The National State as the Foundation of International Law in the Westphalian World

From the point of view of international law, we live in the Westphalian world. The Westphalian world is based on the recognition of the sovereignty of national states, regardless of their religious, ideological or ethnic specifics. So decided the European powers of modern times, when the war between Catholics and Protestants ended, lasting 30 years and had cost millions of lives. To prevent this in the future and that only states solve their problems and conflicts, and the westphalian system was adopted.

Now religion was declared a secondary factor. Nobody could order the state from outside, which religion to adopt, which political regime to establish and what values to consider as norms. All problems were solved only at the level of the State – only it was recognized as a legitimate and legal subject of international relations. Negotiations for peace were conducted in the territory of the historical region of Westphalia in the Catholic Bishopric of Munster and the Protestant Bishopric of Osnabriick.

With a view to confessional parity, the conditions of peace between the Holy Roman Emperor and the Protestant states and Sweden were discussed in the Bishopric of Osnabriick, and with the Catholic states and France in Miinster. The goal of the peace congress, which ended with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, was the establishment of peace, the settlement of international, confessional, internal»imperial levels. Each country-participant of the Congress pursued its goals: France – to break the encirclement of the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs, Sweden – to achieve hegemony in the Baltic, the Holy Roman Empire and Spain – to achieve smaller territorial concessions.

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According to the Westphalian world, Sweden received Western Pomerania with the port of Stettin, some part of Eastern Pomerania, the right to the Pomeranian Gulf with coastal cities. Sweden took control the estuary of the largest rivers of northern Germany.

For some time, Sweden turned into a great European power, exercising dominance over the Baltic and influencing the German states, France received Alsace (except Strasbourg) and custody of several cities. Holland has become a recognized independent state. The recognition of its sovereignty was also received by the Swiss Union. Significant changes occurred among the German principalities. Significantly expanded its tenures and influence of Brandenburg- Prussia,Bavaria and Saxony has been strengthened. At the same time, the Westphalian world enshrined the fragmentation of Germany.

The Westphalian world equalized the rights of Catholics and Protestants (Calvinists and Lutherans), legitimized the confiscation of ecclesiastical lands, carried out until 1624, and abolished the previously valid principle of cujus regio, ejus religio, which instead proclaimed the principle of religious tolerance, which further reduced the importance of the confessional factor in relations between states. According to the Westphalian system, the national state is regarded as the highest authority in decision—making, and the principle of sovereignty is recognized as an absolute legal basis, is still the foundation of international law. But not all ideological groups – including ideological groups with world influence – are ready to accept this as a law not subject to revision.

In the science of International Relations, there are two camps – realists and liberals The main difference between them it is relation to the Westphalian system. Realists consider this system unshakable, and national sovereignty is the only legal authority for making decisions in international politics, the only subject of this policy. And liberals in International Relations consider the Westphalian system to be a temporary state of things, from which it is necessary to gradually move on to the World Government. The goal of the liberal theory is the creation of a World Government, that is, the deprivation of national states of their sovereignty and the subordination of a new supranational authority. This means that from the Westphalian system it is necessary to move on to a new, globalist one.

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The National State as the Foundation of International Law in the Westphalian World. (2023, Mar 08). Retrieved from

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