Minister of Finance and Economy of Monaco Jean Castellini: Monaco has no wish to join EU
Minister of Finance and Economy of Monaco Jean Castellini has given an interview to Interfax correspondent Olga Golovanova in which he speaks the importance of Russian market for Monaco and rejected plans of joining the European Union.Question: Mr. Minister, how would you assess the relationship between Russia and the Principality of Monaco? The Year of Russia is now underway. Why is it so important for you to develop your relations with Russia?
Answer: Our relationship is excellent and has been for decades.
The number of Russian residents and tourists in the Principality continues to increase, but the figures show that this is still not sufficiently reflected in Russia’s share of trade with Monaco (imports and exports).
Thus it is important that – in addition to the relationship founded on culture, tourism, and so on – we develop the economic and trade links between Russia and Monaco.
Q.: Have you seen a decline in the influx of tourists and in commercial activity from Russia during the past year? Are you planning to take any action to boost this influx? If so, what?
A.: The reduction in the number of guest nights originating from the Russian market in 2014 was very small – a drop of just 3.94% to 63,712, from 66,328 in 2013. This was significantly smaller than the declines experienced by other destinations: 15%, for example, across the Cote d’Azur as a whole at the end of November, 30% in Dubai this winter, and 50% in Thailand, also over the winter.
Between January and April 2015, we saw a fall of 10% compared with the same period in 2014, but this represents just 1,262 nights. The summer will be decisive in determining the trend, since 46% of all annual visits by this clientele occur in July and August.
As part of the Monaco Passport product being sold by three tour operators in Russia, 1,969 nights were sold during the period from 1 January to 15 June 2015, compared with 1,846 over the same period in 2014 (an increase of 6.7%). The Passport is therefore extremely attractive although clients increasingly seem to be waiting until the last moment to book, as a result of the significant fluctuations in the exchange rate between the ruble and the euro.
Due to its importance for the Principality and the difficulties that it is experiencing, the Tourist and Convention Authority is stepping up its efforts in this market, inviting journalists, travel agents and tour operators to the Principality: 20 such visits have been hosted since January 2014.
The Tourist and Convention Authority is also very active through its representative office in Moscow, whose role is to promote the destination.
In 2014, the Moscow office carried out 133 canvassing visits and more than 20 promotional events, targeting both professionals and clients. Of course, these activities are conducted in partnership with the Principality’s hotels and other tourism professionals.
This year, canvassing visits to travel agencies are being made in both Moscow and St Petersburg. But the Authority is also expanding its operations to other cities, including Yekaterinburg, Ufa, Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar – visits have already been made to each of these locations and there are plans to return soon.
In addition, the Tourist and Convention Authority took part in the Monegasque Government’s official visit to the country, led by H.E. the Minister of State, in January 2015. The Authority timed its annual roadshow in Russia to coincide with the visit, taking advantage of the media coverage it generated.
In a bid to motivate travel agents working in a very difficult market, in 2015 the Authority launched a sales competition for the offices of the three tour operators who are marketing the Monaco Passport, and took part in Conde Nast’s major tourism fair held in Moscow in March.
Television channel Russia 1 will be in the Principality at the end of June and beginning of July to film six reports.
Q. Is the Principality of Monaco planning to join the European Union in the next few years?
Q.: Monaco is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen Area, but it is part of the eurozone.
Monaco does not wish to join the European Union, but we have started negotiations with Brussels to facilitate economic exchanges by improving access to the EU’s internal market.
The goal is for Monegasque companies to have easier access to the European single market. However, there are specific issues such as the ability to control the settlement of private individuals in the country, the issuing of permits to non-Monegasques to set up businesses, and priority employment rights for Monegasques. These rules, which are not in line with the principles of the European Union, are essential to Monaco. Without these rules, Monaco would not have its own economy. Monaco is a real country, with a real population and a real economy, made up of companies and jobs which benefit neighboring countries.The challenge in the discussions with the European Union involves demonstrating that to survive, Monaco must be able to retain the features which make it unique, and that Monaco is useful to Europe, since Europe’s future does not lie in standardization. The issues are important. This will be a lengthy process which will no doubt take several years.
Q.: What proportion of Monaco’s real estate is owned by Russian nationals? Do some of these Russian nationals live permanently in the Principality? How many Russian citizens are there in Monaco? What do they do there?
In December 2014, there were 441 Russian residents, compared with 347 as at 31 December 2013, so there has been an increase of 27%.
Q.: Which Year of Russia in Monaco event has struck you the most? What do Monegasques think of Russia, in general?
A.: If we consider only the events which have already taken place, I think that the opening evening of the Year of Russia in Monaco, when the Bolshoi came to the Principality and presented a piece choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot, truly made a lasting impression. The joint efforts of a cultural institution which is so intrinsically connected to Russia and the choreographer of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo perfectly characterizes the link between our two cultures, and this was the main objective of this essentially cultural year. The Monegasque public is highly demanding since, for many years, we have been used to welcoming the greatest international artists. I must note that this year is not just about quality; space has also been made for popular culture and traditions. This was also one of the things which President Putin’s Special Envoy for International Cultural Affairs, H.E. Mr Shvydkoy, was keen on.