Westphalian sovereignty

concept of the sovereignty of nation-states in Europe

Westphalian sovereignty, or state sovereignty, is a principle in international law that each state has exclusive sovereignty over its territory.


  • Free trade has a tendency to gradually undermine national sovereignty.
    • Jason Hickel, The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions, 2018, p. 218
  • Is it so obvious that the notion of the public service is in fact aligned with the concept of state sovereignty? Does the former depend on the latter? Is the public service indissolubly linked to state sovereignty? This question deserves particularly careful consideration because it is one of the central arguments deployed by the proponents of state sovereignty. Let us begin by examining the very nature of state sovereignty. Etymologically, sovereignty means "superiority" (from the Latin superanus), but superiority in regard to what? In brief, it is superiority in regard to any laws or obligations that threaten to limit the power of the state, both in its relation to other states and in relation to its own citizens. The sovereign state places itself above any commitments or obligations, which it is then free to constrict or revoke as it pleases. But as a public figure, the state can only act through its representatives, who are all supposed to embody the continuity of the state over and above the daily exercise of their specific governmental functions. The superiority of the state therefore effectively means the superiority of its representatives over the laws or obligations that impinge upon them. This is the notion of superiority that is elevated to the rank of principle by all sovereigntists. But however unpleasant it may sound, this principle applies regardless of the political orientation of its leaders: what is essential is merely that one acts as a representative of the state, regardless of one’s particular beliefs about state sovereignty. All the concessions that were successively granted to the EU by the representatives of the French state were acts of sovereignty — for the very construction of the EU, from the beginning, was based on the implementation of the principle of state sovereignty.

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