Andorra and Dubai: relations with the United Arab Emirates

Andorra and the United Arab Emirates or the UAE have recently consolidated their relations In the call dubai expo 2020, an event that was originally going to take place, as its name suggests, in 2020 in Dubai but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, the event has occurred between October 2021 and March of this year, and it is a registered international exhibition of universal scale selected by the International Exhibitions Office (BIE). This is the first held not only in the United Arab Emirates, but in the entire Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region ORE-SA.

The topic to be discussed in the exhibition was Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, highlighting the sharing of ideas and perspectives from different minds (and societies) to create the future. The space in which it takes place is between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and formed by three pavilions with each of the sub-themes (Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability) around a central square, called Al Wasl (which means "the connection" in Arabic). Andorra is located in the Sustainability pavilion.

Relations between the United Arab Emirates and the CDI

Small countries and especially microstates tend to have good relations with each other and ally themselves, since they usually share many elements with each other and have the same interests. If we look, in fact, at the Andorra Double Taxation Agreements with other countries, these are 9 and correspond on the one hand to the 3 neighbors (France, Spain and Portugal) and small rich microstate countries (Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein, Malta, Cyprus and San Marino).

We also show in our article on the Association agreement with the European Union how Andorra was allied with Monaco and San Marino, again two microstates with which it could be grouped to have common interests. The fact that the United Arab Emirates and Andorra have this agreement is clearly very beneficial for bothThus, the free movement of people and capital between the two countries flourishes and tourism, investment and business opportunities increase in both directions. Even more so if we consider cities as rich as Dubai.

The origin of the double taxation agreement dates back to the spring of 2013, when an Andorran delegation visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) headed by the Minister of Tourism and Foreign Affairs, the Director of Tourism of Andorra and the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services, as well as a full of the hope of the group of Andorran professionals and businessmen, a beginning of relationships that culminated in the signing of the CDI in the summer of 2015 and an agreement regarding the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments.

Already in 2013 the authorities and especially the Andorran businessmen saw in detail the strategy of the so-called Emirates Free Zones to attract foreign investment such as Dubai, especially for companies engaged in international trade and services in general. Also how the UAE is a country that has been able to take great care of its international relations and is a clear example of success in economic diplomacy, with important allies worldwide and developed an ambitious international expansion plan that led it to invest in multiple countries, highlighting Spain. .

The Government delegation at Expo Dubai 2020

The Andorran delegation at Expo Dubai 2020 is headed by the Head of Government, Xavier Espot, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Maria Ubach, the Minister for Tourism and Telecommunications, Jordi Torres, and the Secretary of State for Digital Transition and Strategic Projects, Cesar Marquina. He went to the event on the 26th, and the next morning began his agenda with a visit to the Andorran Pavilion received by the director, Jordi Canut, and by the rest of the staff who have been working since the inauguration.

Andorran facilities seek make the Principality known to visitors as an open innovation living lab, an attractive investment destination and a country in search of sustainability strategies (Since the Andorran Pavilion, as we have indicated, is located in the Expo district dedicated to sustainability). The Andorran proposal is designed as a sensory space that includes a large interactive model, virtual reality glasses that they have been able to test and a large crescent-shaped screen that allows visitors to have an immersive experience and locate themselves in various places in the country.

First visiting day

On the first day they visited the Andorra Pavilion and the infrastructures of other countries, such as neighboring Spain, France and Portugal and other countries with which the Principality maintains bilateral relations. The trips to these pavilions include meetings with leaders of these countries, as well as a guided tour of the facilities and the signing of the book of honor by the head of government and the ministers. In the afternoon the delegation has been divided into three parts to be able to visit the spaces of more countries with which Andorra maintains close bilateral relations. The Head of Government traveled to the Luxembourg Pavilion and Minister Ubach and Minister Torres visited San Marino and Monaco.

Both countries jointly negotiate with Andorra the Association agreement with the European Union, so diplomatic ties are very close. that way have been able to exchange briefly with the representatives of each country. Lastly, the Head of Government, the ministers, the Secretary of State and the rest of the Andorran delegation participated in the evening as guests in the commemoration events prepared on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

The National Day of Andorra at Expo Dubai 2020

In these international exhibitions, each country represented (of the more than 190) has a dedicated day, a day of a few days of activity and a specific day assigned as National Day. It is a day where representatives of the ministerial cabinet of the United Arab Emirates receive the visiting delegation individually and a specific official program is dedicated that can be followed live throughout the world to honor the visiting State and thank it for its participation in the event, and it is when the most institutional acts take place.

In the case of Andorra it is the 28th and, among other things, the authorities of the United Arab Emirates receive the Andorran delegation, the Andorran flag is raised and the anthem of the Principality and the United Arab Emirates is heard. The head of government and a representative of the Emirati ministerial cabinet also make a brief speech afterwards. In this way, Espot has been able to address a few words to the audience to present the Andorran project: “our participation is centered on three axes: the promotion of the country and Andorran companies, positioning ourselves as an open innovation living lab and presenting sustainability strategies of the Andorran economy.

Subsequently, a representation of the five flocks of the country made up of twenty people, who have also traveled to Dubai, perform before the audience an adaptation of the play Terra, since the National Day also includes a cultural representation of the guest country. Terra is a play that explains through dance and music the 600-year history of the Andorran Earth Council, as well as the progress of Andorran society as in modernity.

