Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco (French: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque: Principatu de Múnegu; Italian: Principato di Monaco; Occitan: Principat de Mónegue), is a small sovereign city-state located in South Western Europe on the northern central coast of the Mediterranean Sea, having a land border on three sides only with France, and being about 16 km (9.9 mi) away from Italy. Its size is just under 2 km² with an estimated population of almost 33,000. Monaco is the world's most densely populated sovereign country, and the world's smallest French-speaking country. An average person takes less than an hour to walk the entire length of the country. Monaco is the name of the country as well as the name of its only and capital city. It is often regarded as a tax haven, and many of its inhabitants are wealthy and from foreign countries, making up a majority of the population, at around 84%.
Monaco is a constitutional monarchy and principality, with Prince Albert II as head of state. The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco since 1297, and the state's sovereignty was officially recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. Despite being independent, Monaco's defence is the responsibility of France.
One of Monaco's main sources of income is tourism; each year many are attracted to its casino and pleasant climate. (Monaco's own citizens are not allowed to gamble in the casino.) In 2001, a major new construction project extended the pier used by cruise ships in the main harbour. The principality has successfully sought to diversify into services and small, high-value-added, non-polluting industries, such as cosmetics and biothermics.
The state retains monopolies in numerous sectors, including tobacco and the postal service. The telephone network (Monaco Telecom) used to be fully owned by the state; it now owns only 45%, while the remaining 55% is owned by both Cable & Wireless (49%) and Compagnie Monégasque de Banque (6%). It is still, however, a monopoly. Living standards are high, roughly comparable to those in prosperous French metropolitan areas.
Monaco is not a member of the European Union. However, it is very closely linked via a customs union with France, and as such, its currency is the same as that of France, the euro. Before 2002, Monaco minted its own coins, the Monegasque franc. Monaco has acquired the right to mint euro coins with Monegasque designs on its national side.