Political union

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A political union is a type of state which is composed of or created out of smaller states. The process is called unification. Unifications of states that used to be together and are reuniting is referred to as reunification. Unlike a personal union, the individual states share a central government and the union is recognized internationally as a single political entity. A political union may also be called a legislative union or state union.

A union may be effected in a number of forms, broadly categorized as:

Incorporating union[edit]

In an incorporating union a new state is created, the former states being entirely dissolved into the new state (albeit that some aspects may be preserved; see below "Preservation of interests").

Examples of incorporating union[edit]

Preservation of interests[edit]

Nevertheless a full incorporating union may preserve the laws and institutions of the former states, as happened in the creating of the United Kingdom. This may be simply a matter of practice or to comply with a guarantee given in the terms of the union. For example:

Incorporating annexation[edit]

In an incorporating annexation a state or states is united to and dissolved in an existing state, whose legal existence continues.

Annexation may be voluntary or, which is more frequent, by conquest .

Examples of incorporating annexation[edit]

Federal or confederal union[edit]

In a federal or confederal union the states continue in existence but place themselves under a new federal authority. The federal state alone will be the state in international law though the federated states retain an existence in domestic law.

Examples of federal or confederal union[edit]

Federal or confederal annexation[edit]

If a state becomes a federated unit of another existing state, the former continuing its legal existence, then that is a federal annexation. The new federated state thus ceases to be a state in international law but retains its legal existence in domestic law, subsidiary to the federal authority.

Examples of federal annexation[edit]

(Arguably Hawaii with the United States of America is an example, but Hawaii was first annexed without statehood in 1898.)

Mixed unions[edit]

The unification of Italy involved a mixture of unions. The kingdom consolidated around the Kingdom of Sardinia. Several states voluntarily united with Sardinia to create the Kingdom of Italy. Others, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and the Papal States, were conquered and annexed. Formally the union in each territory was sanctioned by a popular referendum, formally asking the people to agree to have as new ruler Vittorio Emanuele II (the King of Sardinia) and his legittimate heirs.

The unification of Germany was ultimately a confederal union, but it began in earnest by Prussia's annexation of numerous petty states in 1866.

Historical unions[edit]

Unification movements[edit]

At various times, various nationalist and irredentist movements promoted ideas of restoration or unification in various places


Reunification Movement Divided since Areas affected
(at maximum extent)
Atlantic Union Never united Western Europe
 United States
Commonwealth Union Earliest division in 1931  Antigua and Barbuda
 Australia
 The Bahamas
 Barbados
 Belize
 Canada
 Grenada
 Jamaica
 New Zealand
 Papua New Guinea
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Solomon Islands
 Tuvalu
 United Kingdom
United States of Africa Never united Africa
Greater Afghanistan 1893  Afghanistan
part of  Pakistan
Greater Serbia 1995  Serbia
 Macedonia
 Montenegro
 Croatia
 Bosnia
 Serbian Krajina
 Republika Srpska
Greater Syria Neo-Babylonian Empire "626 BC–539 BC"  Syria
 Lebanon
 Iraq
 Jordan
 Northern Cyprus
 Kuwait
Palestinian Territories
 Israel
 Cyprus
part of  Saudi Arabia
part of  Turkey
part of  Iran
part of  Egypt
Greater Croatia 1945, 1993
 Croatia
 Bosnia
 Serbia
part of  Montenegro
Greater Bulgaria 1918, 1945
 Bulgaria
 Macedonia
part of  Serbia
part of  Greece
Greater Albania 1945, 1991  Albania