Finally, the two delegations jointly visit the pavilions of Andorra and the United Arab Emirates and new high-level bilateral meetings are held. Thus, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maria Ubach, has met with the head of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi to talk about cultural and tourism collaboration. Precisely Dubai will host between March 14 and 21 an edition of the Art Camp festival, born in Andorra in 2008, with 20 guest artists from the Middle East and an artist from Andorra.

In this sense, Minister Ubach has offered collaboration to share the knowledge acquired by the Principality when organizing the event, which has already been held in Malta and the Philippines. Ubach and Al Kaabi have also discussed the possibility of strengthening and promoting collaboration in the field of youth, for example offering exchanges between universities of both countries or signing a memorandum of understanding to include visas of the Work and holiday type.

For his part, the Minister of Tourism and Telecommunications met with Helal Saeed Al Marri, High Representative for Economy and Tourism. Torres and Al Marri have shown that, In both countries, tourism is a key element, so synergies can be created between the states to encourage visitors from one to go to the other and vice versa.. In fact, Al Marri has highlighted that there are more and more Emirati who are interested in nature tourism and, especially, in winter, for which he considers that Andorra could become an interesting destination for the public in this area. Both Al Kaabi and Al Marri have been formally invited to visit the Principality.

Parallel to the official delegation, a business mission of about forty people are also in Dubai with the desire to make themselves known in the country and explore opportunities in the middle east market. This delegation, for its part, has visited several spaces –such as the Chamber of Commerce or the Free Trade Zone– and on the morning of the 28th they made a presentation of the country (Country Business Briefing) for some seventy businessmen and tour operators –both premises as well as from other pavilions– to present business opportunities in the Principality, seek synergies and promote face-to-face meetings with Andorran representatives attending the Expo.

Tourism promotion and international investment

The head of government has stated that "since the opening of the Expo, more than 140,000 people have already visited the Andorran Pavilion, more than 1,000 daily, and we are convinced that we will have been able to arouse interest for our country". It is an event for make Andorra known to a market that still has many business opportunities to explore. The head of government, who gave the opening speech, explained the important transformation that the country has undergone in the last decade, placing special emphasis "on the international economic and legal opening that the country has experienced, modernization and the firm commitment to attract innovation and foreign capital”.

Among other institutional representatives, during these months high representatives of the Executive of the United Arab Emirates have also visited the Andorran spaces: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Minister of Finance, Mohamed Bin Hadi Al Hussaini. Among the work meetings in which Andorra has participated, countries such as Finland, the Czech Republic or Ukraine stand out on topics of common interest, such as innovation in education, systems for analyzing urban mobility or rescue equipment in the mountains.

Espot remarks that "the Middle East market has also been prospected to promote the country as a destination for investment, economic promotion and tourism, establishing links with local investors." And it is that on the afternoon of the 27th, together with the ministers Maria Ubach and Jordi Torres, he held a bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He is the minister himself who visited Andorra in July 2015 to sign the double taxation agreement in force between the two countries, as well as the reciprocal investment protection agreement.

The presentation also had a first approach on the tourist aspect of the Principality, where the country's offer was reviewed, especially the one related to sports, nature, big events and shopping. In this sense, Andorra Turisme has set itself the goal of creating the necessary synergies to allow, in five years, to attract visitors from the Middle East. The presentation, attended by people from both the United Arab Emirates and other countries, has ended with a series of face-to-face meetings between potential investors and businessmen from the country that has moved to Dubai.

Relations between the United Arab Emirates and Andorra

The Andorran head of government has shown his conviction that The Middle East is a territory with which many new synergies and business opportunities can be created. He also recalled that since 2017 Andorra and the United Arab Emirates have had an agreement in force to avoid double taxation, so "our diplomatic relations, which began in 2008, have prospered with cooperation in various fields, and we will undoubtedly continue working to strengthen contacts between the two countries.

Espot and Al Nahyan discussed the possibility of promoting the exchange of tourism and making the Principality known to the public in the Middle East. The Emirati minister has been convinced that, once the first tourists from the area visit the Principality, many others will follow. Also Thani bin Ahmed Al Zayoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, who has once again thanked the Andorran presence at the Expo and has assured that he is convinced that the ties between the two countries will be strengthened after the various meetings held these days between members of both executives.

On the other hand, he indicated that Andorrans "can learn a lot from the Dubai experience, exchange knowledge and promote exchanges with a technologically advanced community, with one of the main business connection centers and investment destinations on a global scale, thanks to modern legislation, a strategic geographical location, an advanced and leading infrastructure and its logistics capabilities, among others”. He has defended the binomial sustainability and innovation as key aspects to advance in the diversification of the economy.

“Our growth model is still based on sectors such as tourism, but the pandemic has made us aware that it was necessary accelerate the need to diversify the economy in terms of innovation and sustainability”. For his part, the Secretary of State for Digital Transition and Strategic Projects, Cesar Marquina, has pointed out that direct foreign investment has increased by 500% since 2012, and that it already represents 18.2% of the country's GDP in 2021.

Thus, he has defended Andorra as one of the countries with a tax framework most competitive in Europe and has pointed out that the strategic growth projects are based on technology, health, education, culture and sports, and the environment. Strategic projects have also been exposed that, in the short term, will help to continue diversifying the country's economy.

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Andorra and Dubai: relations with the United Arab Emirates
Jose Sanchis, Abast Technology and Systems Specialist, Andorra Insiders
Jose Sanchis

ABAST Technology and Systems Specialist


Andorra Insiders is an information platform about Andorra managed by ABAST, an Andorran professional consultancy firm for legal, tax and accounting services specialized in establishing people and businesses in the Principality of Andorra. More information here.

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