Monaco is a sovereign city state, located on the French Riviera in Western Europe. Bordered by France on three sides, with one side bordering the Mediterranean Sea, its center is about 16 km (9.9 mi) from Italy, and is only 15 km (9.3 mi) north east of Nice, France. It has an area of 1.98 km2 (0.76 sq mi), and a population of 35,986.
Founded in 1215 as a colony of Genoa, Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297, except when under French control from 1789 to 1814. Designated as a protectorate of Sardinia from 1815 until 1860 by the Treaty of Vienna, Monaco's sovereignty was recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. The Prince of Monaco was an absolute ruler until a constitution was promulgated in 1911.
Monaco has been governed as a constitutional monarchy since 1911, with the Prince as chief of state. The executive branch consists of a Minister of State (head of government), who presides over a five-member Council of Government (cabinet). The Minister of State is responsible for foreign relations. As the Prince's representative, the Minister of State also directs the executive services, commands the police, and presides (with voting powers) over the Council of Government. The five members of the Council are respectively responsible for internal affairs, external affairs, the environment, finance and economy, and social affairs and health.
The United States and Monaco enjoy excellent relations, which both countries seek to maintain and strengthen. From 1956 until her death in 1982, the American-born Grace Kelly was married to Prince Rainier III, Prince Albert's father.
With an area of just three-quarters of a square mile (1.9 square km), Monaco is just about half the size of New York's Central Park. Its population of more than 32,000 would not quite fill half of New York's Yankee Stadium.
Over the years, Monaco has singed several treaties with France, which promised to guarantee its sovereignty. Unfortunately, most of the treaties have limited Monaco's independence at the same time. In 1918, the prince of Monaco agreed to exercise his rights of sovereignty in "perfect conformity with the naval and economic interests of France."
Unlike Andorra's, Monaco's foreign-born residents don't come from the surrounding areas, but are mostly well-to-do tax dodgers from just about everywhere. Although many middle-class people work there, these are mostly commuters from just across the border.
Economic development was spurred in the late 19th century with a railroad linkup to France and the opening of a casino. Since then, the principality's mild climate, splendid scenery, and gambling facilities have made Monaco world famous as a tourist and recreation center.
The principality of Monaco is perched on the Mediterranean coast, close to the Italian border, and is surrounded on three sides by France's Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azure region. This area is better known as the Riviera.
The state has no income tax and low business taxes and thrives as a tax haven both for individuals who have established residence and for foreign companies that have set up businesses and offices. Monaco, however, is not a tax-free shelter; it charges nearly 20% value-added tax, collects stamp duties, and companies face a 33% tax on profits unless they can show that three-quarters of profits are generated within the principality.
A new constitution, proclaimed in 1962, abolished capital punishment, provided for female suffrage, and established a Supreme Court to guarantee fundamental liberties. In 1993, Monaco became an official member of the United Nations with full voting rights. It joined the Council of Europe in 2004.