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The European Microstates: The Smallest Powers
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The European Microstates: The Smallest Powers

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  • Usually limited to 300,000 people, but some are larger (i.e. Malta)
  • Most microstates are small states because of their
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    • 1. Introduction  The European microstates may seem rather unimportant at first, but deeper examination reveals that these states are incredibly important. The fact that they have survived so long considering their vulnerability due to size shows that they have strong foundations, which other nations may want to imitate. When examining the microstates, it is best to first look at their common traits and then examine their unique histories that make them different.
    • 2. MICROSTATE  Definition: a small, independent state usually limited to 300,000 people.  Places: European microstates and a variety of islands.  Geography:  less than 200 sq. mi.  smallest being the Vatican City at 0.2 sq. mi  largest being Palau at 191 sq. mi.
    • 3. MICROSTATE  NATURE  Due to their small size and the fact that they are frequently isolated, the microstates are extremely vulnerable to global economic and social changes.  Their natural environment also causes problems since most are islands suffering from the natural disasters caused by ocean climates including hurricanes and other weather-related issues. The rest tend to be landlocked and suffer from no major water access.  They tend to lag behind the larger nations technologically and educationally.  To maintain independence and to keep themselves economically afloat, most microstates either form coalitions together or connect themselves to a larger nation such as France, Japan, and the UK.
    • 4. Mediterranean
    • 5. European Microstates v. Others  The European microstates are significant because they vary from the traditional form of a microstate.  Unlike the Pacific and Caribbean islands, all but one of the European microstates are landlocked.  Not as technologically advanced as nations like England and Germany, but less behind in this area than most other microstates.  Have a high literacy rate, a fairly well advanced system of government, some of the lowest levels of unemployment in the world, and a fairly solid economy.  All of the microstates claim long average life spans. In 2005, Andorra possessed the world’s highest life-expectancy rate at 85 years and San Marino had the second highest.  The European microstates are more advanced technologically, politically, economically, and scientifically than other microstates.
    • 6. Commonalities  They are the smallest nations in Europe by quite a bit of acreage, and thus have the smallest populations. They are geographically close together and share a time zone. Despite the closeness, none of the microstates actually share a border. Natural resources are hard to find in these states, which might have contributed to the fact that the larger nations tend to leave the microstates alone despite the ease with which they could conquer the vulnerable states. However, the states have made the best of what little resources they possess. The climate in each state is mild, although it varies slightly between the mountains and islands. The borders are fairly stable compared to the larger European countries, because the states avoid wars due to their vulnerable nature. Traditionally, they have either a small army or none at all; however, their growing international influence may eventually change this. The consistent geographical nature of the microstates means that they are also similar in other areas.
    • 7. Economics  Economically, the microstates are urbanized and rely heavily on exporting and tourism. Although originally the microstates had poor agricultural economies, they now have “mature service economies, and most have very little heavy industry or agriculture.” They import most food products and struggle with this dependency on other nations for the necessities. The small population of the microstates pushes them to look toward exporting. When the world hit the era of modernization, the microstates each found one industry to specialize in, which transformed them into modern countries. They are currently attempting to diversify their exports so that they are less dependent on one export. Tourism naturally became a strong industry for the states; however, most people only visit the microstates for a day and leave in the evening so it is a different type of tourism than in the rest of Europe. To encourage emigrating companies, the microstates offer tax breaks and low.
    • 8. Conservative  The microstates have a strong conservative tradition in part because the population is mainly natives from several generations. The inflow of tourists and international business draws foreigners into the microstates; however, the states do not allow citizenship to non-natives and it is sometimes difficult to obtain permission to live in one of them so there is no emigration. On the other hand, a work permit is typically allowed, and the majority of the labor force in the microstates are people who commute into the state from another country for work each day. Because the emigration rate is so low, most new blood in the microstates comes from the refugees they have always freely accepted. Because foreigners do not have much of an impact on the culture, the microstates have developed very traditional and conservative ways. The laws for men and women are still very unequal as seen in both their strict laws regarding emigrating women and the late success of the women’s suffrage movement. Despite the conservative nature of the culture, they are very modern in other areas as in clothing, sports, and a love of the vices (i.e. alcohol, gambling, etc.)
