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Monday, 9 January 2012

The Paradox of Sovereignty

Today's news media carry strangely contrasting stories. The UK Cabinet is to discuss terms on which the people of Scotland should vote in a referendum on independence for their country, while President Sarkozy will be in Berlin plotting with Chancellor Merkel how to reduce the sovereign powers of states in the eurozone so that they are less able to decide on their own taxation and spending. Some stories refer to the situation in Canada where two referenda have been held on the independence of Quebec which have been challenged, after the event, as to what the question actually meant.

There was little doubt about the question in Sudan last year, when the south of the country voted very strongly in favour of independence from the north; which was then granted: now the world's newest country is torn by tribal conflict which its security systems are ill prepared to deal with, even though the problem was highly predictable. In other parts of Africa, from Nigeria to Kenya, religious affiliation has transcended tribalism as a cause of conflict which includes a tendency towards political separation. Campaigners for autonomy in Tibet and other Chinese regions occasionally get their message into the global news nexus; while the continued separation of the two Koreas is widely deplored. The ambiguous suzerainty of China over Taiwan is a constant problem, while the separation of Singapore from Malaysia was the start point for a massive success story. The saga of separation of the Faeroe Islands from Denmark is worthy of Nordic myth, while the needs of 'homeland security' have given a renewed emphasis to the ambiguities of the residual sovereign territories of Native Peoples in the USA. The collapse of communism in Europe led to reunification of Germany which was more than counterbalanced by the separation of more than a dozen ethnic groups into sovereign states.

Globally there is still a momentum, originating from the nineteen fifties, for states to coalesce in continental common markets even while more and more ethnic groups and geographic regions seek independence as internationally-recognised sovereign states; which could then take their own decisions on how far they commit to their regional common market and any other regional treaties [such as NATO]. Especially in the eurozone, key powers of sovereign states are being surrendered to the community while newly-independent states stand patiently in the queue to be admitted to the common currency. The dichotomous tendency of new states surrendering portions of their sovereignty will continue intermittently through this century.In several ways, sovereignty for new states is much more restricted than it was in the post-second-world-war period when India, Indonesia, and scores of other states emerged in full sovereignty.

 It is not likely that the trading blocs will make warlike preparations against each other, as such: the EU is not likely to mutate into an armed alliance against North America or ASEAN [the Association of South-East Asian Nations]. It is long established states, notably the USA and China, that seem currently to be shaping-up in a way that is reminiscent of an early twentieth-century arms race. It is against the interests of neighbouring states who form a free trade association to extend their partnership into a regional miltary alliance with their partners that is hostile to some of their trading partners in a global economy. Economic unions and free trade areas are essentially pacific structures: they reduce the risk of war between the members of the union; and the different global trading interests of the member states in any such community are antithetical to collective chauvinism directed against states on other continents.

The creation of new sovereign states and the consolidation of economic communities of states alike create a massive number of well-paid jobs as ambassadors and representatives. It is simply daft that the United Kingdom maintains twenty-six embassies in European Union countries. It has become clear that no UK government could pull out of the EU, even though there might be more political separation within a 'two speed' Union; so the need for representation in the EU countries is going to be at the consular rather than the ambassadorial level, in perpetuity. So Britain [and all the other EU states] should downgrade their internal embassies immediately, save a massive amount of money [and even more flummery] ,and allocate the reduced number of diplomats to the posts where they could be more useful.

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