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Situated on the Mediterranean coast of France, close to the Italian border, Monaco is the world’s smallest state after the Vatican City.

Monaco was created in 1215 when the Genoese built a fortress there to protect the harbour. They granted tax concessions and land to attract residents. The territory expanded but was drawn into Genoese civil wars. The Genoese Grimaldi family occupied Monaco in 1297, creating the present dynasty. The country was vulnerable to its larger neighbours, and fared best under the protection of France. In 1861 it gained full independence but it lost 95 per cent of its territory to France and the Italian state of Piedmont. Lost tax revenues were replaced by the establishment of casinos, which attracted high net worth foreigners. In 1993 Monaco joined the United Nations and in 2004 the Council of Europe. In 2002 a treaty with France guaranteed that Monaco will remain independent if the monarchy has no heirs.

Most citizens spoke Monégasque until at least 1860, but the use of French in education, administration and church services led to its decline. A century later this had become so severe that the government ordered the codification of the language, and the first grammar appeared in 1960.

Main languages: French (official), Italian, English, Monégasque

Main religion: Roman Catholicism

Some 40 per cent of the population is French, 20 per cent Italian and 5 per cent British. Monaco’s Monégasque-speaking community comprises some 5,000 people. The population includes some 120 nationalities, and foreign citizens (other than French and Italians) form 21 per cent of the population.

Monégasque is a mixture of French Provençal and Italian Ligurian.

The 1962 Constitution provides for universal suffrage (including women), freedom of religion and freedom to form or join a trade union. The Constitution provides for a Supreme Court to guarantee basic human rights. A 1984 law allows for freedom of association by Monégasque citizens and by foreign citizens after they have obtained a permit.

The official language is French. The Comité National des Tradicions Monégasques and the Commission pour la langue Monégasque are responsible for the development and codification of the language.

The official religion is Roman Catholicism but other religions are practised without restriction.

Citizenship is acquired through the father being Monégasque, i.e. on the basis of jure sanguinis. There is a category of residents called ‘children of the country’ (enfants du pays), who have been resident in Monaco for many years but who are not eligible for Monégasque citizenship. In the 1950s and until the early 1960s, foreign citizens were eligible for Monégasque citizenship if their family had lived in Monaco for three generations. But now there is no automatic right to citizenship. Applications must be approved by the Head of State.

Foreigners of all nationalities can be expelled. In theory, the decision can be contested, but the Supreme Court has declared itself incompetent to judge such an appeal. The government is drafting regulations requiring the authorities to state the reason for expulsion, thus enabling the Supreme Court to judge appeals.

There is no law against racial discrimination.

Minority based and advocacy organisations

Sources and further reading