become Andorran citizens feel like Andorrans. We are a small country and we must defend ourselves against other influences, particularly that of the media – which is predominantly Spanish and French. We do not have enough media coverage in Catalan. We have national television, but it is expensive for a small country.

I could not vote until I was 25 years of age while others who were born in Andorra to an Andorran mother had been voting for thirty or forty years. Now people who have lived in Andorra for twenty-five years and who speak Catalan can become Andorran citizens. It is an enormous change and it is one way of integrating the population.

Mr VARELA (Spain) (interpretation)

said that even though the world had become a global village there was still a need for national identity. Taking that into account in respect of Andorra, he asked what was being done in that country to teach English, French and Spanish.

Mr Forné Molné, Head of the government of Andorra (interpretation)

said that, despite the fact that many Andorrans were polyglot and many spoke Spanish, it was important to preserve the Andorran identity and the Catalan language. There were many opportunities to learn other languages because people who had come back to Andorra often found it difficult to speak to their grandparents in their own language. Catalan was the official language and it was important to preserve that.

Mr PEREIRA COELHO (Portugal) (interpretation)

noted the determination of the Andorran Government to harmonise its laws with the rest of Europe. He was also aware of the support that government gave to the immigrant community. He knew that the Portuguese people in Andorra wanted the Portuguese language taught and he congratulated Mr Forné Molné for the support given by his government in that respect.

Mr BRIANE (France) (translation)

As someone who comes from Midi-Pyrénées, a neighbouring region of Andorra and one which has a special relationship with her, I am particularly pleased to see the Head of the Andorran Government here today in the Council of Europe.

May I say, sir, how much I admire all that Andorra is doing, despite everything, to preserve the identity, culture and language of a magnificent country. I would like to see all governments in Europe take their cue from Andorra, since in this respect it is undoubtedly a model for all countries in Europe. Perhaps you could give me the recipe, so that our governments too may start to copy Andorra.

Mr Forné Molné, Head of the government of Andorra (translation)

I am flattered by your remarks, Mr Briane, especially as they are from one of Andorra’s neighbours.

As you can probably imagine, I have no recipe. People are not always what their leaders would like them to be. They have a will of their own. Nations progress in spite of their politicians, sometimes with their help, especially that of parliamentarians.

Andorra has been built on tolerance and has always been a refuge, primarily from the unfortunate wars that have marred Europe’s history. It explains the welcome that has traditionally been reserved to foreigners in difficulty, while during the Spanish civil war and the second world war the spirit of tolerance was particularly in evidence. It is here, perhaps, that the roots of the Andorran way of being are to be found.

Andorra was, in fact, a poor country before the war, before tourism brought a certain prosperity to the area. Andorrans have often been compelled to leave the country, but today the situation is different and Andorra is now home to a number of migrant populations. We should not forget, however, that Andorrans left to find work in Béarn, Ariège, Languedoc-Roussillon and Catalonia.

All this has remained anchored in the minds of every family. We all have uncles living in France or Spain, cousins who were born in France, as I was. All the Andorrans present here have relatives who were born in Spain or France. After a generation spent in emigration, many are now returning. It is precisely for this reason that our horizons extend • beyond the frontiers of our own country. It is in the very nature of things!

Now it is our turn to reciprocate, providing a home to migrants from other countries, where the Portuguese community currently represents 12% of the population. It is a particularly well-integrated community, which is very much to its credit. The Portuguese who arrive in Andorra are able to pick up Catalan in a very short time. Their language resembles our own, but they make the effort to fit in quickly, as the Spanish and French did before them.

It is probably for this reason that the Andorrans have always been open-minded. Parliament and government are united in their stand on such issues. We have no magic formula. Rather, it is the fruit of daily labours and, in particular, windows on international for a such as yours and the United Nations. It means we have a greater sense of responsibility towards those communities living amongst us, most of whom are from countries in Europe.


That brings to an end the questions to Mr Forné Molné. I thank him most warmly on behalf of the Assembly for his statement and for the remarks he made in the course of questions.