Is the European Union a Country?

This is a Wendover Productions video in collaboration
with Real Life Lore and made possible by Lootcrate. Is the European Union a country? It’s a bit of strange question, with an
easy answer but a difficult explanation. The answer is no. The European Union is not a country, but…
you can move between countries without passing through border control, work between countries
without a Visa, and they use the same currency, and there are elections to a single parliament,
and there’s a single government, and there are official languages, and a single economic
market, a single aviation market, and… this is beginning to sound awfully like… a country. Let’s do a 90 second recap of how the EU
works. This is the European Union. There are 28 member states including the UK
which has voted to leave the EU, but just hasn’t yet gone through the process to leave. Of those, these are in the Schengen Zone meaning
that there are no border controls between them. That means that a typical border crossing
in the EU looks like this. These four are legally obliged to be in the
Schengen Zone but just aren’t, and these two have opt-outs in their treaties that exempt
them from being in the Schengen Zone. These countries are part of the Eurozone meaning
the euro is their sole legal currency. These guys are obliged to join the Eurozone
once they reach a certain economic target, which they haven’t, and these two have opt-outs
exempting them from the Eurozone. Each member country of the European Union
elects its own Members of the European Parliament, known as MEPs, but the Parliament can’t
make laws by itself. Laws are proposed by the European Commission,
who kinda work like an executive branch. They then go to the Parliament who, if they
approve it, send it to the council of the European Union. While the Parliament represents the people
of the European Union since the MEPs are elected by direct election, the Council represents
the Governments since its made up of a rotating roster of national ministers. If a proposed piece of legislation makes it
through both the Parliament and Council of Europe, it becomes law. So that’s how the European Union works,
at least a massively simplified version, but how do countries work… or rather, what makes
a country a country. Well calling a country a country is a bit
misleading because the word “country” can mean a lot of things. What you’re probably thinking of when I
say country is sovereign states—France, Japan, the US, etc—but there are non-sovereign
states that are countries. Scotland is a country, indisputably, but it’s
not a sovereign state. It’s a part of the Sovereign State of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So, once again, what makes a country a country? Well, there’s something called the Declaratory
Theory of Statehood that sets out four criteria for statehood. The first is “a permanent population”—a
country is not a country without people so it needs people in its territory permanently. The EU easily has this. More than half a billion people live within
its borders. If it were a country, it would be the third
most populous on earth and have one of the second highest gdps in the world. The second requirement is a defined territory. It’s a common misconception that a new country
can only form on unclaimed territory—according to the declaratory theory a sovereign state
can be created in an area where another sovereign state already exists. Just look at North and South Korea—both
claim the territory of each other and yet they’re both sovereign states. The European Union has a territory, but its
a bit fuzzy. Any territory that you can call EU territory
is also territory of other entities, the countries that make up the EU. But that doesn’t necessarily stop the EU
from having a territory. Going back to the example of the UK, the official
sovereign state—the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—really doesn’t
have any of its own territory. Any territory of the UK is part of England,
Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland—each countries by themselves. The US is in a similar situation. States act kinda-like mini-countries and there
really is no federal territory that is not part of a state’s territory. Especially given its open border policy, the
EU’s territory is in function indistinguishable from that of any sovereign state. The third requirement is a government and
the government can’t just be a puppet of another sovereign state. The government needs to have whats called
“an essential core of independence.” As I’ve mentioned, the EU has a government
but for a few reasons the EU government is different from that a sovereign state. Here’s the problem, the EU’s government
is not independent. The power comes from below, as in the power
comes from the member states. The power of most sovereign states also comes
from below, but in that case its the people that give a state power. In the case of the EU, since power is granted
by sovereign states, those states are really above the EU in power and therefore the EU
government is a subservient government. That violates the criteria for a truly independent
government. Although, what’s the difference between
this and UK government then—the country of countries? The United Kingdom is also made up of countries
so isn’t their government subservient? Well, in the EU, there is a system and structure
to leaving, whereas in the United Kingdom or really any other country, the entities
within the sovereign states cannot leave without a change in government structure and procedure. When parts of sovereign states leave sovereign
states, they do so typically without a legal right but rather a moral right. It’s called “the Right to Revolution”
according to the philosopher John Locke. When a government no longer serves the people,
as in it fails to protect the rights of the people or becomes the entity that people need
protection from, there is a near universal moral understanding that the people can either
overthrow or leave that government. Members of the EU can choose whether or not
to continue membership on a legal basis rather than a moral one. The whole structure and system was set up
by the member states, so even though it is overseeing the states, the power originates
from the states it oversees. The continued existence of the EU relies on
the will of its members to continue the system. That is never the case with an independent
government. That being said, while the origin of power
may be different, the EU government functions in most ways like any other government. It has different branches, agencies, economic
systems, leaders, and more, so while its different, the EU does partially fulfill the government
requirement for statehood. The last criteria for statehood outlined in
the Declaratory Theory is “the capacity to enter into relations with other states”
and the EU absolutely has this. There are ambassadors to the EU, ambassadors
of the EU, embassies of the EU, embassies to the EU, intergovernmental organizations
between the EU and non-EU countries, treaties between the EU and non-EU countries, and more. While most foreign relations are handled by
individual member countries, there are absolutely foreign relations of the EU as a whole. So, the European Union has fulfilled each
criteria for sovereign statehood on out list, but it still isn’t a state. Here’s the problem: statehood, as in being
a sovereign country, is not a natural phenomenon. No part of nature creates countries. You can call salt salt if it’s made of Sodium
Chloride. That’s the requirement for salt being salt
and we can’t change that. That how nature makes salt. We created the idea of countries. They’re a social construct, so society decides
what is a sovereign country and what is not. While we can lay down a number of requisites
for statehood, they are just guidelines to achieve the final goal—society’s acceptance
of a country. We can’t just say these criteria make a
country a country unless individuals believe in those criteria since countries, like all
social constructs, only work if there’s a collective belief and following of that
system. It’s similar to money. Money only works if everyone believes that
pieces of paper equal value. Countries only work if everyone believes that
certain imaginary lines separate who and what leads people. In the case of statehood, you can’t just
ask every person in society whether or not they think a country is a sovereign country. There are socially accepted countries already
and therefore those act as a proxy for society to decide whether a country is sovereign or
not. A countries sovereignty is judged off of how
many other sovereign countries recognize its sovereignty. The European Union is not a sovereign state
because nobody accepts it as one. While it may function in many ways like a
sovereign country, it is not one because sovereignty is neither its goal or desire. This shows you just how difficult it is to
define what a country is. Supranational organizations like the EU act
like countries, but at the same time… so do some subnational entities—as in parts
of countries. Most specifically in the US. (Joseph’s part) States have a level of sovereignty
that blur the line between what is part of a sovereign country and a county itself. What is the difference between a state in
the United States and a country. They fulfill almost all the criteria that
you just heard about so that’s why I asked the question in collaboration with Wendover
Productions “Is the United States a Country” over on my channel Real Life Lore. Please do be sure to check that out, it’s
a great video from a great channel. A lot of you ask how you can support the channel
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you guys. Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you in 2017
for the best year of videos you’ve ever seen.

