A number of states are less integrated into the EU than others. In most cases this is because those states have gained an "opt-out from a certain policy area. The most notable is the opt-out from the "Economic and Monetary Union, the adoption of the "euro as sole legal currency. Most states outside the "Eurozone are obliged to adopt the euro when they are ready, but Denmark and the United Kingdom have obtained the right to retain their "own independent currencies.
Ireland and the United Kingdom also do not participate in the "Schengen Agreement, which eliminates internal EU border checks. Denmark has an opt out from the "Common Security and Defence Policy; Denmark, Ireland and the UK have an opt-out on police and justice matters and Poland and the UK have an opt out from the "Charter of Fundamental Rights.
There are a number of overseas member state territories which are legally part of the EU, but have certain exemptions based on their remoteness. These "outermost regions" have partial application of EU law and in some cases are outside of Schengen or the EU VAT area—however they are legally within the EU. They all use the "euro as their currency.
|Population||Per capita GDP
|"EU VAT area||"Schengen area|
|"Canary Islands||"Spain||"Atlantic Ocean||7,447||1,715,700||93.7||No||Yes|
|"French Guiana||"France||"South America||84,000||161,100||50.5||No||No|
Entry to the EU is limited to liberal democracies and "Freedom House ranks all EU states as being totally free electoral democracies. All but 4 are ranked at the top 1.0 rating. However, the exact political system of a state is not limited, with each state having its own system based on its historical evolution.
The majority of member states—17 out of 28—are "parliamentary republics, while seven states are "constitutional monarchies, meaning they have a "monarch although political powers are exercised by elected politicians. Most republics and all the monarchies operate a "parliamentary system whereby the head of state (president or monarch) has a largely ceremonial role with "reserve powers. That means most power is in the hands of what is called in most of those countries the "prime minister, who is accountable to the "national parliament. Of the remaining republics, three operate a "semi-presidential system, where competencies are shared between the president and "prime minister, while one republic operates a "presidential system, where the "president is head of state and government.["citation needed]
The EU is divided between "unicameral (single chamber) and "bicameral (dual chamber) parliaments, with 15 unicameral national parliaments and 13 bicameral parliaments. The prime minister and government are usually directly accountable to the directly elected "lower house and require its support to stay in office—the exception being Cyprus with its presidential system. "Upper houses are composed differently in different member states: it can be directly elected like the "Polish senate, indirectly elected, for example, by regional legislatures like the "Federal Council of Austria, unelected, but representing certain interest groups like the "National Council of Slovenia, unelected (though by and large appointed by elected officials) as a remnant of a non-democratic political system in earlier times (as in the "House of Lords in the United Kingdom). Most (though not all) elections in the EU use some form of "proportional representation. The most common type of proportional representation is the "party-list system.["citation needed]
There are also differences in the level of "self-governance for the sub-regions of a member state. Most states, especially the smaller ones, are "unitary states; meaning all major political power is concentrated at the national level. 10 states allocate power to more local levels of government. Austria, Belgium and Germany are full "federations, meaning their regions have constitutional autonomies. Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal are "federacies, meaning some regions have autonomy but most do not. Spain and Italy have system of "devolution where regions have autonomy, but the national government retains the right to revoke it. The United Kingdom has a system of asymmetric devolution, whereby "Scotland, "Wales, and "Northern Ireland enjoy a degree of self-government.
States such as France have a number of "overseas territories, retained from their "former empires. Some of these territories such as "French Guiana are part of the EU (see outermost regions, above) while others are related to the EU or outside it, such as the "Falkland Islands.["citation needed]
The "Lisbon Treaty made the first provision of a member state to leave. The procedure for a state to leave is outlined in TEU Article 50 which also makes clear that "Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements". Although it calls for a negotiated withdrawal between the seceding state and the rest of the EU, if no agreement is reached two years after the seceding state notifying of its intention to leave, it would cease to be subject to the treaties anyway (thus ensuring a right to unilateral withdrawal). There is no formal limit to how much time a member state can take between adopting a policy of withdrawal, and actually triggering Article 50.
