Are European union member states sovereign?

  • Because the member states have to obey some rules, such as :

    • Placing the EU flag on the left all licence plates
    • Have to grant freedom of movement
    • Have to be member of the ESE and grant free trade
    • Have to use the € currency unless they get a derogation like the UK did
    • Have to follow rules for e.g. electrical, agriculture, etc..

    Can we really consider EU members as sovereign states ?

    They retain partial soveregnity. E.g. they lose fiscal/monetary one but retain military/foreign policy.

    @DVK: being in the EU isn't the same as using the Euro, although the countries in the Euro of course do pass up monetary policy. Those outside the Euro have as much monetary sovereignty as ever.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the Euro was originally planned to be obligatory, it's only because UK and Sweden say they'd leave if they were to have to use Euro that they give them derogation for it.

    Some questions: Are countries that make treaties and agreements sovereign?. Is it a function of the extent of the treaties you make (which can be far reaching in the EU's case) or is it a function of the states ability to withdraw from these obligations (which countries in the EU can)?

    @Bregalad You're wrong about the Euro. The UK and Sweden wouldn't have had to leave the EU to avoid using the Euro; they would simply have vetoed its introduction. Major changes such as the introduction of the Euro have to be agreed by all EU members, or they don't happen. Even one member voting against would have been enough to kill it.

    By extension, do all treaties involve some partial loss of sovereignty?

    Independent states are fully sovereign by the very definition of the term. However, it is extremely common for states to give up some of the powers typically associated with sovereignty (e.g., the power to wage and declare war at will) to a supranational body (e.g. the UN) at its own will.

  • Mike Scott

    Mike Scott Correct answer

    7 years ago

    EU member states retain full sovereignty -- there's not even such a thing as partial sovereignty. Sovereign states can voluntarily delegate some or even all of their powers to either smaller areas (devolution and local government) or larger areas (international treaties and unions). As long as those powers can be reclaimed by the state, then that doesn't affect their sovereignty at all. Since EU member states can leave the EU, they are sovereign states.

    But according to that logic republics of Soviet Union were sovereign states too - they could (and did) leave. Furthermore, using this approach we will have to regard members of any confederation\federation\union as sovereign states as long as they can withdraw from that union. Which is IMHO incorrect. In my opinion, withdrawing from such union and regaining powers delegated to it, constitutes *restoration* of sovereignty. Which means it was somehow diminished by membership in it.

    Between 1945 and 1988, it was pretty clear that Soviet republics could not in fact leave the USSR. If the Soviet Union would send in tanks to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, which were merely Warsaw Pact countries, it would hardly have allowed USSR member states to leave.

    That's actually a technicality. USSR existed longer then 1988 so we could change the question to "were SU republics sovereign in 1989?" but lets just pretend that they really could leave at any point of time. So, would it make them sovereign?

    (+1) This is a very important point and the reason why small things like stars on cars' license plates really have nothing to do with sovereignty. However, the extent to which countries can really leave the union and whether some other aspects of its architecture mean the member states are not sovereign anymore is debated, on a theoretical level. Even article 50 TEU is kind of paradoxical: If member states are sovereign how does it make sense to seemingly ‘grant’ them the right to leave or put procedural constraints on their withdrawal?

    @Relaxed sovereign states can still enter binding international contracts with other states (e.g. peace treaties). Even though they technically could ignore those, doing so would be a precedent for the other parties. Having provisions for leaving the union makes the divorce ordered and helps minimizing the chaos of such a decision.

    @Chieron Not sure what your point is? States can obviously denounce treaties, that's my point.

    @Relaxed I was pointing out that there is no paradox in *seemingly granting them the right to leave* and sovereignity. They could *also* just leave without using that right (renouncing the entire treaty unilaterally), but that generally would be frowned upon.

    @Chieron The paradox is that it usually goes without saying, it does not need to be granted, I still don't see how your remarks show otherwise. Whether a country could also just leave isn't completely obvious. As I said, I tend to think so too (that's why I upvoted the answer) but that's what's in debate.

    @Relaxed a formal right and procedure allows ending the relationship without breaking the treaty ouright. Explicitly including the option to leave means less arguing about the legality of such actions in international relations. Breaking/renouncing a treaty is a diplomatic affront, even if technically allowed within sovereignity.

    Please note that the Ukraine was recognized as a sovereign state since the foundation of the UN. I know this is a technicality, but the question is about a technicality.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM