Interview : Irina Rybalchenko
What are the major joint projects between La Seu d’Urgell´s administration and the Andorran government?
We are working together on several projects, for example, how to provide people from la Seu d’Urgell and l’Alt Urgell with jobs that are available in Andorra.
Another project is that we applied as a joint candidate for the Special Olympic games for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Andorra la Vella and La Seu have all the necessary infrastructure and we are ready to accept around 1200 of the best athletes from 18 different countries.
The Special Olmpyic Committee´s final decision will be made in January 2017.
We have also worked hard to gain the status of UNESCO cultural heritage objects for the Cathedral of La Seu (Spain), Casa de la Vall (Andorra) and Castell de Foix (France). All these 3 buildings are relevant to the history of Andorra, during the times when Andorra was a “battle” territory between the bishop of La Seu and Count de Foix. In the end, the counterparts made a decision to protect the land of the Principality of Andorra together. So Andorra got a status of protectorate: it has its own government and parliament, but it’s still managed by 2 co-princes: the Bishop d’Urgell and the President of France. The Cathedral of La Seu is the house of the bishop, Castell de Foix is the house of the Count de Foix and Casa de la Vall is the former Andorran parliament.
How many people from La Seu work in Andorra?
The “employment question” is one of the most important for us. Andorra is very close to La Seu and it has more than 8 million tourists per year. So it gives residents of La Seu a good chance to find a job – not only a seasonal, but a permanent one. About 1500 residents of La Seu work in Andorra, which is about 10% of the population of our town.
In particular, we prepared a petition to give to the Andorran Immigration services to increase the quotas on employment for residents of border regions. Some Andorran Immigration service representatives came to La Seu to meet the local employment administration to explore this issue. Finally, we created a mutual data base of applicants and employees in demand.
Moreover, several weeks ago we hosted a professional workshop in which about 16 enterprises participated (including 11 Andorran companies). All applicants were invited and some of them got job contracts. The positions were mainly for specialists in tourism, sport, and the restaurant business, as well as bank officers, pharmacists etc.
This example is very positive and we plan to hold these kinds of workshops on a regular basis.
What kinds of services provided by your local companies is Andorra interested in?
Andorra and Catalonia worked together on the Andorra-La Seu airport project. This is our main investment project.
Andorra often uses the services of several companies, like “Helitrans Pyrenees” for the transportation of all types of materials and equipment for construction, installation of antennas, and the construction of transmission.
I can also mention the biggest local companies, who work with Andorra as well as other countries of the world.
One of them is “CADI”, which produces dairy products (milk, butter and cheese). It’s quite a famous Spanish brand in the international market. Cheese is one of our main products, we even have a cheese museum here in La Seu. It can also be interesting for tourists who visit Andorra.
Another company is “Oliana”, it is located in the south of the region. This company is a subsidiary of “Taurus”, which is focused on renovating consumer electronics. It is a well known company in countries such as Brazil, Hong Kong, and the USA.
“Grifone” is a professional sports equipment producer Andorra widely cooperates with.
We have here several logging enterprise companies who also provide Andorra with services and materials.
As for transport infrastructure – do you plan to make the improvements to the main road to Andorra (N145)?
The Spanish authorities who are in charge of this area made some modernizations 5 years ago. So there are no such plans for this at the moment.
What about the cross border infrastructure? Sometimes we can see a huge amount of traffic at the Spain/Andorra border. Do you plan to make any improvements to decrease the traffic?
Most traffic jams are provoked by customs. From our side we don’t plan to make any adjustments . From Andorra’s side, there is a project to make a new roundabout in Sant Julia, which would help to decrease the traffic.
The construction of a railroad from Barcelona to La Seu (and then to Andorra) – how realistic is it?
As far as I know, there are still no plans to construct a railroad from Barcelona to La Seu d’Urgell.
What is the trade turnover between La Seu and Andorra?
It is difficult to know exactly because there are no complete studies on that. The economic relationship is very strong because a lot of people create economic activity on both sides of the border. A little example is that we can see a lot of Andorran people come and shop at our street market every Tuesday and Saturday.
What can La Seu offer Andorran tourists?
La Seu d’Urgell is a town in the Pyrenees with a huge amount of life. The town hosts a great amount of cultural and sport events. Rafting, canoeing, open-kayak and hydrospeed in the Ràfting Parc are available all year round. The Parc is a unique sports facility which can control it´s flow of water, it has a careful system for cleaning the equipment and highly qualified staff allow our guests to enjoy the feeling of the water world with complete safety and comfort.
We can offer hotel accommodation for tourists to make their trip to Andorra more comfortable. Here in La Seu there is one 4* hotel, several 3* hotels as well as many small family guest houses and hotels. The total availability of accommodation services here in La Seu d’Urgell is about 1000 beds.
Most international tourists who visit Andorra choose to spend some days in La Seu. They tend to visit the medieval Cathedral and it´s surroundings, the Ràfting Park, the market and traditional shops and also good hotels and restaurants.
There are many people now who have set up a business in Andorra . What is the cost of a sq. m of residential area for rent, and office rental costs for potential investors in Andorra who try to save their living costs here?
Living costs are cheaper in la Seu. For example a new, furnished studio measuring about 70 m2 in the center of La Seu can be rented for less than 450 euros per month. A good office in the center of the city is between 600 – 800 hundred.
Are there any examples of cooperation in the education area?
Here in La Seu we have a Universidad National a Distancia (UNED), where there are students from Andorra. You can study 27 bachelor’s degrees adapted to the European Higher Education’s Area and 76 official university master’s degrees adapted to the EHEA.
Among the disciplines there are humanities, economics, sciences, health, social sciences and law, engineering and arquitecture.
And there are some students from La Seu, who study in the University of Andorra.
Taking into account the upcoming ski season, do you plan to host any additional cultural events to attract more tourists from Andorra to La Seu d’Urgell?
We try to organize regular cultural events regardless of the season. Of course, in Christmas time we also have a lot of activities; the magic world of the mountains program, the little Christmas market, family activities, will all be available.
This year we have started the La Seu medieval program which offers a virtual visit to the center of La Seu. Using a cell phone, our tourists can have a short explanation of the history of the buildings and historical places in English, French, Spanish and Catalan.