Foreign Policy Blogs

Europe Becomes A Russian Doll?

Last week Daniel Hannan of the Telegraph argued that since, per the Lisbon Treaty,  the EU can now sign treaties, it is now a state (h/t Opinio Juris).  Hannan cites Article I of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

Julian Ku of Opinio Juris notes that actually it’s a little more complicated:

For one thing, the E.U. does not itself necessarily consider itself a state, and it is not exactly clear if other states recognize the E.U. as a state.  And if the E.U. is a state, what happens to all those member nations (with all those great soccer teams)?

All good questions, and others elaborate in the comments section.  To me, the most interesting question is the last one.  Not because of the soccer team element.  As one commenter noted, legal statehood is not a FIFA prerequisite for having a soccer team.  But because the EU’s members also consider themselves states and are recognized by others as states.  Can there be a state whose components are also states?  The EU can sign treaties, but so can its member states.  The Lisbon Treaty is, of course, itself a treaty.  The Lisbon Treaty actually assures the statehood of its members.  See Article 3a(2):

The Union shall respect the equality of Member States before the Treaties as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government. It shall respect their essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security. In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State.

If we accept Hannan’s conclusion, we accept a “Russian Doll” notion of European statehood – within one state you find many other states.

The question of what consitutes statehood is important.  The arguments for the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade are premised on Gaza being a state.  And yet there’s ambiguity over the issue, as the disagreements over the EU and Gaza demonstrate.