A political union is a type of political entity which is composed of or created out of smaller federated states in federal government or the provinces of a centralised government. This form of government may be voluntary and mutual and is described as unionism by its constituent members and proponents, or it may also be caused by political unification characterised by coercion and conquest. Unification of states that used to be together and are reuniting is referred to as reunification. Unlike a personal union or real union, the individual constituent entities may have devolution of powers but are subordinate to a central government, in a federalised system the constituent entities usually have internal autonomy and share power with a federal government for whom external sovereignty and foreign affairs are reserved, 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 many forms, broadly categorized as,
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").
Incorporating annexations have occurred at various points in history such as in 1535 and 1542 under the two Laws in Wales Acts in which the Kingdom of England formally annexed the Principality of Wales, in 1822 the Republic of Spanish Haiti was annexed by the Republic of Haiti, Prussia/Germany used incorporating annexation to unite many of the German Princes during the Second Schleswig War, the Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco-Prussian War, Sardinia annexed many of the Duchies and City-states in Italy during the period of Italian unification, in 1918 during the Podgorica Assembly the Kingdom of Serbia annexed the Kingdom of Montenegro, and in 1949 and 1951 the China annexed Tibet (1951) and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) (1949).
Preservation of interests
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. These guarantees may be to ensure the success of a proposed union, or in the least to prevent continuing resistance, as occurred in the union of Brittany and France in 1532 (Union of Brittany and France), a guarantee was given as to the continuance of laws and of the Estates of Brittany (a guarantee revoked in 1789 at the French Revolution). The assurance that institutions are preserved in a union of states can also occur as states realize that whilst a power imbalance exists (such as between the economic conditions of Scotland and England prior to the Acts of Union 1707), it is not so great that it precludes the ability of concessions to be made. The Treaty of Union for creating the unified Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 contained a guarantee of the continuance of the civil laws and the existing courts in Scotland (a continuing guarantee), which was significant for both parties. The Scottish, despite economic troubles during the Seven ill years preceding the union, still had remaining negotiating power.
This marks a delineation of states that are able to ensure preservation of interests, there has to be some mutually beneficial reasoning behind the formal or informal preservation of interests. In the Union creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, no such guarantee was given for the laws and courts of the Kingdom of Ireland, though they were continued as a matter of practice. The informal recognition of such interests represents the different circumstances of the two Unions, the small base of institutional power in Ireland at the time (those who were the beneficiaries of the Protestant Ascendancy) had faced a revolution in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and as a result there was an institutional drive toward unification, limiting the Irish negotiating power. However, informal guarantees were given to preclude the possibility of further Irish unrest in the period following the French Revolution of 1789 and the 1798 rebellion. These types of informal arrangements are more susceptible to changes, for example Tyrol was guaranteed that its Freischütz companies would not be posted to fight outside Tyrol without their consent, a guarantee later revoked by the Austrian republic. This can be juxtaposed with the continued existence of the Scottish Parliament and a separate body of Scottish Law distinct from English Law.
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, more frequently, by conquest.
Incorporating annexations have occurred at various points in history such as in 1535 and 1542 under the two Laws in Wales Acts in which the Kingdom of England formally annexed the Principality of Wales, in 1822 the Republic of Spanish Haiti was annexed by the Republic of Haiti, Prussia/Germany used incorporating annexation to unite many of the German Princes during the Second Schleswig War, the Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco-Prussian War, Sardinia annexed many of the Duchies and City-states in Italy during the period of Italian unification, in 1918 during the Podgorica Assembly the Kingdom of Serbia annexed the Kingdom of Montenegro, and in 1949 and 1951 the People's Republic of China ("China" or the "mainland China") annexed Tibet (1951), East Turkestan (Xinjiang) (1949), Hong Kong (1997) and Macau (1999).
If a unitary 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.
Federal annexations have occurred in many places, such as British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873, and Newfoundland in 1949 which were all annexed into Canada, Eritrea was annexed into Ethiopia from 1951 to 1962, Switzerland federally annexed Geneva in 1815, Saarland was federally annexed by West Germany in 1957, Vermont (1791), Texas (1846), and California (1848) all were annexed by the United States of America, and Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was (but recognized by the international community as illegally) annexed into the Russian Federation in 2014.
The unification of Italy involved a mixture of unions. The kingdom consolidated around the Kingdom of Sardinia, with which several states voluntarily united to form the Kingdom of Italy. Others polities, such as 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 where people were formally asked if they agreed to have as their new ruler Vittorio Emanuele II of Sardinia and his legitimate heirs.
The unification of Germany began in earnest when the Kingdom of Prussia annexed numerous petty states in 1866.
- Unification of Nepal starting from 1744 A.D.
- Bulgarian unification in 1885, after the 1396 Ottoman conquest.
- Union of Transylvania with Romania in 1918
- Union of Bessarabia with Romania in 1918
- Creation of Yugoslavia (1918)
- Ukrainian unification in 1919
- Chinese reunification (1928) or "Northeast Flag Replacement" proclaimed the victory of the Guangzhou/Nanjing government over the Beiyang government after the 1912 division.
- German reunification after the Peaceful Revolution (East Germany) 1989-90 on 3 October 1990, divided into West Germany and East Germany since the Potsdam Agreement on 1 August 1945.
