Sovereignty at Stake? Small States and the European Union: Strategies, Challenges and Opportunities after The Lisbon Treaty

    • Cover Venice
    • Presentation speakers
      • Andrej Rendic, University in Zadar, Croatia


    The rise of the so-called small states in Europe began in the 1990s, when the fall of communism facilitated the dismemberment of large multinational states such as the USSR and the Ex-Yugoslavia. The majority of these newly-created states, with some exceptions, can by definition (Vital 1967) be categorized as the small states. After finally having obtained their long-desired independence, they started aiming at becoming a part of a larger geopolitical unit – the European Union. Although the latter may be defined as a union of sovereign states, upon their entry, new member-states usually concede part of their sovereignty to the common bodies of the Union. Sovereignty, therefore, a quality so long and so avidly longed-for, is being willfully transferred and reduced. A question may hence be posed: to what end? One of the principal reasons for the development of such a trend was the fact that the small states strived for multilateralism, which was one of the four main defensive strategies they had at their disposal in conducting foreign policy (Hill 2003). The 2007 Lisbon Treaty introduced numerous changes, the majority of which were to the detriment of the small states and in favour of their bigger co-members. Consequently, multilateralism became kind of a channel towards federalism, which further jeopardized the notion of sovereignty and, with it, the influence of the small states within the European Union. Due to the redefinition of rules of play in the lager geopolitical context, the small states are now being compelled to adapt or change their foreign policy strategies in order to exert more influence on the European Union as a whole, all of which is taking place amid the growing migrant crisis, rise of nationalism and common safety policies, as well as the Brexit. This paper first examines different criteria and views on the definition of redefining small states, as well as their foreign policy strategies. It then describes flaws, downsides and limitations the small states face in international relations. Finally, it deals with the issue of sovereignty of the small states within the larger international political associations, such as the European Union.