In his last years in office, Prince Rainier caused another upheaval in his own country. From the moment the National Council was established in 1962, for forty years there was an almost permanent absolute majority of one political party, the UND (Union Nationale Démocratique). This movement was led by a few dominant families.
Because the electorate consisted of a small group of only Monegasques, who in many cases were socially or economically dependent on this elite, the elections did not amount to much in practice. It was therefore not surprising that at the turn of the century the President of the National Council (Jean-Louis Campora) was a twin brother of the Mayor of Monaco (Anne-Marie Campora). Because hardly anyone dared to run against this party, the UND remained in power for so long in the absence of opposition.
Yet a new generation did not like that and supported by the Monarch, it would come to an end immediately after the beginning of the 21st century. Prince Rainier believed that politics in Monaco should be pluralistic, and he used the possible affiliation with the Council of Europe as a kind of pressure on local politics. A few young people stood up to attack the power bloc. The then 40-year-old Stéphane Valeri began to build a new party, Union Pour Monaco (UPM) with patience and made his mark in 2003.
Just when accession to the Council of Europe had become a hot issue, the UND went against the Prince’s wishes and opposed accession under certain conditions. Prince Rainier had set himself the goal of Monaco joining the Council of Europe during his reign. In an interview in Monaco-Matin he called on the people to trust his vision for the country. “Everyone who loves me follows me!” In doing so, he clearly opted for the opposition and especially for the youngsters, such as Valeri.
In 2003, the UPM won the elections by a large majority. There was a real revolution in the National Council, as this new movement won 21 of the 24 seats. The UND was wiped out after forty years. Both Camporas left the scene. Valeri became the new President of the National Council and the also young Georges Marsan was elected mayor. And on April 27, 2004, Monaco became the 46th country to become a member of the Council of Europe. On October 5, Prince Albert gave an official speech in Strasbourg. Prince Rainier and his son, with a velvet glove, had brought about a necessary change of power in Monegasque politics.
Prince Rainier made another striking decision after the 2003 election results. He introduced a new naturalisation law, giving Monegasque nationality to descendants of Monegasque women who had lived permanently in Monaco. Until then, nationality was only transferred in the male line. As a result, the number of Monegasques increased by half from 5000 to 7600. All these newcomers were also given the right to vote immediately, when they reached the age of majority. It was a remarkable breakthrough in the closed system, which was in line with the other reforms that Prince Rainier carried out in the last years of his reign to prepare his country for a new future.
It was clear that the monarch was preparing his country for the era under the leadership of his son Albert, but he wanted to keep control for as long as possible. He also didn’t think about stepping down, although he became physically vulnerable.
At the turn of the millennium, he opened two more crucial buildings for the Principality. In November 1999, Monaco was given a new train station, underground, which removed the entire three-kilometre railway line in Monaco. “With this, Monaco takes its first step into the new millennium,” the Monarch proudly announced at the opening. Six months later, the Grimaldi Forum was inaugurated, a multifunctional cultural centre with an area of 35,000 square metres with four concert halls on eight floors, up to nineteen metres below sea level. The Prince called the building “an amazing ship of modern times” at its opening.
This building was an example of the change of course for tourism that Prince Rainier had in mind for his country. He announced this in 1995: “We want to focus more on business tourism in the coming years. Monaco is an ideal place to hold congresses and seminars. There is still a lot of growth in this market, and we can reap the benefits if we do our best.” One of the first organisations to use the Grimaldi Forum was UEFA, as the European Football Union would hold a congress in the building every August around the draw of the prestigious Champions League. Monaco also tried to generate much more international attention by organising festivals and sports competitions at the beginning of this century.
SBM had a new prestigious hotel built by the sea, behind the Larvotto peninsula: Monte Carlo Bay Hotel, which opened on October 1, 2005. In addition, almost every hotel received a facelift in the first years of the new century. Also not unimportant was the construction of a dike in the form of the floating quay over 325 metres, making Monaco accessible to cruise ships. This dike is a hydraulic marvel, because it floats on the water and is only joined to the seabed, which lies sixty metres below the dike, by a few cables. These were the last impulses that Prince Rainier could give to his country.
His reign was mainly determined by the modernisation of his beloved country. But the image that remains of him is mainly linked to his marriage to Princess Grace, who died in 1982 because of a traffic accident. It was the greatest shock of his reign, and the death of his wife cast a shadow over the magnificent era.
As a mark of his stature, after a period of mourning, he picked up the thread again and continued his mission to make his country count in the world. He made a metamorphosis. When Prince Rainier died on April 6, 2005, he left behind a modern, cosmopolitan, and, above all, a very prosperous country.
TO BE CONTINUED