Freedom in the World
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In April 2012, the Conseil National re-elected Jean-Francouis Robillon as its president. Workers went on strike over a change to Monaco’s pension plans, which the government passed in September. In May, journalists were forced to evacuate the Grand Prix race temporarily after a bomb was found.
The Grimaldi family has ruled the Principality of Monaco for more than 700 years, except for a period of French occupation between 1793 and 1814. Under a treaty ratified in 1919, France pledged to protect Monaco’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence in return for a guarantee that Monégasque 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. Monaco adopted the euro currency in 2002, but remains outside of the European Union. In April 2005, Rainier was succeeded by Prince Albert II, who has made global environmental awareness a priority of his reign.
In the 2008 legislative elections, the Union of Monaco (UPM) won 21 of the 24 seats in the Conseil National, or parliament. The conservative opposition party, Rally and Issues for Monaco (REM), captured the remaining three seats. In April 2012, the Conseil National re-elected Jean-Francois Robillon as President and Fabrice Notari as Vice President.
On July 1, 2011, Albert wed Charlene Wittstock of South Africa. In July 2012, the son of Princess Caroline, Andrea Casiraghi, announced his engagement to Tatiana Santo Domingo.
In June and September 2012, hundreds of members of the Worker’s Trade Union of Monaco went on strike against the government’s proposed changes to pension laws, including an increase in contributions by both employers and employees. The law passed easily in September.
In May 2012, a bomb was found outside the media center at Monaco’s famous Grand Prix race. Journalists were forced to evacuate, and the bomb was successfully detonated. No suspects or motives were found by year’s end.
Monaco is an electoral democracy. However, only the prince, who serves as head of state, may 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 candidate list of three French nationals submitted by the French government. The current minister of state, Michel Roger, has held the post since March 2010. The monarch also appoints five other ministers who comprise the cabinet. All legislation and the budget require the approval of the Conseil National, which is currently dominated by the UPM. The only other party represented is the REM.
Inadequate financial record keeping has traditionally made the country’s level of corruption difficult to measure. However, the principality in 2009 started providing foreign tax authorities with information on accounts held by noncitizens, and by October of that year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had removed Monaco from its list of uncooperative tax havens. Monaco took further steps toward improving financial transparency by signing tax information exchange agreements with 24 countries between 2009 and 2010, including with a number of OECD countries. The agreements ensure that Monaco will surrender relevant tax documents requested by the signatories. In March 2012, a manager at Société Monégasque d’Environnement Technologique was sentenced to eight months in prison for fraud.
The constitution provides for freedoms of speech and the press, although criticism of the ruling family is prohibited. In 2011, Robert Eringer, a California-based blogger and former employee of Prince Albert, was ordered to pay €20,000 (US$26,000) in damages plus €7,000 (US$9,100) in legal fees to Albert after a Paris court found him guilty of publishing false information about the monarchy and other prominent figures in Monaco. The court also ordered Eringer to remove his defamatory blog posts about Prince Albert.
The constitution guarantees freedom of worship, though Roman Catholicism is the state religion. There are no laws against proselytizing by formally registered religious organizations, but authorities strongly discourage proselytizing in public. Academic freedom is not restricted. The country’s only institution of higher education, the private International University of Monaco, offers graduate and undergraduate programs in business administration, finance, and related fields. Monégasque students may attend French colleges and universities under various agreements between the two countries.
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly, which is generally respected in practice. 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. All workers except state employees have the right to strike, as did members of the Worker’s Trade Union of Monaco in 2012.
The legal rights to a fair public trial and an independent judiciary are generally respected. The justice system is based on the French legal code, and under the constitution, the prince delegates his judicial powers to the courts. The prince names five full members and two judicial assistants to the Supreme Court after the Conseil National, and other government bodies submit judicial nominations. 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 Monégasque nationals and those of noncitizens. Of the principality’s estimated 36,000 residents , only about 5,000 are citizens, and they alone may elect the Conseil National. Citizens also benefit from free education, unemployment assistance, and the ability to hold elective office. Noncitizens holding a residence permit may purchase real estate and open businesses.
Women generally receive equal pay for equal work. 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. Abortion is legal only under special circumstances, including rape.