    • 9. Individuals  The six microstates are very similar in some ways, but each individual state has a different history. The development of each state contributes to both the similarities and differences between them. Individual quirks or unique aspects of each microstate are equally important factors to consider when examining the states. The unique touch separates the states from one another and develops a different importance and nature for the individual countries. Because they are different, it is important to study them individually on top of studying them as a group.
    • 10. Andorra
    • 11. Andorra
    • 12. Andorra
    • 13. Andorra  The Principality of the Valleys of Andorra is the first microstate in the list, and is part of the landlocked, mountainous, and hilly geographical group. The country is situated between France and Spain, as part of the Iberian peninsula, and the national languages are naturally Catalan, Spanish, and French. The people are mostly of Spanish, French, Andorran, and Portuguese decent. The terrain is mountainous with narrow valleys, and the mountains give it colder winters and dryer summers than some of the other microstates. Avalanche’s are a serious threat here. Unfortunately, the nation has no water access, and only 2.13% of the land is farmable. Because of this, 89% of the nation is urbanized. According to the CIA World Factbook, 2009, Andorra is the largest of the microstates at 190 sq. miles and has a population of 83,888 as of July 2009. The population has grown significantly since 1979 when Eric Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn claimed the populations was approximately 20,000 people in his book “The Intelligent American’s Guide to Europe.” This is surprising considering their strict emigration laws and incredibly low population growth and birth rates.
    • 14. History  Andorra has a long history, and some settlements date back to the 3rd century B.C. In 819 A.D., the mountain people fought with Charlemagne against the Moors, and he gave the six valleys to the Spanish Bishop of Seo de Urgel. By 1278, the two dominant leaders, the bishop and a French count, accepted each other as co-princes of Andorra. Except for one small period during the French Revolution, Andorra has always been allied to both France and the Bishop of Seo de Urgel. During this period, Andorra was not a state because of the tribute it paid to France and Spain and its foundation as the result of a federal grant. Instead, it was a type of fiefdom, but this would change in 1993 with the signing of Andorra’s first constitution. By voting for the constitution, the Andorran people chose sovereignty and obtained the right to erect their own judicial system and foreign policy. They are now a principality and the capital is Andorra la Vella.
    • 15. Government development  The political system of Andorra is similar to most other westernized European nations and became a parliamentary democracy with political parties, elections by proportional representation and popular vote, etc. The difference is seen in the limited voting rights and the co-prince rulers. The only people allowed to vote are Andorrans whose family has held citizenship for three generations or more. This means only 15% of the people are allowed to vote. The Women’s Suffrage Movement never held much sway in Andorra, and women only received the right to vote in 1070. One glaring difference between Andorra and most other countries is that foreigners are the official heads of state. The official rulers are the President of France and the Bishop of Seo de Urgel who still rule as co-princes. Despite this, the real power lies in the Prime Minister, who is and Andorran. Because Andorra is so small, it does not have a military. However, all men between 16 and 60 are required to fight with the People’s Militia if called upon. Instead, they rely on France and Spain for protection. France and Spain also share the responsibility of providing police assistance to Andorra.
    • 16. International  Andorra does not play a large part in the international world. They are a member of UNESCO, but until 1993, France dominated their actions there. In 1993, Andorra “joined the UN as a full member, entered the Council of Europe in 1994, and tightened its ties with the EU.” Andorra never involved itself in international warfare and has frequently opened their borders to refugees fleeing European wars. Originally a poor nation, Andorra gained popularity as a tourist spot after WWII, and has since become a fairly prosperous, industrial nation.
