Monaco Anger at French Annexation Call




Monaco has accused France of “neo-colonialism” in a row provoked by a call on nationwide TV for Paris to annex the 700-year-old micro-state just days after the Monegasque ruler Prince Albert II married his glamorous South African bride Charlene.

Just days after the Royal wedding Monaco is angered by an annexation call

(Read more online French News here)

The call has deeply angered senior state officials in Monte Carlo and threatens a diplomatic row.

Monaco’s head of government, the French-born Michel Roger joined Jean-François Roubillon, President of Monaco National Council to denounce the call. The two leaders spoke of their “dismay and anger” at a statement by Christian Barbier, the 44-year-old editor of the French magazine L’Express on the France 5 “C dans l’air” TV programme in which he urged France to annex Monaco.

“I condemn these comments, I deeply regret the emotions aroused in the population of Monaco,” said Michel Roger. “Monaco is a sovereign state” and “the latest treaty with France, which dates from 2002, reaffirms the sovereignty of Monaco as part of the common destiny that binds Monaco and France,” he added. Mr Roubillon went further and described Barbier’s remarks as “neo-colonial.”

(A re-run of the programme presented by Yves Calvi – Monaco: le rocher des rumeurs and first aired on Wednesday 20 July can be viewed here on the station’s website, which does not allow third party sites to embed its videos.)

Christian Barbier’s remarks are not likely to have endeared him and his magazine to the uber-rich tax mitigators and bon vivants on Monaco’s millionaire mile – it is estimated that millionaires number about a 1/3 of Monaco’s total 32,812 population though no official figures are available. Indeed Monaco is at pains to stress it is not a tax haven in the pejorative sense that the term is normally employed, claiming that all residents pay VAT on all goods and services and that the Monegasque VAT system is shared with France. However Monte Carlo is proud of its 7-century tradition of levying no income tax whatsoever on its residents.

During the TV broadcast Christian Barbier proposed his takeover “in the name of modernisation and French interests” though he did not elaborate on what exactly these were.

Others suggest the magazine editor was being deliberately provocative. The magazine is embroiled in a row with the ruling Grimaldi family which has threatened legal action against L’Express for earlier reports suggesting the royal couple’s marriage was on the rocks even before the glittering affair took place over the first two days of July.

The L’Express report has provoked a media storm around the world and was described by Me Thierry Lacoste, the Paris-based, Grimaldi-family lawyer as highly irresponsible. The lawyer said the reports were entirely untrue, a statement rebutted by Barbier who said he stood by his report and his sources, whom he declined to name.

Politicians from all the tiny city-state’s political parties were swift to condemn the TV broadcast suggesting Barbier “had only an approximate grasp on reality”. They described his call as “disdain for the sovereignty of the Principality of Monaco”.

In his statement, Jean-François Robillon the president of the National Council (or Parliament) called the “neo-colonialist vocabulary… irresponsible.” He urged “all residents of the Principality to show their strong dissatisfaction” with the magazine.

South Africa’s Die Burger newspaper has carried firm denials of claims in L’Express that the royal marriage was a sham.

The paper reported that Mike Wittstock, father of Monaco’s new princess Charlene Wittstock, 33, denied the scandal stories that her state marriage to Prince Albert was a sham. The South African salesman was reacting to world-wide reports that claimed his daughter, a former Olympic swimmer, had tried to flee through Nice airport just days before the wedding. He described as “bog” (or nonsense) rumours that his daughter had struck a deal with the 53-year-old ruling prince to provide him with an heir and then divorce.

The couple left Monaco for a South African honeymoon, flying to the Indian ocean resort city of Durban, for a wedding party at the luxury Oyster Box hotel on Umhlanga beach, 10 miles to the north of the city. However they reportedly slept in separate beds for at least one night, staying at different hotels several miles apart.

Monaco is right to be touchy about its position as an independently ruled mini-principality in France, along with four other historical oddities, the European micro-states of the Vatican, Andorra, Liechtenstein and San Marino. Its status has often been regarded as a thorn in the side of France mainly in more recent times because of “non cooperativeness” with French fiscal authorities.

The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco since 1297, and its sovereignty was officially recognised under a Treaty of 1861 signed with France.

Euronews, the European TV network, carried the following interview with the royal couple ahead of their recent wedding:

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

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