Could a country assimilate another country in a democratic way?

As an example, if the UK and an ex-colony of the UK both agree through a referendum to become a single country, would that possible or would the UN say no?

  • 8
    There is precedence for two countries merging, like the German reunification. However, the reunification was not legitimized through a democratic referendum in either state. Also, there were some people who never considered the Germanies to be separate sovereign countries in the first place but rather considered their less favorite half to be occupied by an external power.
    – Philipp
    Apr 13, 2016 at 13:19
  • 3
    Another example, the independant Dominion of Newfoundland which voted to join Canada in 1949. Apr 13, 2016 at 13:41
  • Switzerland formed as a free confederacy, parts joining voluntary.
    – Stančikas
    Apr 13, 2016 at 18:24
  • 1
    Please define "assimilate". Are you talking about a linguistic (or cultural) assimilation, or as a politic annexation? Two very different things.
    – Bregalad
    Apr 13, 2016 at 18:42
  • The UN doesn't really get to say no. It can vote to disapprove of something, suspend or expel the nation in question from the UN, or even authorize military force in extreme cases, but the UN's actual power is only as strong as the desire of its member states to do something about it. Apr 14, 2016 at 0:17

2 Answers 2


Short answer: Yes. the example that most closely matches your question being the independant Dominion of Newfoundland holding referendums in 1948 and 1949 to chose between several options. The first vote was inconclusive, but on the second 52% voted to negotiate a merger with Canada.

Texas similarly voted to join the United States.

More recently, the Crimean referendum whereby two regions of the Ukraine voted to rejoin Russia. That vote has been disputed as not being legal by many countries, however those same countries all supported internal votes to break up Yugoslavia, so the opposition is not to such an event in principle, but rather on very fine points of law as to when and how such votes can be made. In Canada there have been similar legal discussions on the process for a possible Quebec seccession for example.

In the US there is the debate as to whether Puerto Rico should be allowed to become a full state - also illustrating that such things need widespread agreement from all parties concerned as in Puerto Rico the desire for full statehood has established by referendum in 2012 where 54% stated their desire to end their current status as a protectorate and 61% who marked their preferred option selected statehood. Any attempt to vote on this in the US congress, however, has died without reaching a vote.

  • 4
    The impression I got about the Crimean referendum was not that it was opposed because of the method, as because of suspicions of external influence. But I admit to not paying a great deal of attention, so I could very easily be wrong.
    – Bobson
    Apr 13, 2016 at 15:42
  • 1
    yes, there were arguments that it was held as a snap vote while under Russian Occupation making it suspicious, and the underlying premise used to call it (the declaration of the new government in Kiev after the 2014 Ukranian Revolution as being invalid) not being sufficient grounds. But mostly it seemed to be general opposition to increased Russian influence in the region. Apr 13, 2016 at 15:51
  • 3
    @Bobson In addition to Russian occupation, the other objection to the Crimean vote was that treaty obligations required it to remain part of Ukraine. The Russian Federation agreeing to the then-current borders of Ukraine (which included Crimea) and to never violate them was part of the agreement for Ukraine transferring its nuclear weapons to the Russian federation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. See the Budapest Memorandum.
    – reirab
    Apr 13, 2016 at 20:15
  • Such an extension of the border would have no impact ? I am quite sure that the UN would not be happy if England was recovering a part of Africa like this. Apr 19, 2016 at 14:43
  • 2
    @NoxrasRomael The UN has no say in it. If both parties agree to a merger, then the UN has no sovereign power to deny them a merger. That's one of the key aspects of the UN, that nothing they say is legally binding unless the member country ratifies their deceleration into law.
    – SGR
    Oct 13, 2016 at 9:23

As Michael Broughton already pointed out, it can easily and democratically happen.

Another very prominent (and low-on-conflict) version of that happening was East- and Westgermany.

It all happened 100% democratic, and without any riots or so (some demonstrations took place, but in a scale that you can consider normal for a democratic decision)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .