I find that sometimes, little countries have much more variety than big countries, just because it’s easier to test out new policies and interesting political structures when there are way fewer people to disagree with an idea and much fewer repercussions if something goes wrong. Also, change can happen much faster if only 30,000, not 300,000,000 people are involved.
If the title and the above paragraph hasn’t already told you what I’m going to talk about today, it’s about small countries. Specifically (mostly because I was reading about them), I’m going to talk about the six smallest countries in Europe and the interesting things about them.
Andorra, a small state tucked in between France and Spain, is the biggest microstate in Europe, comprising of 467 square kilometres of real estate, which, to give perspective, takes about 1 hour and a little more to cross. But that’s not the weird part about it. Not even close. The weird part is that they have two head of states at any one time: the Bishop of the diocese of Urgell in Spain, and the President of France. In common English, I’m saying that their heads of state are a) a foreign religious leader, and b) a politician who is the head of another state. Why? It goes back in history to when the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix ran the fiefdom sometime in the 13th century. The bishop, well, remained the bishop, and the County of Foix merged with the French crown which morphed into the French presidency, creating the interesting setup the state now has.
Malta is a small strategic island of 316 square kilometres in the Mediterranean Sea, meaning that it was invaded by Rome and the UK and every great navy in between them. Well, actually, just ten or so, but then, you’d think that was enough for two thousand years already. What’s interesting about the country, however, is that it managed to be awarded, as a whole, the George Cross for bravery in the Second World War. What’s so special about that? It’s usually awarded to an individual. Yes, it’s a great achievement and the medal is displayed on the flag of Malta to this day, but no, nobody I’ve met or ever heard of refers to the country as the Republic of Malta GC, so don’t do that either.
Liechtenstein, all 160 square kilometres of it, is sandwiched between the landlocked countries of Austria and Switzerland. The situation is called double landlocked. Being a small German-speaking state, one might ask why it’s not part of Germany. Well, geographical restrictions (A.K.A Austria) prevented the German Empire of the day from absorbing the little nation, and that’s why it’s still around. It’s also a great place to reside (so I’ve heard), with one of the world’s lowest unemployment rate and one of the world’s highest standards of living.
The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is smaller than about every major city I looked up while doing this, amounting to a whopping 61 square kilometres. Apart from the fact that it claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and the oldest constitutional republic, they don’t boast too much. To be precise, they claim A.D. 301 as their independence year and the seventeenth century as when their constitution, the Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini (the constitution, among other things) was written. Yeah. Old. But it also boasts having a F1 Grand Prix named after it , even though it was held it Italy. And to top that vehicular achievement off, they’re the only country with more cars than there are people.
Monaco boasts a country the size of 282 football fields, or 2.02 square kilometres. Bordered on three sides by France and the last by the Mediterranean, it called the playground for the rich and famous (with 30% of the people being millionaires), and the Monte Carlo casino located in the country would explain that one quite easily. Apart from that, it also happens to be the most densely populated country on Earth, with some 18,000 people per square kilometre.
Everyone knows about Vatican City. All 0.44 square kilometres of it. At least I hope so. With the country being the headquarters of the Catholic Church, it is ruled by the Pope and the clergy, and is a major tourist attraction thanks to St. Peter’s Basilica and a whole bunch of other cathedrals and palaces. It was quite safe thanks to the wall encircling the entire country. In addition to that, its economy is the only one run by postage stamps, souvenirs, and entrance fees.
So that’s a rundown on the European microstates. But if you ask my opinion, San Marino should really host a Grand Prix. I mean with all the cars they have, they should have enough cool roads for it. But that’s a topic for another day.