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A map of the currently existing national and supranational continental unions.

A continental union, often abbreviated to CU, is an inter-governmental, supra-national, or a federation of member states located in the same continent, or close to it[citation needed]. Continental unions are a relatively new type of political entity in the history of human government. Throughout most of human history political organization has been at the local level (i.e. tribal, city state) and in more recent centuries, the sub-regional ("regional")/sub-continental level (i.e. river system/basin empires, the modern "nation-state"); however, starting in the 1600s - 1800's with the advent of better transportation, weapons and communication there was for the first time the ability for a union of member states to organize at the continental level. In the early 1900s with its growing independence from the United Kingdom, the "Commonwealth of Australia" became the first continent of the world to be united under a central political entity. After the devastation of the first and second world wars in the middle of the 1900s Europe slowly evolved from its founding as the "Coal and Steel Community" to become a political union covering much of the European Continent (27 member states as of 2009).[1][2][3] Seeking to follow in the economically successful foot steps of the European Union, in 2002 and 2008 the African Union and Union of South American Nations respectively, set down similar blueprints for integration into political and economic unions at the continental level.


Existing continental unions

African Union

The African Union at a size of 29,757,900 square kilometers and a population of 1 Billion is by far the largest of the existing continental unions in terms of both land mass and population.[4]

The African Union (AU) was formed as a successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU).[5] The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU's secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the February 2009 Union meeting headed by Libyan leader Gaddafi, it was resolved that the African Union Commission would become the African Union Authority.[6]

The African Union is made up of both political and administrative bodies. The highest decision-making organ of the African Union is the Assembly, made up of all the heads of state or government of member states of the AU. The Assembly is currently chaired by Muammar al-Gaddafi, leader of Libya, elected at the tenth ordinary meeting of the Assembly in January 2009. The AU also has a representative body, the Pan African Parliament, which consists of 265 members elected by the national parliaments of the AU member states. The current president of the Pan African Parliament is Idriss Ndele Moussa. Other political institutions of the AU include the Executive Council, made up of foreign ministers, which prepares decisions for the Assembly; the Permanent Representatives Committee, made up of the ambassadors to Addis Ababa of AU member states; and the Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), a civil society consultative body.

In Canadian usage

In Canadian history and political science, the term "Continental Union" refers to the idea of creating a union between Canada and the United States, either by forming a new, super-national body in which both countries would become equal members, or by the United States annexing Canada. The ideology which favours Canadian integration with the United States, economically or politically, is known as "continentalism", the more radically version which favours Canada becoming part of the United States is called "annexationism". Continentalism was historically been one of three theories of Canadian nationality that predominated in English Canadian thought, the others being pro-British "Imperialism", and Canadian nationalism.[7][8]

Commonwealth of Australia

Australia (pronounced /əˈstreɪljə/ ə-STRAYL-yə or /ɒˈstreɪljə/ o-STRAYL-yə,[9] or more formally as /ɔːˈstreɪliə/ aw-STRAY-lee-ə), officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the continental mainland (the world's smallest),[10][11] the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.N4 Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea to the north, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia to the north-east, and New Zealand to the southeast.[12]

Australia approved by referendums held over 1898 - 1900 "The Constitution of Australia" which united the people of the Australian Continent under a single political union separate from the United Kingdom. Further steps of independence were taken with the passage of the "Statute of Westminster" in 1931 and the "Australia Act" in 1986.

European Union

The European Union has the largest economy (GDP) of the existing continental unions, and serves as the model which the African Union and the Union of South American Nations seek to follow.[13]

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union[14] of 27 member states, located primarily in Europe. Committed to regional integration, the EU was established by the Treaty of Maastricht on 1 November 1993 upon the foundations of the pre-existing European Economic Community.[15] With almost 500 million citizens, the EU combined generates an estimated 30% share (US$18.4 trillion in 2008) of the nominal gross world product.[16]

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, ensuring the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital.[17] It maintains common policies on trade,[18] agriculture, fisheries[19] and regional development.[20] Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro, constituting the Eurozone. The EU has developed a limited role in foreign policy, having representation at the WTO, G8, G20 and at the UN. It enacts legislation in justice and home affairs, including the abolition of passport controls by an agreement between the member states which form the Schengen Area.[21]

Union of South American Nations

The Union of South American Nations (Português: União de Nações Sul-Americanas - UNASUL, Español: Unión de Naciones Suramericanas - UNASUR, Dutch: About this sound Unie van Zuid-Amerikaanse Naties - UZAN) is an intergovernmental union integrating two existing customs unions: Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations, as part of a continuing process of South American integration. It is modeled on the European Union.[22]

