Monaco | Freedom House

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Freedom in the World 2010

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In a move toward greater financial transparency, Prince Albert II announced in March 2009 that foreign tax authorities will be given greater access to information on foreign account holders in Monaco. In April, Monaco’s parliament voted to legalize abortion under certain conditions.

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 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).
Rainier’s successor, Prince Albert II, has made global environmental awareness a priority of his reign, including the 2008 expansion of his organization, the Monaco Foundation, to include a chapter in the United States. In the 2008 legislative elections, the Union of Monaco (UPM) won 21 of the 24 seats in the Conseil National. The remaining three seats were won by the conservative opposition party Rally and Issues for Monaco (REM).
In an ongoing attempt to remove itself from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) list of uncooperative tax havens, Prince Albert announced plans to allow for greater financial transparency in March 2009. Monaco plans to begin granting foreign tax authorities access to information about foreign tax holder accounts in the principality. By September, Monaco had signed agreements with 12 countries to provide greater transparency and had made the OECD “white list” by October.
On April 1, the parliament voted to legalize abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk due to pregnancy, the fetus has an incurable disease, or the pregnancy was the result of rape or domestic violence.
In December, Prince Albert revisited plans to expand the principality by building into the Mediterranean Sea. The plans were first announced in 2008 but were scrapped due to the financial crisis and environmental concerns.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

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 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 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index. Monaco remains on the 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 March 2009, Prince Albert II announced that the principality would start providing foreign tax authorities with information on foreign account holders.
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. Internet access is not restricted. In October 2009, Monaco began a massive effort to expand broadband capacities, which will link the country to 11 other nations.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, Roman Catholicism is the state religion. There are no laws against proselytizing by formally registered religious organizations, though proselytizing in public is strongly discouraged by authorities. 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. Workers have the legal right to organize and bargain collectively, although they rarely do so. Less than five 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 35,000 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.
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 are six women in the Conseil National.In what was seen as a historic win for women’s rights, the Conseil National voted in April 2009 to legalize abortion in specific cases, after it had rejected a similar bill just two years earlier.