European microstates

European microstates

The European microstates or ministates are a handful of very small sovereign states on the European continent and the surrounding islands. Microstates are small independent states and they should not be confused with "micronations", which are neither states nor independent.



The Principality of Andorra is a feudal remnant high in the Pyrenees, a fiefdom held jointly by the Bishop of Urgell in Spain and the Count of Foix in France, with a population of approximately 70,000. The County of Foix merged into the French Crown in 1607 and thus the King of France and then the President of France took the place of the Count of Foix. It has been independent since 1278. Catalan is its official language.


The Principality of Liechtenstein is the sole remaining polity of the Holy Roman Empire, having been created out of the counties of Vaduz and Schellenberg in 1719 as a sovereign fief for the wealthy Austrian House of Liechtenstein. Its population is over 30,000. Owing to its geographic position between Switzerland and Austria, it was not swallowed up during the massive reorganisation of Germany following the French Revolution, and avoided incorporation into the German Empire later in the 19th century.


The Republic of Malta is an archipelago of seven islands in the central Mediterranean Sea and has a population of around 400,000 meaning it has a larger population than several non-microstates, notably Iceland. People first arrived on Malta about 5200 BC. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. Malta is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the European Union.


The Principality of Monaco on the French Riviera, ruled by the House of Grimaldi since the 13th century, achieved full independence only following the cession of the surrounding Nice region from Piedmont to France in 1860.

Monaco is located on the Mediterranean Sea, tucked into the Maritime Alps and has a population of around 35,000. Its constitutional monarchy is led by Prince Albert II. The population is 95% Roman Catholic. French, English, and Italian are the three most widely spoken languages. Its economy is based on light manufacturing, banking and financial services, shipping and trade, R&D in biotechnology, and marine environments. Tourism is also a profitable industry for Monaco.

an Marino

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is the last survivor of a large number of self-governing Italian communes from the Middle Ages. It survived the consolidation of Italy into medium-sized territorial states in the 15th century and the unification of Italy in the 19th century, largely owing to its remote location in a valley of the Apennines and its decision to offer sanctuary to leaders of the unification movement. It has a population of approximately 30,000.

Vatican City

The State of the Vatican City is the last remnant of the former Papal States, the lands in central Italy ruled directly by the pope. After the unification of Italy in the 19th century the Papal States had become formally part of the Kingdom of Italy, but the Vatican disputed this claim of geographic authority, and the papacy continued to exercise "de facto" political control over an area around St Peter's BasilicaFact|date=January 2008 in Rome. A sovereign Vatican state was later established by the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between the pope and the Italian government, in which the pope recognised the Italian state in exchange for establishing Roman Catholicism as the state religion, and recognition of the pope's sovereignty over a tiny state located entirely within the city of Rome. Its population is between 600 and 700.

overeign Military Order of Malta

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a Catholic order that is a sovereign entity under international law and has permanent observer status at the United Nations. The Order is the direct successor to the medieval Knights Hospitaller, also known as the Knights of Malta, and today operates as a largely charitable and ceremonial organization. It is a traditional example of a sovereign entity other than a state. Its headquarters in Rome are granted extraterritoriality by Italy. Unlike the Holy See, which is sovereign over the Vatican City, SMOM has no other sovereign territory, yet it does have full diplomatic relations, including embassies, with 100 states [The Order's official website lists them [ in this table] .] and is in more informal relationship with five others. It issues its own stamps, coins, passports, and license plates, and has its own military.

Economic policies and relationship with the European Union

The European microstates are all of limited size and population, and have limited natural resources. As a result, they have adopted special economic policies, typically involving low levels of taxation and few restrictions on external financial investment. Malta is a full member of the European Union, while the other five European microstates have obtained special relations with the European Union. Many of the microstates have also entered into a customs union with their larger neighbours to improve their economic situation (Vatican City and San Marino with Italy, Liechtenstein with Switzerland, and Monaco with France).


While the microstates have sovereignty over their own territory, there are also a number of small autonomous territories, which despite having (in almost all cases) their own independent government, executive branch, legislature, judiciary, police, and other trappings of independence, are nonetheless under the sovereignty of another state or monarch.

*Akrotiri and Dhekelia (British overseas territory, United Kingdom)
*Åland (Autonomous province, Finland)
*Faroe Islands (External territory, Denmark)
*Gibraltar (British overseas territory, United Kingdom)
*Bailiwick of Guernsey (British crown dependency), one of the Channel Islands and including Alderney, Herm and Sark
*Isle of Man (British crown dependency)
*Bailiwick of Jersey (British crown dependency), one of the Channel Islands
*Mount Athos or the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain (Autonomous monastic state, Greece)

Other entities

* The Holy See is a unique sovereign entity under international law distinct from Vatican City with the pope as the head of both, maintaining diplomatic and official relations with over 170 states and entities and participating in various international organizations either in its own capacity or on behalf of Vatican City.
* The sovereignty of the artificial island of Sealand off the coast of the United Kingdom is controversial. It has asserted independence since the 1960s, but has not achieved clear recognition by other nations or international organizations.

Historical small territories

The wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars caused the European map to be redrawn several times. A number of short-lived client republics were created, and the fall of the Holy Roman Empire gave sovereignty to each of its many surviving component states. The situation was not stabilized until after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Following World War I and World War II a number of territories gained temporary status as international zones, protectorates or occupied territories. A few of them are mentioned here:

*Couto Mixto, ?-1864
*Gersau, 14th century-1798
*Republic of Ragusa, 14th century-1808 (now Dubrovnik)
*Cospaia, 1440–1826
*Free City of Kraków, 1815–1846 (now Kraków)
*Neutral Moresnet, 1816–1919
*Kingdom of Tavolara, 1836-1962 (subsumed into Italy)
*Free City of Danzig, 1920–1939 (now Gdańsk)
*Free State of Fiume, 1920–1924 (now Rijeka)
*Saar, 1945–1956
*Free Territory of Trieste, 1947–1954 (now Trieste)

ee also

*Microstates and the European Union
*Enclave and exclave
*Games of the Small States of Europe


* [ Article from "The Economist", Dec. 24, 2005, "Castles in the Air"]
* [ GlobaLex, "The Micro-States and Small Jurisdictions of Europe"]

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