The airport of Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell will facilitate access to Andorra from other countries, said the Ambassador of Spain in the Principality of Andorra, Ángel Ros Domingo

The airport of Andorra-La Seu d'Urgell will facilitate access to Andorra from other countries such as the UK and Scandinavian countries, saidthe Ambassador of Spain in the Principality of Andorra, Ángel Ros Domingo

D. Ángel Ros Domingo was born in Lleida in 1952. He holds a degree in Physical Sciences from the University of Barcelona, a PhD in Computer Science from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and an MBA from the Business Institute of Madrid. He is an officer of the Superior Systems and Information Technologies of the State Administration.

In the political sphere, he was deputy for the PSC in the Parliament of Catalonia in the X Legislature (December 2012 – January 2014) and has been President of the Partit dels Socialists of Catalonia. He has been the Mayor of the City of Lleida from 2004 until August 2018.

On August 4, 2018, he was appointed as the Ambassador of Spain in the Principality of Andorra, a position he currently holds.

Ángel Ros talked to about prospects for the integration of Andorra into the European Union, the relationship between Spain and Andorra, independence of Catalonia, as well as the prospects of opening an airport near Andorra this May.

Interview: Irina Rybalchenko

What do you think about Andorra becoming part of the EU community?

Access to the internal market of the EU is very important for Andorra. It will be positive for the Andorran economy. Andorra will also get access to the EU investments as well as the EU education systems which is a very good point for the younger generations in Andorra. In our global world is not good to be alone. This is a logical thing for Andorra – to be associated with the EU.

Maybe it is better for Andorra to be a part of the EU in the future?

This is a decision that has to be taken by the Andorran people and Andorran government.

What are the main aspects of cooperation between Spain and Andorra in economic terms? What is the trade turnover between the 2 countries?

Spanish companies are mainly represented in the trade sector in Andorra. 53.8% of Andorran external suppliers are Spanish companies (for comparison, in neighboring France it is about 17%). Spain – it is 52% of investment in the economy of Andorra (for comparison: France-23%, Luxembourg-12.7%, Switzerland-7.6%). If we talk in monetary terms, in 2017, Spain’s investment in Andorra amounted to 15.2 million euros (Andorra invested in Spain 0.96 million euros). Andorra imported products from Spain in the amount of 808. 58 million euros and exported in the amount of 26.27 million euros.

The companies with Spanish capital in Andorra – in what main industries do they work?

I can say that the main sectors in which Spanish companies are present are construction, tourism and the commercial sector.

One of the five acting banks in Andorra – Sabadell – is a partly Spanish bank. Why do you think other Spanish banks are not represented in Andorra? Is it not interesting for them, or does Andorra not allow them to come into its market because of fear of competition?

Before the crisis, Spanish banks had shares in Andorran banks. But now there’s only one bank – Sabadell – that has the participation of the Spanish capital. Andorran banks are still focused on private banking. Spanish banks – this is another area. You are right – there are no other banks here except those of Andorrans. Why? Maybe because Andorran banks cover all the financial needs of such a small country like Andorra.

The exception is Vallbanc which represents American capital and which came to Andorra because of the problem with Banca Privada d’Andorra.

Andorra has a very serious problem in terms of logistics. Unlike other mountain tourist countries, there is no airport or railway connection and one of the roads that leads to Andorra from France is often closed in winter due to the danger of avalanches. The government of Andorra claims that in May of this year, the airport of Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell will begin to operate commercial flights. The Spanish government is involved in this project. Do you think it is possible? What is the status of this project?

I absolutely agree with you. And the airport of Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell is the best solution for Andorra. It would bring services not only to Andorra but to all the Pyrenees. We have to finish the process of implementing technologies for landing to allow this airport to work normally. In May all systems will be approved, I guess. And it will allow us to manage commercial flights.

Which Spanish airlines are interested in this project?

Even if I knew, I couldn’t answer that question. This is the business of the Spanish air companies.

Does Spain plan to increase its commodity turnover with Andorra after the opening of the airport?

