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How Sarkozy “turned Andorran politics upside down”

US Cables released by Wikileaks state that the French leader lambasted the Pyrenean principality’s government over its foot-dragging on banking reform, thus influencing ensuing elections.


Andorra's slowness on banking secrecy changes was hurting Sarkozy's credibility, he believed. Photo: Alfonso Benayas / Flickr.

In 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was responsible, according to the United States, for forcing the head of the Andorran government to give up a reelection bid, having issued a bitter public warning to the tiny Pyrenean principality’s leader about banking reform.

The French leader’s anger essentially helped the opposition take control of the government, the US believed.

Explanations of what Sarkozy said and why he claimed he was “enraged” by the Andorrans are contained in a confidential cable from the US Consulate in Barcelona released earlier this month by the Wikileaks whistleblower site.

Sarkozy had accused Andorra of slowing down a modification to the principality’s bank secrecy laws, which was keeping the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) from removing it from its tax haven black list. The French leader accused the Andorrans of “preventing him from being able to effectively participate at the upcoming London economic summit because his position as co-head of state of Andorra was harming his credibility,” according to the consulate cable, dated April 16, 2009.

Under the 1993 Constitution, Andorra is a parliamentary democracy but has still retained its two traditional “co-princes,” the French president and the bishop of Seu d’Urgell, Spain, as its traditional heads of state.

At the time, Albert Pintat, the “cap de govern” (or head of government) who was the clear frontrunner for the April 26, 2009 elections, told an incredulous Sarkozy a month earlier that he was still negotiating with the OECD and that a final agreement over bank secrecy laws would be hammered out by November.

“Harsh words and cries of betrayal” flew between Paris and Andorra la Vella after Sarkozy went on French television warning the Andorrans of the “very serious actions that could be taken against the tiny mountainous country if it did not change its ways,” the cable states.

The French president wanted Andorra at least to introduce a temporary law so that he could save face at the London summit, where banking transparency and secrecy were issues for discussion.

“Poster child for banking shenanigans”

“French President Sarkozy not only appears to have caught Andorran officials off guard, but has turned the usually quiet world of Andorran politics upside down,” reads the cable written by the US consul. “The Andorran government, which is much more used to years of deliberation before approving often vital legislation, was forced into quick action to avoid becoming the next international poster child for tax and banking shenanigans.”

The consulate observed that José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero apparently played no role in the Andorran affair, even though the Spanish leader was also calling for an end to tax havens. At the time, nearly 80 percent of all Andorran bank deposits were Spanish or French.

Pintat’s withdrawal from the race left his Liberal Party (PLA) without an effective candidate and the Socialist Democratic Party (PSD), with its main candidate Jaume Bartomeu, won the elections.

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Published: Sep 14 2011
Category: Politics, Wikileaks
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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