    • 17. Current Problems  Andorra is facing a few major issues today and most of it relates to their size as it is affected by their open-door policy towards refugees and the move towards industrialization. The low interest rates and taxes attract legal and illegal immigrants, and it is raising the population number. There is only so much space available, and Andorra is becoming more and more crowded. The move towards industrialization was good for the Andorran economy, but, once again, the size of Andorra is a problem. The valleys are becoming cluttered and packed and they are slowing running out of room. There has also been a significant lack of snowfall recently, which is affecting their tourism economy and they are struggling to support a larger population on less income. Whether or not they can overcome this situation will depend on how quickly they can begin to develop new investment possibilities.
    • 18. Malta
    • 19. Malta
    • 20. Malta
    • 21. Malta
    • 22. Malta  The Republic of Malta is the second largest microstate, is different geographically from Andorra, and has an incredibly unique history. Malta is a set of three islands of 122 sq. km. with a solid Mediterranean climate. The terrain is mostly a blend of plains and rocky flats with cliffs along the coasts. Malta has more arable land than Andorra at 31%, but 94% of the population is urbanized. They have the largest population with 405,000 as of July according the CIA World Factbook. The population is mostly all of Maltese decent (a combination of Phoenician and Carthaginian bloodlines), and the main languages are Maltese and English. The Maltese language is the only official Semitic language in the EU and sounds very similar to Arabic. The culture is a blend of Arabic and Italian tradition
    • 23. Malta: History  Humans lived on Malta as far back as 3800 B.C. and the islands were probably the center of come Mediterranean civilization. Malta was invaded and settled by peoples of each dominant Mediterranean civilization and eventually fell to Rome. Rome collapsed and Constantinople ruled for a while. The Arabs ruled from 870 A.D. to 1000 A.D. and strongly influenced the Maltese culture. Finally, the Normans reigned until the 16th century. In 1520, the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as the Maltese Knights, came to power. The order was a Roman Catholic religious order founded in Jerusalem before the crusades to protect the Christian pilgrims. Their mission was to defeat the Turks and Malta went to war. Finally, the Turkish sultan sent a navy of 40,000 men and 200 ships against the islands and one of the bloodiest sieges in history took place. The Order’s Grand Master forced the Turks out and stopping, for good, the Turks attempt to enter the western Mediterranean.
    • 24. Malta  The knight’s built the capital, Valleta, and established hundreds of costly and beautiful palaces, churches, and public and governmental buildings. These buildings are now draw thousands of tourists per year to the islands. In 1798, Napoleon seized the islands without a fight due to sympathetic knights, but gave them to Great Britain when he realized he could not defend them. Malta’s economy became highly dependent on proceeds from British military factories and they have never been able to recover. During WWII, Malta had a significant role in the Allied efforts in North Africa, Sicily and southern Europe. In 1947, Malta received
    • 25. Malta  The constitution made Malta an independent parliamentary monarchy within the British Commonwealth, but, in 1974, the constitution was changed and Malta became a republican parliamentary democracy. The nation is still very religious as seen in the fact that they have the second highest number of priests in the world. Only the Vatican has more. Divorce and Abortion are still illegal here. The Maltese economy suffered as the nation tried to impose its own foreign policy. In 1979, when Britain took its contracts for the military factories elsewhere, and Libya has since become their main support, although currently the ties are not as strong as they used to be. Malta joined the E.U. in 2004.  Malta also faces a problem with immigrants, most of which come illegally from Africa. Most of the immigrants were headed for Italy, but the boats were blown off course. Some came to Malta because it was the closest member of the EU to them. Malta cannot afford to pay for returning the immigrant home, but many of them are becoming restless because of their confinement to small barracks. This is slowly becoming a great problem and is badly affecting Malta’s already weak economy.
