New Laws in San Marino Will Spur Foreign Investment, Ambassador Tells Qorvis’ Focus Washington
Fighting terrorism and money laundering are among the country’s top priorities.
Laws passed this year by the San Marino government to combat global terrorism and tax evasion will support the growth of foreign investments within the small country’s borders, San Marino Ambassador Paolo Rondelli told Qorvis’ Focus Washington.
“San Marino changed a lot in the last years,” the ambassador told Focus Washington host Chuck Conconi. “We approved a lot of bills to fight terrorism and money laundering and to improve our legislation.”
Tax reform to comply with international standards has been a necessary undertaking for the San Marino government. The European financial crisis left the small nation facing a large outflow of deposits in its banking sector. San Marino has been on Italy’s “blacklist” of nations it considers to be tax havens, which has also been an impediment to attracting international business and investment.
Although the government has been instituting reforms for several years, Rondelli said major strides were made when San Marino passed a law “for the development of investments” this summer.
San Marino hopes to be removed from Italy’s blacklist and improve its standing with the European Union as the government implements the new measures, which include currency and banking controls to combat money laundering and mechanisms to prevent tax evasion by foreign nationals. In light of this progress, Rondelli was optimistic about future investment in San Marino, saying his home nation is now “a perfect place for a new company.”
Rondelli also told Conconi that the United States provided critical technical support to his government in developing these new measures.
”The United States helped us,” Rondelli said. “The Department of Treasury sent some experts to San Marino to train the financial investigation unit a couple of years ago, so we are on the same line as the United States: to fight terrorism and money laundering.
The welcome mat is out for investors, and benefits for investors include a path to citizenship.
“We have a lot of room and a lot of buildings that can be a perfect place for a new company established there or for a company owned by a foreign company. So if U.S. investors want to invest, we are ready for them.”
Inclusion in the EU
Membership in the European Union is currently a subject of national debate in San Marino, and Rondelli said the decision will eventually be up to the people of San Marino.
“The Captains Regent, the heads of state, have to sign the decree,” the ambassador said, which he explained would create a referendum allowing the population to vote on whether San Marino should apply for the European Union.”
San Marino has made several integration agreements with the European Union to date, including the adoption of the euro, an open borders policy and a customs union, which includes agricultural products.
”There is a big discussion and we are waiting,” Rondelli said.
Historic Importance of Liberty
A long-standing tradition of liberty in San Marino drives the country’s policies at home and abroad. Rondelli said San Marino maintains a strong stance on promoting liberty. The word libertas – or “liberty” in Latin – is inscribed on San Marino’s coat of arms.
“Freedom is the word that guided our policy since centuries,” Rondelli said. “So freedom, interreligious dialogue, intercultural dialogue and international cooperation is our main issue.”
San Marino is the world’s oldest sovereign republic, founded in 301 A.D. It is also one of the world’s smallest nations, with its territory of roughly 24 square miles slightly more than one-third the size of the District of Columbia. It is home to about 35,000 people.
Completely surrounded by Italy, San Marino has vigorously defended its freedom and independence for centuries. The ambassador said a group of cardinals within the Catholic Church attempted to conquer San Marino in the 18th century, but Pope Clement XII eventually gave official recognition to San Marino’s independence.
“They tried to enlarge the Stato della Chiesa [Papal States] with San Marino, too,” the ambassador said. “And so they came to San Marino and they invaded San Marino for a while, but the Pope stopped them.”
San Marino maintained that independence through the unification of Italy, perhaps through the intervention of Giuseppe Garibaldi with Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, the new nation’s first king. Garibaldi had taken refuge in San Marino for a time as the Roman Republic was collapsing, according to the ambassador.
Ambassador Rondelli, who is also a historian, says this is an extraordinary achievement. He said that San Marino’s commitment to freedom dates back to the nation’s founding by its namesake, Saint Marinus, a Dalmatian stonemason who was fleeing persecution in present-day Croatia.
“He came to the top of the mountain and reached independence with a small community of Christians,” said Rondelli.
