Are the EU Member States Still Sovereign States? The Perspective of International Law

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Table of Contents: I. The present meaning of State sovereignty. – II. The sovereignty of EU Member States. – III. Concluding remarks.

Abstract: The present Article addresses the issue of the sovereignty of EU Member States from the perspective of general international law. In a first part, it tries to define the present meaning of sovereignty in international law. As a guide, three main approaches to sovereignty are used, i.e. an understanding of sovereignty as independence, as Völkerrechtsunmittelbarkeit (direct legal relationship between a State and international law), and as an autonomy of States under the constitution of the international community. In a second part, the Article applies the criteria of these three approaches to the Member States of the EU. It also addresses the question of whether the EU itself can be qualified as sovereign, and the issue of a “shared” or “divided” sovereignty in Europe. By way of conclusion, the third part makes a plea for defending the concept of supranationalism, as established in Europe after World War II, against the idea of State sovereignty.

Keywords: sovereignty – independence – autonomy – United Nations Charter – European sovereignty – new legal order.

European Papers, Vol. 8, 2023, No 3, pp. 1629-1643
ISSN 2499-8249
- doi: 10.15166/2499-8249/733

* Professor of International Law, European Law and Public Law, University of St. Gallen,


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