Text and pictures: Ayla Städler und Leon Straschewski
If it weren’t for the checkpoint, I would have changed countries without noticing. But it’s early, the commute is in full swing, and people are jammed at the border control. About thirty thousand people come to work in this small country, the second smallest in the world – after Vatican City. You can’t afford to live here if you work in one of the professions that make life easier and more luxurious for others. You can live here only temporarily, or if you have quite a lot of money – and then it might even be worth it.
Monaco divides its population into three categories: first, there are the native Monegasques, they are entitled to state housing, which they can also inherit. The „children of the country“ are also entitled to housing; they are the group of those who have lived in the country for generations but do not have Monegasque citizenship. The third category is that of wealthy foreigners. They form the overwhelming majority.
Imagine being really rich. But not so rich that you wouldn’t care if a state benefited fiscally from your wealth. You want to keep your money together, decide for yourself what to invest in and where to invest it. In this case, a tax haven is just right for you – in this case, for example, Monaco is just right for you. There you won’t be noticed at all, you are one of about 29700 people, seventy-seven point five percent, who have no citizenship but their main residence in Monaco. You are one of the world’s rich who benefit – literally – from the fact that there is no income or inheritance tax, and if you ever do something wrong abroad, tax crimes are not prosecuted either. Monaco is an island for rich people, where they can sip champagne among their peers on a postage stamp-sized piece of the Côte d’Azur.
One problem, however, is space. The small country on the French Riviera is just over two square kilometers in size, and people literally pile up on it. Tunnels and elevators lead from floor to floor. Again and again, the view of the Mediterranean Sea opens up unexpectedly. Monaco is an island surrounded by French soil on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. To gain land, it is lifted out of the sea. Land is precious, housing so expensive that only the richest can afford it; if they are not citizens, they are entitled to state housing accordingly. Still, quiet oases pop up here and there that I would not have expected. Here, you do not notice the confinement in, that is the most populated state on earth. The people here seem to be good at creating islands. Be it to save taxes, to celebrate wealth or to find peace.
More pictures from Leon Straschewski: https://leonstraschewski.com/