Without Andorra, there would be no so-called “critical mass” to make the airport profitable. Andorra is an interesting destination for many countries from the point of view of tourism development. That’s why Andorra needs an airport and Spain supports this project. But I don’t think it will touch a commodity turnover between Andorra and Spain. But it could increase a commodity turnover between Andorra and other countries. The trade with Spain is available through roads.

For Andorra, this is a winning project in all respects. Mainly investments are taken by Spain and will be used mainly by passengers travelling to Andorra.

Is Andorra investing in this project to speed it up? The Andorran Minister of Economy, Gilbert Saboya, told us that since this is the airport of Catalonia, Andorra is not the main investor of this project and contributes 300,000 euros annually…

This is a Spanish airport which will bring services to the Pyrenees and Andorra. I hope Andorra will participate in maintaining the costs of the airport

What are your forecasts for possible growth of the number of tourists from Spain to Andorra after the opening of the airport in La Seu?

Again, it will affect other tourists, not Spanish ones. Andorra has 8 million tourists every year. 5 million of them are people from Spain and they don’t need to fly to Andorra. The airport will facilitate access to Andorra from other countries such as the UK, Scandinavian countries or even Russia.

Does Spain plan to invest in the development of road connections between the 2 countries?

Yes, we are working on improving the road communication. Next year we will finish a tunnel on the C-14. This is a very important road because it connects with high-speed trains to travel from Lleida to Madrid as well as to other countries.

Last year, I asked the Andorran Minister of Economy, Gilbert Saboya, about the increasing traffic jams, in particular, at the border between Andorra and Spain. He told me that in order to solve the problem, both countries have to cooperate. What is the solution from your point of view?

It is necessary to invest in the construction of the roads. It is obvious! When the airport begins to carry out commercial flights, probably it could be interesting to build a direct road alternative to the existing one.

Yes, it is very expensive to build roads in the mountains but without new roads, you cannot solve a traffic problem.

Are there any talks about the possibility of constructing a railroad between Spain and Andorra?

Yes, it makes sense. But there are no plans to do so for the moment.

What are the plans regarding the Spanish education system in Andorra?

Currently, we are in the process of implementing professional education services in the public Spanish centers (when you finish secondary education you can go to a university or continue your professional education).

What are the main aspects of cooperation between Spain and Andorra in terms of cultural events?

We are currently hosting an exhibition in the Spanish Embassy in Andorra of one of the most famous Catalan artists from Barcelona, Josep Guinovart, who is known for his informal or abstract expressionist style of work. This year is the 10th anniversary of his death.

We have been working in the areas of theater, opera and music with different Andorran municipalities. This year we will collaborate with Andorra Lirica (Sant-Julia). In April, the focus is on literature because of the Sant Jordi holiday. We have a tradition to organize a literary competition for students from different education systems represented in Andorra in the Embassy. The competition is going to be in Catalan, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Also, a session to read Don Quijote in Spanish and Tirant lo Blanc in Catalan by role is going to be organized.

We also cooperate with Comu de La Massana in a comic exhibition, musical festivals in Andorra la Vella and in Escaldes. In September we will have an international photo exhibition.

What is the total number of Spanish citizens living in Andorra?

There are 27,000 Spanish people living in Andorra with the status of Andorran residents. Plus about 2000 people from Spain who come to Andorra every day for work.

In April, the elections for a new head of government and parliament of Andorra will be held. How can the political situation in the country be changed? Which scenarios are possible?

I cannot predict any election results. I hope that the new government of Andorra will have the same excellent relations with Spain as the current government has had.

What is the situation with Catalonia? How can it affect Andorra?

This is an internal question between Spain and Catalonia. Andorra has very close relations with Catalonia, they share the same language. But I can say that Andorran people respect the Spanish government. They consider that the Catalan problem is within the internal affairs of Spain. I think Catalonia cannot be independent. A referendum is not possible either. Only one country in the world has a self-determination right – this is Eritrea after its separation from Ethiopia. With all my respects to Ethiopia, this is not an example for Catalonia to follow. The independence of Catalonia is absolutely impossible.

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