Chuck Conconi: Welcome to Focus Washington. I’m Chuck Conconi and my guest today is San Marino Ambassador Paolo Rondelli. Ambassador, thank you for being here today.
Ambassador Rondelli: Thank you.
Conconi: San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world, of course, and it is completely surrounded by Italy. What are the main issues that drive your foreign policy?
Ambassador Rondelli: Well, obviously, we have to keep the country safe and full of freedom. Freedom is the word that guided our policy since centuries. We also have the word libertas. That is the meaning for freedom in our coat of arm. So freedom, interreligious dialogue, intercultural dialogue and international cooperation is our main issues.
Conconi: Well how do you maintain that independence and your identity?
Ambassador Rondelli: Well this is quite strange. I am also a historian, so it is my business, more or less…
Conconi: Just to interrupt on that, how long have you been an independent entity?
Ambassador Rondelli: Well we are the oldest republic in the world. This year we will celebrate our 1700 … let me see … it is one thousand seven hundred and…
Conconi: Well that’s incredible, one thousand and seven hundred…
Ambassador Rondelli: Yes.
Conconi: Some seventeen hundred years…
Ambassador Rondelli: Yes, more than 1700 years, so it is the oldest republic in the world. And it has been founded by San Marino [Saint Marinus], who was a saint escaping from the actual Croatia from prosecution. So he came to the top of the mountain and reached independence with a small community of Christians. But I think the key point was during the building of the Italian kingdom in the 19th century. At that stage, in 1849, we saved General Garibaldi, who was then the hero of the independence of Italy and the construction of Italy. He was escaping from the collapsing of the Roman Republic and he has been saved in San Marino, and after 11 years when he built up Italy for the King of Savoia–Vittorio Emanuele II di Savoia—I suppose, we supposed, that he put in the right word in to the king to save San Marino
Conconi: Save San Marino?
Ambassador Rondelli: Yes, exactly. And before that in 1815 during the Council of Vienna after the Napoleonic campaign, San Marino was saved again just because, probably, he refused the enlargement offered by the Emperor of France, by Napoleon. So we saved ourselves.
Conconi: So you saved yourself…
Ambassador Rondelli: Just with diplomacy.
Conconi: But is there any movement to try and incorporate San Marino as part of Italy?
Ambassador Rondelli: Ah, well obviously yes, obviously yes, we have in the past, especially by the State of the Church, and so did the previous State of the Church, due to the action of a couple of cardinals. They tried to enlarge the Stato della Chiesa [Papal States] with San Marino, too. And so they came to San Marino, and they invaded San Marino for a while, but the Pope stopped them.
Conconi: So is there any movement on your part or anyone in San Marino that, think you ought to join the European Union?
Ambassador Rondelli: There is a big discussion and we are waiting. Just the captains regent (the heads of state) have to sign the decree in these days just to fix the date of a referendum, a referendum that will fix the consultation of the population to vote for if we apply or not for the European Union.
Conconi: One quick last question, what are you objectives in the relationship you have with the United States and what are you doing there to encourage foreign investment?
Ambassador Rondelli: Well on this stage, San Marino changed a lot in the last years. We approved a lot of bills to fight terrorism and money laundering and to improve our legislation, and the United States helped us. The Department of Treasury sent some experts to San Marino to train the financial investigation unit a couple of years ago, and so we are on the same line as the United States for … to fight the terrorism and the money laundering. And recently, very recently, less than one month ago, about 20 days ago, a new law has been approved, a new bill has been approved, for the development of investments. So there are some new provisions so a foreigner can establish residence and can move to San Marino with a development plan to build up a factory …
Conconi: Do you have room?
Ambassador Rondelli: Pardon?
Conconi: Do you have room?
Ambassador Rondelli: Yes, we have it. We have a lot of room and a lot of buildings that can be … a perfect place for a new company established there or for a company owned by a foreign company … that would be perfect. So if U.S .investors want to invest, we are ready for them.
Conconi: Okay. Well thank you for being here, Ambassador.
Ambassador Rondelli: Thank you so much.
Conconi: I’m Chuck Conconi and this has been Focus Washington.