In a "non-binding referendum in June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to withdraw the EU. Termed ""Brexit", this has become government policy under Prime Minister "Theresa May. UK government triggered Article 50 on 29 March 2017. Once triggered, formal talks could begin but there is no certainty of a deal and some EU officials are preparing to deal with a situation where no deal is reached after the two-year limit.
Prior to 2016, no member state had ever voted to withdraw. However "Greenland, as a territory, did leave the EU in 1985 when gaining home rule from a member state (Denmark). The situation of Greenland being outside the EU while still subject to an EU member state had been discussed as a template for the pro-EU regions of the UK remaining within the EU or its single market.
Beyond the formal withdrawal of a member state, there are a number of independence movements such as "Catalonia or "Flanders which could result in a similar situation to Greenland. Were a territory of a member state to secede but wish to remain in the EU, some scholars claim it would need to reapply to join as if it were a new country applying from scratch. However, other studies claim internal enlargement is legally viable if, in case of a member state dissolution or secession, the resulting states are all considered "successor states. There is also a "European Citizens' Initiative that aims at guaranteeing the continuity of rights and obligations of the European citizens belonging to a new state arising from the democratic secession of a European Union member state.
TEU Article 7 provides for the "suspension of certain rights of a member state. Introduced in the "Treaty of Amsterdam, Article 7 outlines that if a member persistently breaches the EU's founding principles (liberty, democracy, human rights and so forth, outlined in TEU Article 2) then the "European Council can vote to suspend any rights of membership, such as voting and representation as outlined above. Identifying the breach requires unanimity (excluding the state concerned), but sanctions require only a qualified majority.
The state in question would still be bound by the obligations treaties and the Council acting by majority may alter or lift such sanctions. The "Treaty of Nice included a preventative mechanism whereby the Council, acting by majority, may identify a potential breach and make recommendations to the state to rectify it before action is taken against it as outlined above. However the treaties do not provide any mechanism to expel a member state outright.
There are a number of countries with strong links with the EU, similar to elements of membership. Following Norway's decision not to join the EU, it remained one of the members of the "European Economic Area which also includes "Iceland and "Liechtenstein (all former members have joined the EU, and Switzerland rejected membership). The EEA links these countries into the EU's market, extending the "four freedoms to these states. In return, they pay a membership fee and have to adopt most areas of "EU law (which they do not have direct impact in shaping). The democratic repercussions of this have been described as "fax democracy" (waiting for new laws to be faxed in from "Brussels rather than being involved in drafting them).
A different example is "Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been under international supervision. The "High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina is an international administrator who has wide-ranging powers over Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure the peace agreement is respected. The High Representative is also the EU's representative, and is in practice appointed by the EU. In this role, and since a major ambition of Bosnia and Herzegovina is to join the EU, the country has become a de facto protectorate of the EU. The EU appointed representative has the power to impose legislation and dismiss elected officials and civil servants, meaning the EU has greater direct control over Bosnia and Herzegovina than its own states. Indeed, the "state's flag was inspired by the "EU's flag.
In the same manner as Bosnia and Herzegovina, "Kosovo is under heavy EU influence, particularly after the de facto transfer from "UN to EU authority. In theory Kosovo is supervised by "EU missions, with justice and policing personal training and helping to build up the state institutions. However the EU mission does enjoy certain executive powers over the state and has a responsibility to maintain stability and order. Like Bosnia, Kosovo has been termed an "EU protectorate".
However, there is also the largely defunct term of associate member. It has occasionally been applied to states which have signed an "association agreement with the EU. Associate membership is not a formal classification and does not entitle the state to any of the representation of free movement rights that full membership allows. The term is almost unheard of in the modern context and was primarily used in the earlier days of the EU with countries such as Greece and Turkey. Turkey's association agreement was the 1963 "Ankara Agreement, implying that Turkey became an associate member that year. Present association agreements include the "Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the western Balkans; these states are no longer termed "associate members".
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- See section on sovereignty for details on the extent to which sovereignty is shared.
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