San Marino country brief

Overview

The Republic of San Marino is an enclaved microstate in central Italy, near Rimini. It is the third smallest state in Europe after the Holy See and the Principality of Monaco, occupying 61 square kilometres. The population of San Marino is just over 32,000. San Marino's landscape is dominated by the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mount Titano, which peaks at 735 metres. The official language of San Marino is Italian and the majority of the population is ethnically Sammarinese, with smaller numbers of Italians also present.

Bilateral relationship

Australia and San Marino established formal diplomatic relations in 1995, with accreditation through the Australian Embassy in Rome. San Marino has had an Honorary Consul-General in Australia, based in Victoria, since 2007. In recognition of the growing relationship between Australia and San Marino, a bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreement was signed in 2010. In April 2012, then Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Richard Marles MP, visited the Republic, the first such high-level visit from either side.

Australia's economic relations with San Marino are minimal and official statistics are not recorded.

History

Archaeological evidence shows that the area around San Marino has been inhabited since prehistoric times. San Marino's traditional history begins, however, in 301AD with the establishment of a community of Christians escaping persecution from the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The community was founded by the stonemason Marinus, later given sainthood to become the San Marino after whom the state is named.

San Marino was under temporary occupation by foreign military forces in 1503 and 1739, however was able to avoid occupation by Napoleonic troops in the prolonged series of European wars at the end of the 18th century. During the mid-19th century war of unification, San Marino's provision of asylum to Garibaldi's pro-unification troops enabled it to extract a guarantee of independence from the newly formed Italy.

The Republic has a reputation for hospitality, especially its historic generosity to asylum seekers. During the Second World War, despite having a resident population of just 15,000, San Marino provided shelter and asylum to 100,000 evacuees from Italy.

Political overview

San Marino's republican constitution dates back to 1600 and, on this basis, it claims to be the world's oldest continuous republic.  Head of State functions are fulfilled by two Captains Regent who have largely ceremonial roles and are selected by the legislature of the Republic: the Great and General Council (Consiglio grande e generale).  The Captains Regent serve concurrent six-month terms. Their investiture occurs on 1 April and 1 October every year. The current Captains Regent are Valeria Ciavatta and Luca Beccari.   

The Great and General Council of the legislature of the Republic is a unicameral legislature with 60 members. The members of the Council are elected under a system of proportional representation to serve five year terms.

Executive power is vested in the Congress of State, a cabinet group formed from the ranks of the winning coalition in the Great and General Council. The Congress is composed of 10 secretaries, the most important of which is the Secretary of State, whose role is prime ministerial in nature. Since the 2012 elections this role has been filled by Secretary of State for Foreign and Political Affairs, Pasquale Valentini.

The current government coalition, elected in November 2012, is a centrist grouping, known as San Marino Bene Comune (the "Pact for San Marino”). The coalition comprises representatives of the Christian Democratic Party, the Party of Socialists and Democrats, and the Popular Alliance. It won 51.1 per cent of the vote and obtained the largest single share of preferences from Sammarinese living abroad, with 49 per cent of votes.

Economic Overview

San Marino's economy is based predominantly on tourism and banking. It also has small agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Italy is San Marino's main trading partner, accounting for over 80 per cent of exports. Although not a member of the European Union, San Marino uses the Euro as its national currency under a special agreement with the Council of the European Union.

In September 2009, the OECD removed San Marino from its list of tax havens in recognition of the efforts San Marino had made towards harmonising its fiscal laws with the EU and international standards. In 2010, San Marino signed Tax Information Exchange Agreements with most major countries, including Australia.  In February 2014, Italy removed San Marino from its blacklist of tax havens, following the signing of a double taxation agreement in 2013.

Traditionally a prosperous nation, the global economic downturn (including weakened demand from Italy) and the restructuring of its banking sector have had a negative effect on San Marino's economy, which has contracted by 30 per cent since 2008.