MONACO. On his 48-hour trip to Belgium in February Prince Albert II met Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. The Sovereign lof Monaco left with strong prospects for the accession of the Principality to the European Union. Prince Albert II welcomed “the progress achieved in the negotiations” with the European Union. On Tuesday 19 February in the late morning, Prince Albert went to the Berlaymont building to meet Jean-Claude Juncker, and his staff in the presence of HE Ambassador Sophie Thévenoux, Head of the Monaco Mission to the European Union, Gilles Tonelli, Councillor-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and Anne-Marie Boisbouvier, Advisor in HSH the Prince’s Cabinet. The Sovereign Prince and President Juncker discussed advances in the negotiations, begun in March 2015, on the Association Agreement between the Principality and the European Union which would offer Monaco a stable institutional framework for relations with European institutions and member States. It would also open possibilities of cooperation for teaching, research and other shared areas. On this occasion, H.S.H. the Prince recalled the extreme importance He grants the signature of a well-balanced Association Agreement that respects the main principles of the European Union while preserving Monaco’s vital interests, thereby guaranteeing the Principality’s lasting legitimacy. The Sovereign Prince and President Juncker expressed their satisfaction at the progress of these negotiations to date. President Juncker emphasised the Union’s ambition in entering into negotiations on this agreement by June 2019, including specific provisions taking Monaco’s singularities into account. This ambition provides a strong political signal for respecting Monegasque identity. If such an agreement were to be achieved in June, that would represent a crucial step towards drafting a final Association Agreement. Later in the day, at a reception organised by the Monegasque Embassy in Belgium, H.S.H. the Prince also met members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the main personalities on the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. In His speech, the Sovereign Prince stated in particular: “I would like to believe that we will succeed together in drawing up an Association Agreement that respects the interests of all parties. It is my ardent wish that taking into consideration the specificities of Monaco will lay the groundwork for an association with the European Union, whose motto is ‘united in diversity.’

In the early morning of 19 February, in the context of His actions in favour of environmental issues, the Sovereign Prince participated in a high-level Conference on Climate Change and Ocean Conservation at Egmont Palace.

H.S.H. the Prince addressed the Conference at the Opening Ceremony, during which other speakers included Charles Michel, Belgian Prime Minister, Marie-Christine Marghem, Minister in charge of the Belgian Federal Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, and Philippe de Backer, Minister of the Digital Agenda, Postal Services and Telecom, in charge of Administrative Simplification, Social Fraud, Privacy and the North Sea. In His speech, Prince Albert warned in particular of the dangers of gradual depletion of terrestrial resources and the growing importance of oceans in this context. On behalf of His Foundation FPA2 He recalled that mobilisation on all parts (governments, NGOs, scientists, associations, local communities, etc.) would help place the Oceans at the centre of a collective challenge supporting the values of solidarity and responsibility. Jointly organised by the Ministers Marie-Christine Marghem and Philippe de Backer, this conference addressed three main themes: Climate change and its impact on ocean biodiversity, Conciliating oceans energy with marine conservation and Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The many personalities participating included: Brune Poirson, Secretary of State to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner in charge of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Denis Allemand, Director of the Scientific Centre of Monaco. On that same day, H.S.H. the Prince also participated in the 2019 CDP Europe Awards at the Brussels Town Hall, where He was greeted by the city’s mayor, Philippe Close. At this event, the Sovereign recalled His personal commitment for over 25 years to defending the Environment, the actions He has been conducting for over 10 years through His Foundation and His Government’s commitment to implementing sustainable solutions to promote the energy transition, sustainable mobility and renewable forms of energy.
CDP (formerly, Carbon Disclosure Project) is an organisation that analyses the performance of corporations in three key areas — protection of the climate, sustainable water management and the fight against deforestation — and evaluates them on a scale from A to D. The next day, Tuesday 20 February, H.S.H. Prince Albert II visited the Hergé Museum in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve before attending a master class by French cellist Gautier Capuçon and a singing master class at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Waterloo. The Sovereign Prince then visited the Folon Foundation, a museum founded in 2000 by Jean-Michel Folon in a farm at Château de la Hulpe. This visit illustrates the persistence of the strong ties between this Belgian artist and the Principality of Monaco, where the sculptor’s poetic works still grace the Monegasque landscape. The Folon Foundation recently opened L’Atelier Folon to the public on Quai Antoine-Ier on the Port of Monaco, where he had his studio for over 20 years.

Interior of th Atelier Folon in Monaco recently opened to the public

The announcement of the 48-hour trip to Belgium of Prince Albert II has not gone unnoticed… It was just after his meeting with the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. And if everyone caressed the hope of a happy ending, it is that Monaco, not a member of the EU but affiliated with the Schengen area, has since 2015 been carrying out arduous negotiations with Brussels in order to obtain an association agreement. The latter would legally clarify the relations between the two entities and make it possible to multiply the prospects for cooperation. According to a statement from the Prince’s Palace, Commission President Juncker underlined the Union’s ambition to conclude negotiations on the agreement by June 2019, including distinct provisions taking into account the specificities of Monaco.” Per this statement, we can now begin a six-month countdown for defining an institutional framework that will harbor this associative agreement. A framework which, above all, will make it possible to surpass the difficulties on which prior negotiations thus far have stumbled. Indeed, the Principality wants to maintain some of its specificities that ostensibly could offend the principles of the EU. In particular, this concerns the control of the installation of individuals and businesses within the territory and preserving employment priority for Monegasque citizens and residents. Le Rocher considers that its special situation – 2,000 square kilometers of surface area for 37,500 inhabitants – gives it the right to an exception. “The nation of Monaco exists and persists today thanks to fragile balances that are essential to its very existence and its stability. This stability is not synonymous with withdrawal, quite the contrary,” so reminded the sovereign prince in Brussels, in front of an audience of 150 European emissaries. “The taking into account of the particular situation of my country passes by formal recognition of its unique characteristics (…) They have a considerable and undeniable impact on the life and the existence of the country,” he added. Has Prince Albert II finally been heard? In the Principality, all we can do is interpret the reactions coming from Brussels, and, in particular, the declarations of Jean-Claude Juncker, to be strong signals of progress.

We take this opportunity to remind readers the European succes of the Schengen area, which was created 34 years ago. In 1985 Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany and France signed the first agreements for the abolition of internal borders. Today the area has 26 countries and allows 400 million citizens to move around without bureaucratic hassle. Today, thanks to these agreements, European citizens make every year 1.25 billion travel within the Schengen area, of which 26 countries belong. Among the states of the European Union, only the United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus have decided not to (still, in some cases) part of the area, while Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, although not belonging to the EU, are members. To these 26 countries must then be added three microstates that can be considered as “factual” members of the area because they do not foresee border controls: Vatican City, San Marino and Monaco.

Main source: *Article originally published on the French Edition of the Monaco Tribune.

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