San Marino | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

San Marino

San Marino

Freedom in the World 2003

2003 Scores



Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


San Marino adopted the euro as its official currency in January 2002. Following the withdrawal of support from the Socialist Party (PSS), the coalition government led by the Christian Democrats (PDCS) collapsed in June. The Socialists then formed a new coalition government in July with the help of other smaller parties.

Founded in A.D. 301, San Marino is the world's oldest and second-smallest republic. Although the Sanmarinese are ethnically and culturally Italian, they have succeeded in maintaining their independence since the fourth century. The papacy recognized San Marino's independence in 1631. An 1862 customs union with Italy began an enduring relationship of political, economic, and security cooperation.

Despite substantial reliance on Italian assistance ranging from budget subsidies to news media, San Marino maintains its own political institutions and became a member of the United Nations in 1992. Although San Marino has official relations with the European Union (EU) and participates in its security program, it is not a full member of the EU.

The ruling centrist PDCS won 25 of the 60 seats in the Grand and General Council (parliament) in San Marino's June 2001 elections. The two other main political parties, the PSS and the Progressive Democratic Party (PPDS), won 15 and 12 seats, respectively. San Marino has been governed by a long succession of coalition governments, which have dominated its modern multiparty democratic system.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

San Marino's citizens can change their government democratically. The country has a long tradition of multiparty politics, with six parties represented in the current council. All citizens having reached the age of 18 have the right to vote. Women were permitted to stand as candidates for seats in the parliament for the first time in 1974. San Marino's constitution, dating from the year 1600, vests legislative power in the Grand and General Council. Its 60 members are directly elected by proportional representation every five years. The secretary of state for foreign affairs has come to assume many of the prerogatives of a prime minister. Directly elected Auxiliary Councils serve as arbiters of local government in each of the country's nine municipalities. A ten-member Congress of State, or cabinet, is elected by the parliament for the duration of the term. Two members of the council are designated for six-month terms as executive captains-regent, one representing the city of San Marino and the other the countryside. In April, Antonio Lazzaro Volpinari (PSS) and Giovanni Francesco Ugolini (PDCS) took office as captains-regent.

There were no press freedom violations reported in San Marino during the year. Newspapers are published by the government, some political parties, and trade unions. Italian newspapers and radio and television broadcasts are freely available. Radio Titano is the country's only privately owned radio station.

The law provides for freedom of religion, and the government respects this right in practice. Most Sanmarinese belong to the Roman Catholic Church; however, Catholicism is not the state religion. The Catholic Church does receive direct benefits from the state through income tax revenues if a taxpayer requests that 0.3 percent of his income tax be allocated to the Church.

Workers are free to form and join unions under a 1961 law. Unions may freely form domestic federations or join international labor federations. Union members constitute approximately one-half of the country's workforce. Trade unions are independent of the government and political parties; however, they have close informal ties with the parties, which exercise a strong influence on them. Freedom of association is respected. The right to strike is guaranteed, but no strikes have occurred in the last decade.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, which is based on the Italian legal system. The judicial system delegates some of the authority to Italian magistrates in both criminal and civil cases. A local conciliation judge handles cases of minor importance. Appeals go, in the first instance, to an Italian judge residing in Italy. The final court of review is San Marino's Council of Twelve, a group of judges chosen for six-year terms from among the members of the Grand and General Council.

San Marino has no formal asylum policy. However, it has allowed a small number of refugees to reside and work in the country. Immigrants and refugees are eligible for citizenship only after 30 years' residence. Those born in San Marino remain citizens and are able to vote no matter where they live.

Women enjoy equal rights in the workplace and elsewhere. There have been no reports of discrimination towards women in salary or working conditions. All careers are open to women, including careers in the military and police as well as the highest public offices. As a result of the 2001 elections, women now constitute 16.7 percent of the parliament.