“Monaco must continue to be attractive to investors”
POLITICS/Prince Albert II answered questions from L’Obs in an interview with the local press. They ranged from the National Council’s leeway on the offshore extension project to the lack of cabinet reshuffles and on to future projects.
You voiced your emotion straight after the Paris attacks. What message do you wish to send the Monegasque population in this very particular situation?
Beyond emotion, compassion and solidarity with France, a country with which we share a common destiny, I understand that concerns may also appear. Monaco is fortunate to benefit from a high level of security, however. This is nevertheless being strengthened by increased vigilance measures implemented by the public authorities. The population is also invited to play its part in this.
Regarding the offshore extension, does the National Council need to pass the release law for implantation of the project before 30th July 2016 to comply with the agreement signed with Bouygues?
There is no ‘guillotine effect’but I cannot envisage it being later than that. Everyone must take responsibility. In order to be correct with Bouygues and honour the contract, it needs to be passed prior to that date. There is plenty of time to study the record and make the necessary observations. And it is not a question of reconsidering the entire project. It was approved a long time ago and has been presented comprehensively to the National Council. It is a balanced project, carefully considered and negotiated, which can be changed at the margins but not regarding its main lines.
What do you consider “marginal adjustments”?
We can potentially discuss marginally the compensation balance to be allocated to the State. Constructing another public building on this offshore extension would distort the project. We have decided to build new areas for the Grimaldi Forum, which lacks space for hosting very large exhibitions and fairs. This extension will be underground with some skylights. When all is said and done, we can largely satisfy demand for state-owned housing in other operations in Monaco.
Has Laurent Nouvion suggested the possibility of negotiating inland compensation with the government?
We can satisfy demand for state-owned housing in other operations in Monaco without involving the offshore extension project.
Do you think the National Council may go as far as coming to loggerheads with you?
I would prefer not to go that far. If need be I will do so, only as a courtesy to the syndicate that has already incurred expense. Having said that, President Laurent Nouvion has committed to pass the release law. And I hope to convince him to have it passed on time.
Is there talk of former French ambassador Serge Telle replacing Michel Roger as Minister of State?
The choice of Minister of State is not dictated by rumours. The assignment Michel Roger was entrusted with has not finished. Should there be a change in the Minister of State, you will be notified in enough time to “write your articles” (he smiles) – it is not news.
You made historic apologies at the 27 August roundup memorial ceremony, while the report of the dispossession victims compensation commission and a book on this period to be published in late 2015 establish the transparency taken on by Monaco in relation to its past. Why did you personally decide to open this painful page?
22 years ago, my father had a plaque placed in memory of the deportees. Very soon after my accession, I wanted us to address this terrible period of the Second World War. My generation has not lived through that past, so perhaps finds it less difficult to talk about. That is why I set up a commission to study the cases of dispossession in Monaco. There are still one or two cases that could receive compensation, so its mission is not completely over.
Furthermore, I requested that independent experts draft a report on the events taking place in Monaco in the Second World War. I received that report in spring 2015 and I wanted it to be translated into English and made freely accessible on the internet to guarantee it the widest possible dissemination. I felt the moral duty to go as far as apologising for some actions committed in Monaco with the authorisation of a representative of the government of that time. I had to pay tribute to the victims of those atrocities.
You note the return of the extreme right in Europe and repugnant rhetoric. Are you concerned about that?
Yes, I am. This phenomenon is worrying for everyone committed to democracy. All extremist demonstrations are reprehensible.
On social networks we are seeing people from Monaco going off the rails, particularly regarding refugees and migrants accused of taking state-owned apartments reserved for the Monegasques.
If it is necessary to call people to order, I will ensure my government does so. These are worrying drifts. We have already made a gesture by welcoming two Eastern Christian families to Monaco. It will be difficult for us to go further but aid is already taking other forms. In any case, this solidarity and allocation of housing will not discriminate against the local demand.
Monaco’s population is rising rapidly, so how can residents’housing expectations for 2030, or even beyond, be met?
The number of state-owned homes has increased in recent years and new operations (L’Engelin, Testimonio II) are underway to meet the expectations of nationals who need housing. It will reach 3500 apartments by 2020. A study has evidenced that 80 new homes per year are needed, which would bring the total to 4500 in 2030, notably with the Ida and Annonciade II projects. For the coming years, we are also considering the reconstruction or heightening of existing buildings. Recently, I appreciated the work of a company in Paris that transforms buildings with very strong crossed laminated timber structures. This is highly aesthetic and can be a path.
Bernard Arnault has become a minority shareholder in SBM and Xavier Niel has acquired Monaco Telecom – how do you see the Monegasque economy in 2050?
Our economy is doing well. We will need to continue to diversify Monaco’s economy and open up even more internationally and as regards innovation. Monaco must continue to be attractive to investors. So we need to retain the strengths that have made us successful to date. There is a shortage of office space. It is up to us to weigh up and pre-empt our needs well.
Do you see multinationals moving here?
We seek to attract non-polluting industries with high added value that do not need a large surface area to move here. We should consider the new information technology sector and communications or biotechnology, for example.
What is your priority project for the next 10 years of your reign?
The offshore extension is obviously a priority project. But it is not the only one. I appreciate the project to build two museums at the end of quai Antoine-1er, the first devoted to mankind and the sea with the archaeologist Franck Goddio’s collections, and the other dedicated to the Grimaldi family, particularly to house the items from the exhibition dedicated to my mother, that continues its touring and will soon return to Monaco. To ensure the financing of this project, such that it is not a burden on the state finances, I am not against there being an adjacent real estate operation that is not too imposing and will not obscure the view of Fort Antoine, to self-finance its fulfilment. We have also received other offers to house contemporary art collections. I consider them interesting but we need to find space.
_Interview by Milena Radoman
No ghetto for the wealthy
While some people fear the future offshore extension will turn into a “luxury ghetto “for foreigners, with a square metre price verging on euro100,000, Prince Albert chose to be reassuring, “We hear much speculation about property prices but they are not going to be prohibitive prices that frighten our current residents.” On 31 July, the concession agreement was signed by Michel Roger, the Minister of State of Monaco, and Gérard Brianti, deputy president of the Monegasque limited company Anse du Portier, a SAM bringing together the Bouygues group, its partners and the Monegasque players responsible for the development of the coastal infrastructure. This 60,000 sq. m. eco-district project, designed by architects Renzo Piano, Alexandre Giraldi and Denis Valode and landscape architect Michel Desvigne, includes high-end housing, shops (around 3000 m2) and a Grimaldi Forum extension of around 3500 m2, as well as a public car-park and a thirty-ring marina. A 1 hectare planted park will give a “green” touch to this coastal district. On the timing front, work is planned to start in autumn 2016 with completion of the coastal infrastructure in 2020, while the buildings should be ready in 2022.