    • 26. Liechtenstein
    • 27. Liechtenstein
    • 28. Liechtenstein
    • 29. Liechtenstein
    • 30. Liechtenstein  The Principality of Liechtenstein is a small Alpine nation a little smaller with 35,000 people. It is bordered by Switzerland and Autsria, and the official language is German. Most people are of Alemannic German decent, but 1/3 of the population consists of foreigners. The terrain is 2/3 mountains and 1/3 Rhine Valley. 25% of the land is arable, but only 14% of the nation is urbanized. The climate is cool, and the country is one of only two doubly-landlocked nations (the nations it borders are also landlocked).
    • 31. Liechtenstein  Liechtenstein saw settled by Germanic tribes, and ruled by various noble houses until an Austrian nobleman, Prince Hans Adam, bought up the titles. He pushed Kaiser Karl VI to make the land the Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein in 1719. Occupied by both French and Russian troops during the Napoleanic wars, Liechtenstein became a sovereign state in 1806 and is the only part of Napoleon’s territorial system to survive unaltered. For economic purposes, the country made several economic and customs unions including one with the German Confederation and one with the Austro-Hungarian empire. When the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed, Liechtenstein lost most of its money. In response to this issue, Liechtenstein announced the creation of a democratic constitution in 1912. During the 1930’s, Lichtenstein suffered from a deep depression and it was conquered by Germany although it never lost its status of neutrality. Since World War II, the nations's low taxes have encouraged economic growth. The nation is highly focused on industry and has brought in numerous guest workers.
    • 32. Liechtenstein  The people tend to be conservative in nature and politics and are happy with the nation’s status as a hereditary constitutional monarchy. The people truly love their prince who has ruled since 1699. The “Princely House of Liechtenstein” is one of the oldest royal families in the world and can be traced back to 1136. Currently His Serene Highness Prince Hans Adam II is ruler; however the crown prince is in charge of daily affairs since 2004. The royal family is Austrian and has amassed a lot wealth throughout history. Until 1945, this wealth meant Liechtenstein did not have an income tax, and it is still low today.
    • 33. Liechtenstein  Liechtenstein does not seem to be struggling with any major issues right night beyond supporting their economy. However, there is the possibility that there will be trouble in the future. In 2003, the prince received massive constitutional powers through a referendum. He is currently the most powerful monarch in Europe, and the Council of Europe and leading Liechtenstein politicians are worried that he is moving the country backwards and destroying the efforts to move the nation towards democracy. Despite the worries of the politicians, the people are not worried and he still has massive support.
    • 34. San Marino
    • 35. San Marino
    • 36. San Marino
    • 37. San Marino  The fourth nation is the Republic of San Marino, a small landlocked nation found within the NE Apennines of Italy. The terrain is mountainous, but the climate is very Mediterranean. 16% of the land is arable, and 94% of the 30,324 citizens are urbanized. The natives are a mix of Italians and Sammarinese, and Italian is the official language. The capital is also San Marino. The country is very difficult to access because there is one way in and that requires a car or bus ride from the Adriatic, and collectors of the nation’s beautiful stamps are the only foreigners familiar with the country.
    • 38. San Marino  In 301 A. D., St. Marinus and a small cluster of Christians fled to this location to escape persecution. They named the area San Marino and changed their calendars to count from 301 A.D. instead of Christ’s birth in honor of their leader. This tradition of dating is still in place in San Marino today, ad their date for the year 2009 is 1708. The territory became self-ruling by the 12th century partly of its isolated and hard to access location, its fortresses, and its ability to play the nations surrounding them against one another. By the 15th century, San Marino was a republic. In the 19th century, San Marino offered refuge to Italian revolutionaries during the Italian unification struggles. This allowed it to gain independence from Italy in 1862.
    • 39. San Marino  The nation was occupied by the Germans and bombed by the British during WWII, so it followed a tradition of neutrality. San Marino’s constitution is a 1939 revision of some statutes written in 1600. Instead of a prime minister, San Marino chose to make the Secretary of State for Foreign and Political Affairs and the Secretary of State for Budget, Financial and Internal Affairs the highest authorities. Italy has always provided defense for San Marino, so it has no army. It does have a military corps that works during parades and celebrations and a gendarmerie that enforces public order. Internationally, San Marino is a member of the Council of Europe and the U.N., and it has a reputation of having low taxes, which does draw some tourism in investment. San Marino agreed to diplomatic relations with the E.U. giving its goods free access to the E.U. Their only severe problem is a shortage of electricity, which will impact their ability to grow as a financial center as they dream of becoming.
