Freedom in the World
In January 2011, Prince Albert II reshuffled his government in an attempt to attract foreign investors. In July, Albert wed Charlene Wittstock, a South African Olympic swimmer. Issues of free speech arose during the year, when at least two people faced legal penalties for insulting the monarchy.
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 the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of the country 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 (EU). 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 January 2011, Albert performed a long-rumored cabinet reshuffle in an attempt to create a government that would be more attractive to foreign investors. He appointed a new economy minister, foreign minister, and minister for public works, the environment, and urban planning.
On July 1, Albert wed Charlene Wittstock of South Africa, a former Olympic swimmer, in a small civil ceremony at the Palace of Monaco; thousands of people watched the ceremony on screens set up outside the palace. The following day a more elaborate ceremony took place, attended by numerous international celebrities and royal figures. The wedding dominated much of Monegasque news in the first part of 2011.
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 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 make up 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 hand over relevant tax documents requested by the signatories.
The constitution provides for freedoms of speech and of the press, although the penal code prohibits criticism of the ruling family. In June 2011, Robert Eringer, a California-based blogger and former employee of Prince Albert, was ordered to pay €20,000 in damages plus €7,000 in legal fees to Albert after a court in Paris found him guilty of publishing false information about key figures in Monaco and about the country itself; the suit had been brought by Albert over statements Eringer had published on his website that were critical of the monarchy. In October 2011, a man was imprisoned for 6 days for insulting the prince.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, though Roman Catholicism is the state religion. There are no laws against proselytizing by formally registered religious organizations, but proselytizing in public is strongly discouraged by the authorities. 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 are permitted to 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. In September 2011, the Union des Retraités de Monaco took to the streets to call on the government to raise pensions in light of rising inflation rates.
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 estimated 36,000 residents in the principality, only about 5,000 are citizens and they alone may participate in the election of the Conseil National. Citizens 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. 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.