Stephen Childs


  1. Long Live European Union 🇪🇺
    Long Live Europe 🇦🇩🇦🇱🇦🇹🇧🇦🇧🇪🇧🇬🇧🇾🇨🇭🇨🇾🇨🇿🇩🇪🇩🇰🇪🇪🇪🇸🇫🇮🇫🇷🇬🇧🇬🇷🇭🇷🇮🇪🇮🇸🇮🇹🇱🇹🇲🇩🇲🇪🇲🇰🇳🇱🇳🇴🇵🇱🇵🇹🇷🇴🇷🇸🇷🇺🇸🇪🇸🇮🇸🇰🇸🇲🇺🇦
    Long Live NATO 🇺🇸

    Love you from Greece 🇬🇷


  3. 0:17 When you say they use the same currency, actually two of the four countries shown have their own currency and don't use the Euro.

  4. EU will never be a country. Or it will be a country, but without Poland.

  5. 1 simple answer: no but it will probably become one in the future

  6. Only an idiot would ask this question. Also there are several currencies and all countries have their own laws that they decide, it's not all the exact same laws and systems in every country. Honestly Americans are so dumb.

  7. A problem I have with the EU is that Germany has alot of power, more than some other countries in the union. And you know how that went in 1914 and 1939 XD

  8. In A part we are nothing… together we are powerfull nation with what all on this world should count. EU should be a country

  9. He is talking about sovring state and put kosovo in the map

  10. Not every EU country uses the Euro! Poland, Croatia, Czech Rep., Sweden, Denmark, UK, Bulgaria, Romania

  11. A French feels to be French not European. Because European is more a geographical name. That's why Europe cannot be and will never be an America. You cannot unify such different culture like Swedish next to a Greek. I love Europe because in few kilometers there is huge variety.

