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Characteristics of Nation-States

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Since time immemorial, people have realized that unity is strength and as such have learnt to embrace the importance of living together as a family. Living together is possible only if people are united by some common factors. A nation refers to a people of the same race that have come to live together and possibly have a common language for communication. In other words, a nation only defines a socio-cultural entity and does not take the concept of formal politics in consideration. On the other hand, a state is a well-defined political entity that is characterized by a stable government, permanent population and ability to relate with other states (Suer, 2009).

A modern nation-state refers to a permanent population of people that are bound together by a stable government and common socio-cultural factors. A modern nation-state is characterized by several core features. Firstly, it has a well-defined geographical boundary that assists it excise its jurisdiction over its citizens (George & Emily, 2007). Secondly, its territory is governed by sovereignty and independent of any external influence from other nation-states. Thirdly, a modern nation-state government comprises public offices, with each having a role to play in the governing of the nation-state. Through these public offices, a nation-state is able to take control and administration of its territory and subjects (George & Emily, 2007).

A modern nation-state has well marked and protected boundaries, often fenced with specific entry and exit points. The fences are under 24-hour security watch by border gourds, and sometimes armies. Leadership of this kind of state enjoys monopoly through the lawful application of coercion over its subject. Lastly, citizens of a nation-state are entitled to minimum sense of national identity and its government does require loyalty of its citizens to rule (George & Emily, 2007).

Examples of a Nation, a State and a Nation-State

Barbados is an independent Caribbean island and a typical example of a nation with a stable economy. For entry to and exit from this nation, one must have a valid passport or visa implying that it has a well-guarded territory. Its population is comprised of people of the same race who use English as their common language of communication. Barbados’ leadership is externally influenced by some nation-states, such as the U.S. (Barriton, 2006).

For a state, the Dominican Republic stands out as the best example. It has a representative type of government with a multiparty system. The government’s functions are carried out through the principle government officials, such as President Leonel Reyna, ministers and other officials (Suer, 2009). The Dominican Republic has a stable economy with an estimated nominal GDP of $51.6 billion and an annual growth of 7.8%. It has a permanent population half of which lives in rural areas. It also enjoys good relations with other nations, such as the U.S. However, the Dominican Republic is not completely independent, since its leadership is at times subjected to foreign influence (Suer, 2009).

France was one of the earliest countries to transform from feudalism to a nation-state. It is a typical example that illustrates what a nation-state really is. It has a permanent population of about 63.1 million people with French as their national language. Its central government, currently headed by President Nicolas Sarkozy assisted by the Prime Minister, is very stable. There is proper interrelation between France and other nation-states, such as the United States of America. Moreover, France’s territory is well-guarded by the French military as per the UN Security Council Counterterrorism Committee (George & Emily, 2007).

The United States as a Nation-State

The United States is made up of 50 states with each ruling itself through an organized state of government. Each state has its own population and a territory. These states are not completely independent since they are influenced by national laws. The United States has been able to maintain its nation-state status through good address and understanding of fixed territory, sovereignty and common culture (Goudie, 2006).

The United States has been working hard towards fostering fixed territory in its nation-states. This move is geared at assisting the U.S. government to exercise its political power on the areas over which the United States has dominion. As defined in the Federal Constitution, the United States’ territories include the states of the Union. Particular inhabitants of a given U.S. territory do not enjoy political and social parity with inhabitants of other areas which constitute the constitution (Goudie, 2006). 

The U.S. government through sovereignty authorizes the indigenous tribes to rule themselves within the United States’ territory. These tribal nations within the U.S. are recognized by the Federal Government as “Domestic Dependant Nations”. The federal government has formulated laws that assist it to define how the Federal, State and Tribal governments should be related. Full sovereignty was granted to these tribal nations by the constitution which was later enhanced by Federal Laws (Russell,2009).

It is obvious that a powerful institutional order like the one experienced in the U.S. must have a powerful culture. The U.S. has well-defined cultures, such as marriage culture that condemns divorce for couples in their sixties onwards. There is an English language as a common mode of communication. All these common cultures are made known to the native inhabitants through media, schools and other effective modes (Russell,2009).

The U.S. is a very influential country in the world. It has many foreign policy objectives that help it relate with foreign nations, as well as interactions standards for its organizations and citizens. Goudie (2006) asserts that Isolationism and Neutrality are some of the foreign policies that ensure that the U.S. stays out of international war and also refrains from selling firearms to any county participating in such wars. The policy also prevents the U.S. from allowing any of the belligerent warships to seek refuge from either force (Goudie, 2006). 

European Union as a Transnational Entity

The European Union was first established as a European Community. It owes its creation to the efforts of the major governments of postwar continental Europe who wanted to raise the continent from the fractures caused by the Second World War. Its major objective was to unify European coal and steel industries to manufacture a lot of munitions to boost the then stumbling European economy. This action gave rise to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951 with the help of Treaty formed by France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, West Germany, and Luxembourg. In 1957, these six countries transformed the ECSC into the EEC and then to the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) (El-Agraa & Ardy, 2011).

In 1957, the need to consolidate the operations of the ECSC, EEC and EAEC, commonly known as European Communities, arose (El-Agraa & Ardy, 2011). In 1965, a single commission and a single council that united the European community were formed through the Treaty of Mergers signed in Brussels. The European Union was then formed from the European communities in 1992 with the main objective of expanding and redefining the influence of the communities to merge some of their operations (El-Agraa & Ardy, 2011).

Currently, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and United Kingdom are some of its members (El-Agraa & Ardy, 2011). The EU institutions include the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, European Commission, Court of Justice, Court of Auditors, European Investment Bank, European and Social Committee and European Monetary Institute (Weihrich, 2007).

The contemporary function of the European Union is to unite the member states in order to maximize the collective abilities of these members. This is done through authorizing members freedom of movement, free trade and freedom of job choice within the territory of the EU. Another function that the Union undertakes is the counteraction of the United States as the global super power (Bindi, 2010).

The main objectives of the European Union include ensuring that peace and understanding are preserved and strengthened among the member countries. This is achievable through the establishment of good relations with the neighbor countries based on equality and reciprocity principles. Its second objective is to conduct extensive promotion of its economy. This will be achieved through increasing the exports of the EU products and attraction of more foreign investments (Bindi, 2010).

Engagement of Nation-State and Transnational Entities in Foreign Policy

Before getting involved in foreign policy, it is up to the leadership of these nation-states and transnational entities to ensure that the policy is beneficial to them. The benefits could be evaluated in terms of political and economic effects, as well as security issues. Cebeci (2011) asserts that nation-states and entities engage in foreign policies in two ways; firstly, they economically penetrate different countries through the establishment of multinational corporations; secondly, through influencing the political and military systems of the targeted countries. These are the measures that have helped the United-States to remain the sole superpower with a strong economy for many years (Cebeci, 2011).

Not only does the engagement benefit nation-states and transnational entities, but also assists targeted countries politically and economically. In the past, the European Union assisted these countries in reviving their economies in tough situations by writing off their long and outstanding debts. These bodies also assist in promoting democracy in the countries through eradication of dictatorship rule. However, there are a number of side effects suffered by targeted countries. For instance, they become dependent on the EU and, therefore, may be susceptible to external influence (Jorgenson, 2009).

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