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Grimaldi family, Maritime Alps, UNAM, luxury yachts, prerogative

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Monaco, small country in southwestern Europe. Monaco lies on the Mediterranean Sea at the foot of the Maritime Alps, forming an enclave in southeastern France. After Vatican City, Monaco is the smallest nation in the world, with a land area of just 1.95 sq km (0.75 sq mi).

Located just east of Nice on the French Riviera and near the border with Italy, Monaco is one of Europe’s most popular resort areas. Sheltered by the lower slopes of the rugged Alps, Monaco enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Tourism is an economic mainstay of Monaco, which is famed for its fine beaches and hotels, its casinos, and the annual Monaco Grand Prix automobile race.

Tiny Monaco is highly urbanized, making it the most densely populated nation in the world. Villas, hotels, shops, and high-rise apartments climb up the rocky hills. To meet demands for more space, Monaco has created new land by dumping rock and earth along the shore. Monaco’s small harbor provides anchorage and docking facilities for cruise ships, luxury yachts, and smaller pleasure craft.

Although independent, Monaco is closely associated with France in economic matters and foreign affairs. Princes of the Grimaldi family from Genoa have ruled Monaco for most of the last seven centuries. Today, Monaco remains a principality (a territory ruled by a prince). Under a constitution adopted in 1962, the prince shares power with an elected legislature. In 1993 Monaco became a full member of the United Nations (UN), and in 2004 it joined the Council of Europe.


By tradition, a hereditary prince of the Grimaldi family serves as Monaco’s head of state. The executive branch consists of the prince and a small Council of Government headed by a minister of state. The minister of state is a French civil servant chosen by the prince among several candidates proposed by the French government.

Under a constitution adopted in December 1962, the prince shares legislative authority with the National Council. The 24 members of the council are elected to 5-year terms. Only native Monegasques may vote. Naturalization, the prerogative of the prince, is limited to about 30 people a year. The leading political parties are the Union for Monaco (UNAM) and the National and Democratic Union (UND).


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