Capital: Monaco
Population: 35,000

Political Rights Score: 2 *
Civil Liberties Score: 1 *
Status: Free


In a continued effort to achieve greater financial transparency, Monaco signed a number of financial agreements with European Union and other countries throughout 2010. The country remained committed to clearing its name as a tax haven and strengthening economic cooperation with other nations.

The Grimaldi family has ruled the Principality of Monaco for the past 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 has remained outside 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 March 2010, Minister of State Jean-Paul Proust resigned due to old age and was replaced by Michel Roger, a former lawyer. In September, Monaco became the 65th Permanent Observer to the Organization of American States, an honorary position presented to Monaco for its contributions to the protection of health and the environment across the Americas. Also in September, the United Nations presented Prince Albert II with the Millennium Development Goals Award for championing peace through sport, such as developing a sports program throughout camps in Haiti that were erected to house those displaced by the devastating earthquake of 2009.

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 candidate list of three French nationals presented by the French government. The current minister of state, Michel Roger, has held the post since March 2010. The prince also appoints five other ministers (counselors), 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 REM, which holds just three seats.

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, 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, 13 of which were with OECD countries. The agreements ensure that Monaco will hand over relevant tax documents requested by the signatories.

The media in Monaco are free and independent. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, although the penal code prohibits criticism of the ruling family. Internet access is not restricted.

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 authorities. Academic freedom is not restricted. The country's only institution of higher education, the private University of Monaco, offers degrees in business administration. Monégasque 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 the 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 Monégasque nationals and those of noncitizens. Of the estimated 40,000 residents in the principality, only about 5,000 are actual Monégasques, who alone may participate in the election of the Conseil National. Monégasques 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. Abortion is legal only under special circumstances, including rape.

* Countries are ranked on a scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 representing the lowest level of freedom.

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