The UnSAN Constitutive Treaty was signed on May 23, 2008, at the Third Summit of Heads of State, held in Brasília, Brazil. According to the Constitutive Treaty, the Union's headquarters will be located in Quito, Ecuador. The South American Parliament will be located in Cochabamba, Bolivia, while its bank, the Bank of the South (Portuguese: Banco do Sul, Spanish: Banco del Sur, Dutch: Bank van het Zuiden), will be located in Caracas, Venezuela. The Union's former designation, the South American Community of Nations (Portuguese: Comunidade Sul-Americana de Nações, and Spanish: Comunidad de Naciones Suramericanas, Dutch: Zuid-Amerikaanse Statengemeenschap), abbreviated as CSN, was dropped at the First South American Energy Summit on April 16, 2007.

Visits by South American citizens to any South American country of up to 90 days require only the presentation of an identity card issued by the respective authority of the travellers' country of origin. On 24 November 2006, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela waived visa requirements for tourism travel between nationals of said countries.

Proposed continental unions

Proposed and existing continental unions

Certain regional international organisations have vocation, or are able to become continental unions, such as CARICOM in the Caribbean, ASEAN in Southeast Asia and SAARC in the Indian Subcontinent.

See also




  1. ^ Benelux customs and economic reforms greatly foreshadowed those of the EU
  2. ^ Benelux social reforms greatly foreshadowed those of the EU
  3. ^ Benelux parliamentary reforms greatly foreshadowed those of the EU
  4. ^ Reuters Article referring to the African Union as a "Continental Union" Reuters
  5. ^ Thabo Mbeki (July 9, 2002). "Launch of the African Union, 9 July 2002: Address by the chairperson of the AU, President Thabo Mbeki". ABSA Stadium, Durban, South Africa:,%209%20July%202002.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  6. ^ "Africa | AU summit extended amid divisions". BBC News. 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  7. ^ Warner, Frederic, The Idea of Continental Union: Agitation for the Annexation of Canada to the United States, 1849-1893, (University of Kentucky Press, 1960), passsim.
  8. ^ Carl Berger, The Sense of Power. Studies in the ideas of Canadian imperialism, 1867-1914, (University of Toronto Press, 1970), passim.
  9. ^ Macquarie ABC Dictionary. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. 2003. p. 56. ISBN 0 876429 37 2. 
  10. ^ "Australia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2009-08-22.  "Smallest continent and sixth largest country (in area) on Earth, lying between the Pacific and Indian oceans."
  11. ^ "Continents: What is a Continent?". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2009-08-22.  "Most people recognize seven continents—Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia, from largest to smallest—although sometimes Europe and Asia are considered a single continent, Eurasia."
  12. ^ Commentator on the formation of the European Union who refers to the Common Wealth of Australia as a "Continental Union" EuropeanThought
  13. ^ Speech referring the European Union as a "Continental Union" Europa
  14. ^ "Oxford Dictionary of English: European 5 b. spec. Designating a developing series of economic and political unions between certain countries of western (and later also eastern) Europe from 1952 onwards, as European Economic Community, European Community, European Union.". Retrieved 27 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Craig, Paul; Grainne De Burca , P. P. Craig (2006). EU Law: Text, Cases and Materials (4th ed. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-19-927389-8. ; "Treaty of Maastricht on European Union". Activities of the European Union. Europa web portal. Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  16. ^ "World Economic Outlook Database, April 2009 Edition". International Monetary Fund. April 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2009. "
    Gross domestic product, current prices; U.S. dollars, Billions;
    2009=15,342.908 [projection]
    Gross domestic product based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) valuation of country GDP; Current international dollar, Billions;
    2009=14,774.525 [projection]
    GDP based on PPP share of world total
    2008=22.131% 2009=21.609% [projection]
    World "GDP", current prices; U.S. dollars, Billions;
    2009=54,863.551 [projection]
    These data were published in 2009. Data for 2009 are projections based on a number of assumptions."
  17. ^ European Commission. "The EU Single Market: Fewer barriers, more opportunities". Europa web portal. Retrieved 27 September 2007. "Activities of the European Union: Internal Market". Europa web portal. Retrieved 29 June 2007. 
  18. ^ "Common commercial policy". Europa Glossary. Europa web portal. Retrieved 6 September 2008. 
  19. ^ "Agriculture and Fisheries Council". The Council of the European Union. Retrieved 6 September 2008. 
  20. ^ "Overview of the European Union activities: Regional Policy". Europa web portal. Retrieved 6 September 2008. 
  21. ^ "Abolition of internal borders and creation of a single EU external frontier". Europa web portal. 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 24 January 2007. 
  22. ^ Fox News Report calls the Union of South American Nations the formation of a "Continental Union" Fox News

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