Because the member states have to obey some rules, such as :

  • Placing the EU flag on the left all licence plates
  • Have to grant freedom of movement
  • Have to be member of the ESE and grant free trade
  • Have to use the € currency unless they get a derogation like the UK did
  • Have to follow rules for e.g. electrical, agriculture, etc..

Can we really consider EU members as sovereign states ?

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    @DVK: being in the EU isn't the same as using the Euro, although the countries in the Euro of course do pass up monetary policy. Those outside the Euro have as much monetary sovereignty as ever. Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 18:32
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    Correct me if I am wrong, but the Euro was originally planned to be obligatory, it's only because UK and Sweden say they'd leave if they were to have to use Euro that they give them derogation for it.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:19
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    Some questions: Are countries that make treaties and agreements sovereign?. Is it a function of the extent of the treaties you make (which can be far reaching in the EU's case) or is it a function of the states ability to withdraw from these obligations (which countries in the EU can)?
    – Nathan
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:32
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    @Bregalad You're wrong about the Euro. The UK and Sweden wouldn't have had to leave the EU to avoid using the Euro; they would simply have vetoed its introduction. Major changes such as the introduction of the Euro have to be agreed by all EU members, or they don't happen. Even one member voting against would have been enough to kill it.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:52
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    By extension, do all treaties involve some partial loss of sovereignty?
    – Nick T
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 0:53

3 Answers 3


EU member states retain full sovereignty -- there's not even such a thing as partial sovereignty. Sovereign states can voluntarily delegate some or even all of their powers to either smaller areas (devolution and local government) or larger areas (international treaties and unions). As long as those powers can be reclaimed by the state, then that doesn't affect their sovereignty at all. Since EU member states can leave the EU, they are sovereign states.

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    But according to that logic republics of Soviet Union were sovereign states too - they could (and did) leave. Furthermore, using this approach we will have to regard members of any confederation\federation\union as sovereign states as long as they can withdraw from that union. Which is IMHO incorrect. In my opinion, withdrawing from such union and regaining powers delegated to it, constitutes restoration of sovereignty. Which means it was somehow diminished by membership in it.
    – AlexVhr
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 20:36
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    Between 1945 and 1988, it was pretty clear that Soviet republics could not in fact leave the USSR. If the Soviet Union would send in tanks to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, which were merely Warsaw Pact countries, it would hardly have allowed USSR member states to leave.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 20:43
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    @Relaxed sovereign states can still enter binding international contracts with other states (e.g. peace treaties). Even though they technically could ignore those, doing so would be a precedent for the other parties. Having provisions for leaving the union makes the divorce ordered and helps minimizing the chaos of such a decision.
    – Chieron
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 14:13
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    @Relaxed I was pointing out that there is no paradox in seemingly granting them the right to leave and sovereignity. They could also just leave without using that right (renouncing the entire treaty unilaterally), but that generally would be frowned upon.
    – Chieron
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 17:35
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    @Relaxed a formal right and procedure allows ending the relationship without breaking the treaty ouright. Explicitly including the option to leave means less arguing about the legality of such actions in international relations. Breaking/renouncing a treaty is a diplomatic affront, even if technically allowed within sovereignity.
    – Chieron
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 17:58

By becoming a member state of the European Union a country's governing body and it's judiciary looses some of its ability to legislate within certain domestic and international policy areas. This voluntary loss of legislative power could arguably considered not permanent; EU members states have the right to withdraw from the union and regain their full sovereignty at any point.

  • Yes, but if a state says he wants to leave this would create a huge diplomatic problem towards other member states, and thus they are not really free to leave, are they ?
    – Bregalad
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:20
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    @Bregalad The exercise of sovereignty can cause all kinds of diplomatic problems, whether or not a state is an EU member. The test for sovereignty is whether you can exercise it, not whether other people will like you exercising it.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:51
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    Ok, makes sense :)
    – Bregalad
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:59

EU member states are not sovereign. Being sovereign means full control over your territory, legislation and independent courts(to name just a few conditions). EU member states have to obey EU laws, which are created by european parliamen instead of their own. They also need to accept supremacy of european courts over national ones.

EU member states enjoy broad autonomy and ability to leave EU, but like some other person here noticed sovereignity either is or isnt. In this case lack of the ability to ignore EU will is decisive

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    European laws are made by the EU Commission, and they all have to pass the Council of the European Union, in which the member states are represented. The Parliament of the EU can only deny to pass laws. It does not have initiative rights.
    – Janka
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 23:35
  • #Janka Does that make them less binding for member states?
    – Leo
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 7:38
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    @Leo: It's generally considered that the ability to enter international binding agreements is in fact proof of sovereignty.
    – MSalters
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 10:04
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    EU states don’t have to do any of the things that you say they do. They have to do them while they remain in the EU. They can stop doing them whenever them want to.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 19:22
  • "They also need to accept supremacy of European courts over national ones" - wrong, where a conflict exists between EU and national law then in theory the EU law takes precedence.
    – Alan B
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 14:10

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