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The Vatican City (Stato della Città del Vaticano) is an independent sovereign state officially known as the State of the Vatican City. It is located within the city of Rome and is the smallest independent state in the world (around 44 hectares). This special territory was created after the signing of the Lateran Treaty on 11 February 1929, between Italy and the Holy See. The signing of the agreements took place in Lateran Palace on Caelian Hill in Rome (Lateran Pacts). It is not a member of the European Union (EU).
Today, this territory is delimitated by walls and situated within the city of Rome itself. It is headed by the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis who is assisted by high-level clergymen of the Catholic Church. Around 800 people live in the Vatican City.
It should not be confused with the Holy See (Santa Sede or Sede Apostolica), which existed long before the foundation of the State of the Vatican City. The Catholic Church carries out its mission with the help of the various churches located around the world and with the work of its central government, which is headed by the Pope.
The Holy See is in fact the Supreme institution of the Catholic Church. 175 sovereign states are represented at the Holy See in Rome along with the EU and the Order of Malta. In fact, the Embassies are accredited to the Holy See and not to the Vatican City which represents its territory.
The Vatican has its own channel on YouTube that offers news coverage of the main activities of the Holy Father and of relevant Vatican events.
The first Head of the EU Delegation in Rome, Mr Luis Ritto, was accredited to the Holy See on 24 June 2006, following approval by the EU countries on 4 April 2006. The visit by President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, to Pope Benedict XVI on 5 May 2006 opened the way for this accreditation, and showed the interest and commitment of the EC President in establishing full diplomatic relations between the EU and the Holy See. With this accreditation, the EU brought the relations to an appropriate footing of reciprocity, the Holy See having already established diplomatic relations with the EU in 1970 and having detached a Diplomatic Nuncio ever since. On 6 February 2012, Ambassador Laurence Argimon-Pistre presented her Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI as new Head of the EU Delegation to the Holy See. Ambassador Argimon-Pistre has already met on several occasions with Pope Francis.
The Vatican’s customs rules are based on a 1930 agreement with Italy which exempts the Vatican from all Community duties and taxes. The small amount of goods originating in the Vatican and exported to Italy is exempt from duty and subject to a preferential arrangement.
In view of the introduction of the euro, the EU Council of Ministers authorised Italy to negotiate a new Monetary Agreement with the Vatican City which was signed in 2000. The maximum amount of coins which may be minted by the Vatican City, initially set at €670 000, was raised in 2004 to €1 million. On special occasions (anniversaries, vacancies of the papal throne, ecumenical councils), the Vatican City may mint up to an additional €300 000 per year. It may also continue to issue collectable coins of which the total amount must still be within the above ceilings, however.
The activities of the EU Delegation in Rome with the Vatican are dealt with by the Head of Delegation who attends ceremonies and events organised by the Vatican. The Head of Delegation also chairs the coordination with the countries accredited to the Holy See. The relations have focused on issues such as the inter-religious dialogue, the international political situation (e.g. tensions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, the refugee crisis in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, environmental issues, poverty and hunger, etc.) and some specific EU internal debates (Christian roots of Europe, family values, etc.).
Since the accreditation, the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Parliament, the President of the Council and several European Commissioners have paid official visits to the Vatican.
This growing manifestation of interest in Vatican matters is opening the way for the development of a more structured political dialogue with the Holy See.