Could the European Union (or an element of it) be described as a government?

The Wikipedia definition of government seems quite broad:

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.

  • 3
    The EU has a legislative branch (EU Parliament) and an executive branch (EU Commision). I would call both of those elements of a government.
    – Time4Tea
    Jun 23, 2019 at 22:23
  • Thank you. So it meets the definition of a government?
    – 52d6c6af
    Jun 23, 2019 at 22:55
  • 4
    I am not sure it could be described as much of anything else.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jun 24, 2019 at 2:19
  • and with europol and the planned pan-EU army they have police and soon armed forces as well (and technically they already have armed forces in the various combined units made up of troops from various countries, but those aren't officially under direct EU control but rather shared control of the countries providing those troops).
    – jwenting
    Jun 24, 2019 at 3:33
  • 7
    Note: the word "government" means something different in the UK and USA. In the former, it refers only to the executive branch. In the latter, it can refer to all 3 branches. Jun 24, 2019 at 9:12

1 Answer 1


Could it be described as a government? Yes.

There is a wide variety of constitutional arrangements on Earth. Some have a written constitution, some do not. The EU has a number of attributes of a government, for example the EU parliament. EU documents talk about EU citizenship, and this citizenship gives many rights usually reserved for the citizens of a state. Only the EU is allowed to negotiate trade agreements for the member states.

Could it be described as not a government? Yes.

A government is usually an attribute of a state, and of a sovereign state in particular. The EU is not sovereign by itself, it is an union of sovereign states which delegate the exercise of some their sovereign powers to the EU. EU member states are allowed to leave in accordance with their own constitutional requirements. Citizens of other member states may be deported from EU states.

Is there an official definition of government? No.

  • The EU has all the features of a government and yet in this answer you appear to make an argument that it might not be a government because of the origin of its sovereignty? On what basis is this argument founded? Why is the origin of the sovereignty relevant here? It wields sovereignty. It has a legislature, judiciary and executive. It's a government?
    – 52d6c6af
    Jun 24, 2019 at 18:12
  • @Ben, when the governments of two states meet in a structured setting, does that make them a joint government? I think not. The EU is a very structured union of states, but arguably it is not a state, and without a state there cannot be a real government.
    – o.m.
    Jun 24, 2019 at 18:40
  • The EU is more than intergovernmentalism though. The Commission/Parliament/COM triad is delegated and pooled sovereignty: supranationalism. And there is a state: infact there are 28 of them.
    – 52d6c6af
    Jun 24, 2019 at 19:58
  • @Ben, 28 states are not one. Consider: once the UK leaves the EU, UK citizens are no longer EU citizens. If the EU was more like a state, they'd retain the citizenship.
    – o.m.
    Jun 25, 2019 at 4:34
  • I guess I dispute your premise governing multiple states breaks the definition of a government. The EU is a government that governs multiple states.
    – 52d6c6af
    Jun 25, 2019 at 10:20

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