- German unification in 1866–71; what became Germany (1871-1918) was heavily fragmented by feudalism and partible inheritance (Salic patrimony) during the Middle Ages but remained united under the overlordship of East Francia/the Kingdom of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. However, the states grew steadily more de facto independent through the early modern era as imperial power waned. Finally, the Empire was dissolved in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars, and the German states became fully sovereign and were only united (between 1815 and 1866) by the non-sovereign German Confederation.
- Anschluss (1938 Nazi reunification of "Lesser Germany" and Austria into "Greater Germany")
- Italian unification 1815–71, divided since its partition into the Lombard Kingdom (itself divided between Langobardia Major and Langobardia Minor) and the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna in 568, Italy was further divided since Charlemagne's conquest of Langobardia Major and Spoleto in 774 and the subsequent fragmentation due to feudalism.
- Polish reunification in 1918–22, divided since 24 October 1795 save for a brief revival as the Duchy of Warsaw (1807–15) during the Napoleonic wars.
- Vietnamese reunification after the Vietnam War 1955-75 on 2 July 1976, divided into South Vietnam and North Vietnam since 21 July 1954.
- Yemenite unification in 1990, divided since the North Yemeni independence from Ottoman Empire in November 1918.
- Denmark and the northern part of Southern Jutland in 1920. See Schleswig Plebiscites.
Supranational and continental unions
In addition to regional movements, supranational organizations that promote progressive integration between its members started appearing in the second half of the 20th century. Some of these organization were inspired, to some extent. by the European Union for example Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, and the Pacific Union. Member states are often reluctant to form more centralized unions, the concept of unionism is often present in public debate.
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.
However, unification is not merely voluntary. To meet this requirement, we need to have a balance of power between the two or more states, which can create an equal monetary, economic, social and cultural environment. We need also to take in account that those states eligible to unify must agree to a transition from anarchy, where there is no sovereignty above the state level, to hierarchy.
States can decide to enter a voluntary union as a solution for existing problems and to face possible threats, such as environmental threats for instance. The task of triggering a political crisis and to get the attention of the citizens toward the unification's necessity is in the hands of the elites. Despite it being quite rare, in some cases it works (see Switzerland and the United States unification), while in most of the cases it turns to be a failure or leads to a forced unification (Italy, URSS) where the unified states are deeply unequal.
From a realist perspective, small states can unify in order to face strong states or to conquer weak ones. One of the reasons to seek unification to a stronger state besides a common threat can be a situation of negligence or ignorance on behalf of the weak state which is, to simplify it, desperate and almost derelict.
According to a 1975 study by University of Rochester political scientist William Riker, unions were motivated by security threats.
- Union (disambiguation)
- Unionism (disambiguation)#Politics
- Real union
- List of proposed state mergers
- Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore. 2003. The Size of Nations. MIT Press.
- "Political Union". TheFreeDictionary.com. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- Wohlgemuth, kase hlyffyii 6566*748499301284884 –l (2017-06-01). "Political union and the legitimacy challenge". European View. 16 (1): 57–65. doi:10.1007/s12290-017-0432-z. ISSN 1865-5831.
- "Union of European Federalists (UEF): Federal Political Union". www.federalists.eu. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- Kincaid, John (1999-04-01). "Confederal federalism and citizen representation in the European union". West European Politics. 22 (2): 34–58. doi:10.1080/01402389908425301. ISSN 0140-2382.
- What is political union?.
- ". . . 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
- "The course of negotiations :: Act of Union 1707". Parliament UK. 2009-07-21. Archived from the original on 2009-07-21. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
- Martin, Lawrence (1995). "Continental Union". The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 538: 143–150. doi:10.1177/0002716295538000012. ISSN 0002-7162. JSTOR 1048332. S2CID 220848652.
- "Everything you need to know about European political union". The Economist. 2015-07-27. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- Techau, Jan. "Political Union Now!". Carnegie Europe. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- "Addresses Against Incorporating Union, 1706-1707". $USD. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- "Unification of Italian States - Countries - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- Hoppen, K. Theodore (2008-04-01). "An Incorporating Union? British Politicians and Ireland 1800–1830". The English Historical Review. CXXIII (501): 328–350. doi:10.1093/ehr/cen009. ISSN 0013-8266. S2CID 145245653.
- "Unification of German States - Countries - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- "Overview of Continental Unions". WiseMee. 2019-07-08. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
- Allison-Reumann, Laura; Murray, Philomena (2017-06-22). "Should the EU be considered a model for ASEAN?". Pursuit - The University of Melbourne.
- J Bamber, Greg (2005-10-26). "What Context does the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) Provide for Employment Relations?" (PDF). Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management.
- Robertson, Robbie. "Regionalism in the Pacific: A New Development Strategy" (PDF). The University of the South Pacific.
- "United Kingdom". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006-02-16. Archived from the original on 2006-02-16.
- 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, ..."
- Marianopolis College: Archived September 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- Parent, Joseph M. (2011). Uniting States : voluntary union in world politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199782192. OCLC 696773008.
- Riker, William H. 1975. "Federalism." in Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby (eds.), Handbook of Political Science. Addison-Wesley.
- Griffiths, Ryan D. (2010). "Security threats, linguistic homogeneity, and the necessary conditions for political unification". Nations and Nationalism. 16 (1): 169–188. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8129.2010.00429.x. ISSN 1354-5078.