Unitary state

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The pathway of regional integration or separation

A unitary state is a state governed as a single entity in which the central government is ultimately supreme. Unitary states stand in contrast with federations, also known as federal states.

Overview

Territorial organization of some European countries. Among European Union states, Austria, Belgium and Germany are federal states.

In unitary states, the central government may create (or abolish) administrative divisions (sub-national units). Such units exercise only the powers that the central government chooses to delegate. Although political power may be delegated through devolution to regional or local governments by statute, the central government may abrogate the acts of devolved governments or curtail (or expand) their powers. A large majority of the world's states (166 of the 193 UN member states) have a unitary system of government.

In federations, the provincial/regional governments share powers with the central government as equal actors through a written constitution, to which the consent of both is required to make amendments. This means that the sub-national units have a right of existence and powers that cannot be unilaterally changed by the central government.

Devolution within a unitary state, like federalism, may be symmetrical, with all sub-national units having the same powers and status, or asymmetric, with sub-national units varying in their powers and status. Many unitary states have no areas possessing a degree of autonomy. In such countries, sub-national regions cannot decide their own laws. Examples are Romania, Ireland and Norway. Svalbard has even less autonomy than the mainland. It is directly controlled by the government and has no local rule.

List of unitary republics and unitary kingdoms

Italics: States with limited recognition from other sovereign states or intergovernmental organizations.

Unitary republics

Unitary monarchies

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an example of a unitary state. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have a degree of autonomous devolved power, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution (England does not have any devolved power). Similarly in the Kingdom of Spain, the devolved powers are delegated through the central government.

See also

External links

Uses material from the Wikipedia article Unitary state, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.