    • 40. Monaco
    • 41. Monaco
    • 42. Monaco
    • 43. Monaco  Monaco is another beautiful microstate and is one big city. The terrain is hilly and rocky, the climate mild or hot, and the nation has no natural resources or water sources. There is no agriculture and 100% urbanization. The population is 33,000 people of predominantly French, Monegasque, and Italian decent. About one- fifth are foreigners. The languages reflect the ethnicity with the addition of English. The city is built on three different settlements: Monaco City, La Condamine, and Monte Carlo.
    • 44. Monaco
    • 45. Monaco  Monaco has been settled since the stone age, and the city was founded by the Phoenicians. The country was incredibly prosperous during the Roman domination, but this wealth was lost to invading barbarians. It passed from hands to hands until the Grimaldi family took over in 1297. Monaco is too small to protect itself so it allied itself to various nations looking for protection. First, they looked to France, then Spain and then France again. In 1793, France overthrew the Grimaldi rulers and annexed Monaco. In 1814, Monaco was given o the Kingdom of Sardinia as a protectorate. France took it back in 1848 while reducing its territory. Finally, in 1861, the nation was given independence.
    • 46. Monaco  France is still responsible for protecting Monaco, and Monaco signed a 1918 treaty promising that their policies would conform to French political, military, naval, and economic interests. In 1919, Monaco agreed that if the king died without an heir, the nation would return to France’s possession. To prevent this, Monaco allows females to take the throne. Monaco and France have agreed to several customs and economic union and work together on postal issues, banking, and phone communication. France controls Monaco’s foreign relations, and Monaco is part of the E.U. through its customs union with France. It is also a member of the UN. Monaco refuses to tax its citizens because on 20% of the residents are citizens. They recently transformed their economy through the creation of its famous casino. Monaco is known for being a place where “a customer’s chances of winning at roulette are somewhat better here than in the state of Nevada," and it is considered to have the most honest casino in the world. The economy is doing well, and the standards of living are higher there than in France.
    • 47. Vatican City
    • 48. Vatican City
    • 49. Vatican CIty  The last microstate is the Vatican City, another microstate that is completely a landlocked city. Located in the middle of Rome, the Vatican terrain is urban and slightly hilly, and the climate is moderate. The population is only about 826 people and most of those are Italians and Swiss. Numerous languages are spoken here, although the official language is Latin. The Vatican City as an actual state has a very short history. It traditionally was the ruling power over the Papal States and was one of the most powerful powers in the world. In 1870, the Italian government annexed the Papal States and the church leaders withdrew to the Vatican City. In 1929, the pope signed the Lateran Treaty giving the State of Vatican City sovereignty and independence.
    • 50. Vatican City  The Vatican bank has suffered other problems. Italy and the Vatican have frequently argued about authority and respect on one another’s laws, and it is likely that they will continue to argue. The church establishes its own government with the pope at the head. Order is maintained by an army of Swiss guards. Residents of the Vatican are all employees or family of employees of the Vatican. The Vatican has established its own telephone system, post office, radio station, pharmacy, and banking system, and there is a railway station there. For all purposes, the Vatican has become a small city that caters to employees while working to impact the world.
    • 51. Conclusion  These European microstates have all had a long and drawn out history, though it may be a fairly new state. In most places, their independence comes from their determination to hold onto their values. One author said that the microstates were more regions than nation, and to an extent this is true. They are all close- knit societies, with similar values and ideas of how to live. The people love one another and are confident in their country’s ability to succeed. This stubborn spirit and determination is something all nations can appreciate, big or small.

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