Freedom in the World
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Prince Albert II continued his global environmental activism during 2008 by expanding his Monaco Foundation to include a chapter in the United States. Nevertheless, environmentalists criticized the Prince’s May announcement of plans to expand the principality by extending it out to sea on stilts, citing potential harm to Monaco’s ecosystem. Monaco also came under criticism during the year from leading world economies, including the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, due to its ongoing reputation as a tax haven and appearance on the OECD blacklist.
The Grimaldi family has ruled the Principality of Monaco for the past 700 years, except for a period of French occupation from 1793 to 1814. Under a treaty ratified in 1919, France pledged to protect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of the country in return for a guarantee that Monegasque policy would conform to French political, military, and economic interests.
Prince Rainier III, who ruled from 1949 to until his death in 2005, is often credited with engineering Monaco’s impressive economic growth. During his reign, the country ended its dependence on gambling and nurtured other sources of revenue—principally tourism and financial services. In February 2002, Monaco adopted the euro currency despite the fact that it is not a member of the European Union (EU).
Legislative elections in 2003 led to a major upset for the National and Democratic Union (UND), which had dominated Monegasque politics for several decades. The opposition Union for Monaco (UPM) received 58.5 percent of the vote and 21 of the 24 seats in the Conseil National.
Rainier’s successor, Prince Albert II, served as patron of the Year of the Dolphin 2007, a campaign by the United Nations and allied organizations that focused on saving dolphins in the wild and raising awareness on their behalf. The prince has made global environmental awareness a priority of his reign and continued the effort in 2008 by expanding his organization, the Monaco Foundation, to include a chapter in the United States.
In May, the Prince announced his plans to expand the principality by extending it out to sea on stilts; the principality currently only covers about one square mile. Environmentalists criticized the plan, however, over concerns that expansion would harm Monaco’s marine life.
Monaco is an electoral democracy. However, the prince, who serves as head of state, has the sole authority to initiate legislation and change the government. The 24 members of the unicameral Conseil National are elected for five-year terms; 16 are chosen through a majority electoral system and 8 by proportional representation.
The head of government, known as the minister of state, is traditionally appointed by the monarch from a list of three candidates, all French nationals, presented by the French government. The current minister of state, Jean-Paul Proust, has held the post since June 2005.The prince also appoints five other ministers (counselors), who make up the cabinet. All legislation and the budget require the assent of the Conseil National, which is currently dominated by the UPM party. The only other party represented is the Rally for Issues and Monaco (REM), which holds three seats.
Because of a lack of available financial information, the country’s level of corruption is difficult to measure. Monaco was not ranked by Transparency International in its 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index. Monaco remains on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) list of uncooperative tax havens, but since July 2005, it has applied a withholding tax to accounts held by citizens of EU member states. Most of the resulting revenue goes back to the country where the account holder resides. In October 2008, a group of economically strongcountries organized through an OECD summit in Washington, DC in November and private meetings among EU leaders to demand greater crackdowns on tax havens such as Monaco.
The media in Monaco are free and independent. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, although the penal code prohibits denunciations of the ruling family. In 2007, a libel and injury case against famed organist Marc Giacone, who had poked fun at the prince and other officials on his website, resulted in a 2,000 euro fine. Internet access is not restricted.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, Roman Catholicism is the state religion. There are no laws against proselytizing by formally registered religious organizations, but it is strongly discouraged. Academic freedom is not restricted. The country’s only institution of higher education, the private University of Monaco, offers degrees in business administration. Monegasque students are eligible to enter French and other postsecondary educational institutions on the basis of specific agreements.
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, which is generally respected by the authorities. No restrictions are imposed on the formation of civic and human rights groups. While outdoor meetings require police authorization, there have been no reports that the government withheld authorization for political reasons. Workers have the legal right to organize and bargain collectively, although they rarely do so. Only 10 percent of the workforce is unionized. All workers except state employees have the right to strike.
The legal rights to a fair public trial and an independent judiciary are generally respected. The justice system is based on French legal code, and the constitution requires that the prince delegate his judicial powers to the courts. The prince names the five full members and two judicial assistants to the Supreme Court on the basis of nominations by the Conseil National and other government bodies. Jail facilities generally meet international standards. Once criminal defendants receive definitive sentences, they are transferred to a French prison.
The constitution differentiates between the rights of Monegasque nationals and those of noncitizens. Of the estimated 32,000 residents in the principality, only about 7,000 are actual Monegasques, who alone may participate in the election of the Conseil National. Monegasques also benefit from free education, unemployment assistance, and the ability to hold elective office. As long as they secure a residence permit, noncitizens are free to purchase real estate and open businesses.
A woman can lodge criminal charges against her husband for domestic violence, and women generally receive equal pay for equal work. Although naturalized male citizens can transfer citizenship to their offspring, naturalized female citizens cannot. Women who become naturalized citizens by marriage cannot vote or run as candidates in elections until five years after the marriage. There were no reports of trafficking in persons into, from, or within Monaco during the year.