 Kosovo

part of  Macedonia
part of  Montenegro
part of  Serbia
part of  Greece

Balkan Federation Never united  Serbia
 Macedonia
 Albania
 Croatia
 Montenegro
 Slovenia
 Bosnia
 Bulgaria
 Greece
 Romania
 Moldova
Russian Empire 1917
 Russia
 Ukraine
 Belarus
 Poland
 Latvia
 Lithuania
 Finland
 Estonia
 Georgia
 Armenia
 Azerbaijan
 Kazakhstan
 Turkmenistan
 Uzbekistan
 Tajikistan
 Moldova
 Kyrgyzstan
Arab Union 1258  Algeria
 Bahrain
 Comoros
 Djibouti
 Egypt
 Iraq
 Jordan
 Kuwait
 Lebanon
Palestinian Territories
 Libya
 Mauritania
 Morocco
 Oman
 Qatar
 Saudi Arabia
 Somalia
 Sudan
 Syria
 Tunisia
 United Arab Emirates
 Yemen
Gulf Union Never united  Bahrain
 Kuwait
 Oman
 Qatar
 Saudi Arabia
 United Arab Emirates
Southeast Asian Union Never united  Brunei
 Burma
 Cambodia
 East Timor
 Indonesia
 Laos
 Malaysia
 Philippines
 Singapore
 Thailand
 Vietnam
Australia Never united  Australia
 New Zealand
Greater Netherlands 1839  Belgium
 Luxembourg
 Netherlands
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 1922  United Kingdom
 Ireland
Central American Union 1838  Belize
 Costa Rica
 Dominican Republic
 El Salvador
 Guatemala
 Honduras
 Nicaragua
 Panama
Central Asian Union 1991  Kazakhstan
 Kyrgyzstan
 Uzbekistan
 Tajikistan
 Turkmenistan
Greater China 1895, 1911, 1949  People's Republic of China
 Republic of China
 Mongolia
part of  Russia
Cyprus 1974  Cyprus
 Northern Cyprus
 Akrotiri and Dhekelia (dependency of United Kingdom)
Czechoslovakia 1992  Czech Republic
 Slovakia
East African Federation Never united
Rwanda and Burundi (1962); Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania (1919)
 Burundi
 Kenya
 Rwanda
 South Sudan
 Tanzania
 Uganda
United States of Europe Never united
Carolingian Empire (888); Roman Empire (395)
 Austria
 Belgium
 Bulgaria
 Croatia
 Cyprus
 Czech Republic
 Denmark
 Estonia
 Finland
 France
 Germany
 Greece
 Hungary
 Ireland
 Italy
 Latvia
 Lithuania
 Luxembourg
 Malta
 Netherlands
 Poland
 Portugal
 Romania
 Slovakia
 Slovenia
 Spain
 Sweden
 United Kingdom
Greater Finland 19401944  Finland
part of  Russia
United States of North America Never united
arguably, parts of United States and Canada before 1776 due to British Empire
 Canada
 United States
Greek reunification 1202  Greece
 Cyprus
 Turkey (Eastern Thrace,Western and Northwestern Asia Minor, Pontus, Cappadocia)
 Bulgaria (Eastern Rumelia)
 Albania (Northern Epirus including northern areas of Apollonia (Illyria), Vlorë and Berat)
 Republic of Macedonia (Monastiri area including the northern city of Ohrid and area around Strumica and Gevgelija)
Greater Hungary 1920, 1945  Hungary
 Austria (Burgenland)
 Croatia
 Poland (parts of Tatra County)
 Romania (Transylvania)
 Serbia (Vojvodina)
 Slovakia
 Slovenia (Prekmurje)
 Ukraine (Zakarpattia Oblast)
Iberian Federation 1580–1640  Portugal
 Spain
 Gibraltar (dependency of United Kingdom)
Undivided India 1947  India
 Bangladesh
 Pakistan
United Ireland 1922  Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland (part of United Kingdom)
Korean reunification 1945  Democratic People's Republic of Korea
 Republic of Korea
Hispanic America 1808-1833  Argentina
 Bolivia
 Chile
 Colombia
 Costa Rica
 Cuba
 Dominican Republic
 Ecuador
 El Salvador
 Guatemala
 Honduras
 Mexico
 Nicaragua
 Panama
 Paraguay
 Peru
 Puerto Rico
 Uruguay
 Venezuela
Malaysia 1965  Singapore
 Malaysia
Greater Romania 1944  Moldova
 Romania
Union State 1991  Belarus
 Russia
Samoa 1900  Samoa
 American Samoa
Nordic Federation 1523  Denmark
 Sweden
 Norway
 Iceland
 Finland
Transcaucasus 1936  Armenia
 Azerbaijan
 Georgia
West Indies Federation 1962  Anguilla
 Antigua and Barbuda
 Barbados
 Cayman Islands
 Dominica
 Grenada
 Jamaica
 Montserrat
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
 Trinidad and Tobago
 Turks and Caicos Islands
Yugoslavia 1992  Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Croatia
 Macedonia
 Montenegro
 Serbia
 Slovenia
United Armenia 1639, 1828  Armenia
 Turkey (Western Armenia)
 Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Northern Artsakh and Nakhichevan)
 Georgia
(Javakhk)

Supranational and continental unions[edit]

In addition to regional movements, supranational organizations that promote progressive integration between its members started appearing in the second half of the 20th century. Most of these organization were inspired by the European Union[clarification needed], and while member states are often reluctant to form more centralized unions, the concept of unionism if often present in public debate.

Current supranational unions:

Proposed supranational unions:

Organizations that plan to evolve into supranational unions:

Academic analysis[edit]

The political position of the United Kingdom is often discussed;[3][4] and former states like Serbia and Montenegro (2003–2006), the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and the United Arab Republic (1958–1961).

Lord Durham was widely regarded as one of the most important thinkers in the history of the British Empire's constitutional evolution. He articulated clearly the difference between a full legislative union and a federation. In his 1839 Report, in discussing the proposed union of Upper and Lower Canada, he says:

Two kinds of union have been proposed – federal and legislative. By the first, the separate legislature of each province would be preserved in its present form and retain almost all its present attributes of internal legislation, the federal legislature exercising no power save in those matters which may have been expressly ceded to it by the constituent provinces. A legislative union would imply a complete incorporation of the provinces included in it under one legislature, exercising universal and sole legislative authority over all of them in exactly the same manner as the Parliament legislates alone for the whole of the British Isles.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ This is often seen as a federal union but is closer to an incorporating union as the four colonies were dissolved, their territories becoming provinces in a unitary state without any recognition as fixed constitutional entities
  2. ^ ". . . that no Alteration be made in Laws which concern private Right, except for evident Utility of the Subjects within Scotland" — Article XVIII of the Treaty of Union
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the political union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland."
  4. ^ A Disunited Kingdom? - England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, 1800-1949, Christine Kinealy, University of Central Lancashire, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-521-59844-6: "... explaining how the United Kingdom has evolved, the author explores a number of key themes including: the steps to political union, ..."
  5. ^ Marianopolis College:[dead link]

See also[edit]