  12. Also having its own army is a characteristic of a sovereign state, which EU has not but is working on it to the great displease of Russia. There is strong push towards making EU a state like the US (there is also push against it). Some countries are failing the economical criteria for accepting Euro on purpose as a delay tactics (Czech rep. eg.). Great summary however.

  13. Ur also wrong about Sweden. We voted to not use the euro

  14. 0.15 why austria? Im from austria but usefuller would be germany france netherlands or so.

  15. "You call salt salt if it's made of sodium chloride. That's the requirement for salt being salt and we can't change that."
    Ummm… no. Counterexample: Tetrapropylammonium flouride is a salt and it's not sodium chloride.

  16. Hahaha Poland will probably NEVER use the Euro, because of how big the złoty is and because only some stores allow Euro

  17. The EU is effectively a country, and this hairsplitting nonsense is really a debate about how to define the word “country", not statehood.

    The EU is a confederacy, and is a state in it’s own right.

  18. Being Scottish we have 3 different parliaments, the Scottish, UK and European parliaments.

  19. You made a mistake: it is a fact that there are some requirements for a country willing to adopt euro currency. However, those are very low and even poor countries as Latvia are able to reach them. Czechia, Sweden, Poland or Hungary are obligated to adopt euro at one time but it is not described when. De facto, this is an open door for those countries for adopting euro whenever they like. Those mentioned before are not adopting euro due to the public opinion within them.
    You made a huge mistake in your video….

  20. Well Washington DC is not a state so it must be federal land then right?

  21. What about the humans? It should be a criteria whether the population consideres itself to be in citizenship. That is a very important if not the most important criteria.

    I think in 100 years, Europa will be a country.

  22. I am from China, nobody would think the EU is a country, not sure about the Americans. However, when people talking about Africa, people usually consider Africa is a country and all of the countries in Africa are poor or they are all the same. I was like wtf, no… Africa even has White people. And people is like, hahahha this guys is funny.

  23. Ummm no buddy. You got it wrong. Poland reached the economic target long time ago, but people are smart and want to keep their own currency.

  24. Has a parliament effectively a government a currency, EU passports, takes away sovereignty. Sounds like a country to me

  25. how the fuck can you ask the question again ?!?!
    for exemple in france we voted for this question in 2005.
    we voted no.
    But ok you are right they understood yes
    what a joke of democracy

  26. Kosovo isn't a country, is the part of Serbia you antislavic bastard!!!

  27. Up until 2007 the EU was happy to be a confederate country (a voluntary group of nations) and it worked well. They tried to put forth the European union bill which would work towards becoming a federate country (Like the USA), but France, Holland and Ireland rejected it. So a few months later they wrapped the turd up and repackaged it as the Lisbon treaty. Ireland rejected twice, but the EU forced it through anyway. The EU are slipping in federacy, legislation by legislation, a few regulations and laws at a time and will riddicule anyone who even mentions it, but its happening

  28. If us Europeans want to survive peacefully the United States of Europe has to be the long term goal.

    Alone no country would stand a chance against reckless superpowers like the USA and China.

  29. usually only garbage countries like poland want to be in EU so instead of saying they are polish they can say they are european lol

  30. Is it a location of common heritage which came together with a common goal in mind … in order to have that ideal represented on an international scale?

  31. It's not true that EU countries use the same currency, in Poland we have zloty and you can't pay with euro in shops. In Czech Republic they have koruna, euro is not accepted and it must be exchanged.

  32. Is the EU an autonomous sovereign?  The answer is NO!  Its member states are, which means the EU cannot override their sovereignties (meaning cannot control immigration, internal government policies, etc.).  The EU is just a confederation that means its member states can leave without any political or economic consequences.

  33. What exactly is country music a country or a music?
    And what about classical music is it a country too?

  34. So basically by your theory, the EU is a country if you as me because I believe it is a country. So if enough people believed it was a country then it would be classed as a country.

  35. It has a national anthem, currency, flag, parliament. It is a confederation in disguise.

  36. The EU absolutely wants to be a sovereign country, that's why nationalist movements hate it so much.


  38. Soon… Soon we'll be united in diversity and we'll have progress, democracy, and peace… Peace… Peace forever.

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