The Minister of State was invited to the Monaco Press club this week. It was an opportunity for Serge Telle to discuss the negotiations with the European Union.
Serge Telle is someone who takes his time to exchange, explain and listen, not confusing communication with information. The former diplomat, notably France’s first ambassador to Monaco, The Minister of State since the beginning of the year, has mastered the art of rhetoric. At the Yacht Club, he met the members of the Monaco Press club to discuss the negotiations between the Principality and the European Union. He sees Europe as an opportunity. He answered questions from journalists and explained the stakes and prospects for Monaco.
– Europe is an issue for Monaco. Is there a priority?
– There are many … We are basically a European country. And at the same time, we must remain who we are. With agreements between the Principality and the EU, Monaco would gain in sovereignty. Some argue that Monaco may be crushed by the EU’s steamroller. Europe will allow us to have access to the internal market. Today, our companies are struggling to export our products. The pharmaceutical company Asepta Akiléine, for example, one of the jewels of the Monegasque economy, must have SARL in Beausoleil (France) to export its products. Or for example, students of Monegasque nationality cannot take Erasmus programs.
– Why negotiate with the EU now?
– There were 130 agreements with France that protected Monaco. But France has no bargaining power in a number of sectors. So we need to deal with Europe directly. And we will do it. Negotiations are continuing.
– What about national priority?
– It will be respected.
– How to negotiate with a heavy-weight such as the EU?
– It’s a little like David and Goliath. And you know who wins the fight. We know exactly where we want to go. There is, on the European side, a real will to have this European geographical space assembled. They wish it. And we want it too.
– The ideal deal?
– Allow Monegasques to settle wherever they want in Europe. Same for the circulation of products.
– Does the freedom of residency for Monegasques also correspond to the possibility of EU nationals settling in Monaco?
– We are not going to have hordes of Monegasques wanting to settle in the EU. And we cannot accommodate hordes of Europeans. With 7,000 people of Monegasque nationality, we do not have all the skills. That is why Monaco has always been open to the world. But we will ensure that there is always a mechanism of prior authorization to settle in the territory. It will be according to our needs. It is a rule that will work with exceptions.
– How to transpose European law?
– This is a mountain to climb. We are already very advanced. We are looking at staffing requirements to sort out the regulations on the movement of goods. The amount of work is colossal. We must take back the community acquis and the dynamic acquis. Brussels continues to produce more text every day. We will look with the national council how to do this in the best way. The elected representatives know exactly where we are and are associated with this negotiation, which will have consequences for the functioning of the institutions.
– Are there any deadlines?
– We cannot speculate whether there are any deadlines for two or three more years. Europe has entered a period of uncertainty marked by Brexit and probably also by the election of Donald Trump in the United States. We are not in a hurry. With a surplus budget, we do not need communal money from the EU.
– What if you cannot reach an agreement?
– We will not close the door to Europe because there will be, perhaps, one day, the possibility of an agreement.
– The trend towards protectionism is also present in Monaco…
– Nationalism is never good news. In Monaco, I think that discussions are evolving because the government constantly displays its own work openly. The concerns are justified. The Prince wants Monaco to develop and the Monegasques to live happily. That is our roadmap.
– What if Marine Le Pen is elected president in 2017?
– I do not foresee Marine le Pen coming to power in France. I hope it doesn’t happen.
– What is your assessment of this past year as head of the government?
– I was happy to return to Monaco. Now I represent and defend the interests of Monegasques. As ambassador, I was not connected to Monaco that close.
– What are your relations with the sovereign Prince?
– Extraordinarily cordial! His confidence in me makes me feel honoured. He is a person with whom I work very closely. The Sovereign embodies a great moral conscience of our time; notably on issues related to ocean conservation, biodiversity and sustainable development.
– What is a typical day of the Minister of State like?
– Daily life is very intense. Relations with the Prince are constant. We send text messages to each other. He’s a modern Head of State. We share major issues through this means of communication.
– Do you think that a Monegasque may succeed you?
– I do not know what the sovereign’s decision will be. The Franco-Monegasques agreements allow all possibilities. Today, there are no other countries in the world where the head of state can be a foreigner. But Cardinal Mazarin was an Italian and the Minister of Louis XIV.
– Foreign minister … with another vision of governing?
– I think it’s a good thing. It would be an extraordinary and perhaps safer way to build Europe. If Europe keeps growing, we could have multinational governments.
– Among the big issues to be dealt with in Monaco: Pensions for civil servants.
– It is crucial that we discuss not giving the financial burden of retired people to future generations.