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Europe's Mini-States

Since its enlargement in May, the EU now spans across large parts of the continent. But a few tiny white spots remain on the map: Miniature states and territories, most of which have remained independent for centuries.


A piece of Britain in the south of Spain: the Rock of Gibraltar

Andorra - Kirche

St. Jean de Easelles church in Andorra.

Swiss author Max Frisch's book Andorra brought some fame to the mountain principality that's tucked between France and Spain. But unless they're avid skiers, most people rarely think of the country. Until 1993, when parliamentary democracy was introduced, Andorrans were ruled by so-called co-princes for 715 years. The co-princes, the French president and the Bishop of the Spanish town of La Seu d'Urgell, stayed on as titular heads of state. France and Spain also guarantee Andorra's defense with their militaries. The country is about two-and-a-half times as big as Washington, D.C. It is not a member of the EU, but a customs union exists with the bloc, enabling Andorrans to export their industrial goods without paying tariffs. That's of little significance, however, as 80 percent of Andorra's gross domestic product comes from tourism. The country is also known as a tax haven and has introduced the euro as its official currency.

Faröer Inseln

A typical Faroe Islands scene: the town of Hellur

Faroe means "sheep islands" in the islands' Faroese language and there's a good reason for that: The archipelago's 70,000 four-legged wool producers outnumber the 47,000 human inhabitants by far. The 18 islands, which are roughly eight times as large as the U.S. capital, belong to Denmark and the mother country influence's the political process through a high commissioner. Since 1948, the islands have actually been a self-governing territory and have control over natural resources. The Danish crown is still the official currency.

Volksabstimmung in Gibraltar

Gibraltarians celebrate the outcome of the 2002 referendum, in which a majority opted to stay with Britain.

Gibraltar is pretty much a large rock that's about 11 times as big in area as The Mall in Washington, D.C. About 30,000 people live on the hotly contested peninsula at the southern end of Spain. Officially, Gibraltar is an autonomous British territory, but Spain has long wanted to take back the piece of land it lost in 1713. In 2002, Spain and Britain tried to resolve the dispute by proposed a joint rule. Gibraltarians whoever rejected that plan as a majority still wants to stay British. Gibraltar belongs to the EU, but like Britain has not adopted the euro as its currency and still sticks to the pound.

Isle of Man

Isle of Man

Britain is also the main supplier of goods for the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, but both have largely kept their independence: Neither officially belongs to the United Kingdom nor the EU. The Isle of Man, which is about three times the size of Washington, D.C. and is located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, is known as a tax haven. The island's 74,700 inhabitants have their own constitution and parliament. Also autonomous, the Channel Islands, which include Guernsey and Jersey, comprise an area slightly bigger than the U.S. capital. Many of the islands' 155,000 inhabitants make a living in the tourist industry. During World War II, the islands became the only British terrority occupied by German forces.

Bildgalerie Kaliningrad Eine Frau kauft Fisch auf dem Markt in Königsberg

Elderly woman buying fish at Kaliningrad market

Since the EU enlargement that took place on May 1, the Russian enclave Kaliningrad is surrounded by the bloc: Poland to the west and Lithuania to the east. The region on the Baltic Sea that's about half as big as Belgium is one of Russia's problem children and considered to be extremely poor. Both Moscow and the EU are trying to prevent further isolation of Kaliningrad and support it financially. But travelling to Russia has become a major hassle for the region's one million inhabitants as the EU requires them to obtain transit visas for the trip.

Triesenberg in Liechtenstein

The steeple of the church in the Liechtenstein village of Triesenberg is seen in front of a sea of fog. The Alvierkette mountain chain in the Swiss Alps is in the background.

Liechtenstein is synonymous with money and that's not just because the alpine country lies right next to Switzerland, with Austria bordering to the east. The principality with 33,400 inhabitants is almost as big as Washington, D.C. and is known as a tax haven and has battled with accusations of being used as a place for money laundering. The country remains independent and does not belong to the EU, just like its larger neighbor, with whom it has a customs union. Liechtenstein also continues to use Swiss Francs as the official currency. Liechtenstein's royal family claims restitution for 1,600 sq km of land in the Czech Republic confiscated in 1918.

Der Hafen von Monaco mit schwimmender Brücke


Casinos and Formula 1 car races are what Monaco is known for -- apart from a royal family that's been filling European yellow press pages for years. The principality is located on the Mediterranean coastline and surrounded by France, the latter being responsible for Monaco's defense. The state, about three times as big as The Mall in Washington, has been independent since 1419, when the French king guaranteed Monaco's autonomy in a letter. While not a member of the EU, Monaco has introduced the euro as the official currency. It's another European tax haven and many of its 32,270 residents are millionaires.

Michael Schumacher gewinnt in Imola

Germany's Michael Schumacher is a regular visitor to San Marino's annual Grand Prix of San Marino. He won the Formula 1 race this year.

Stamp and coin collectors have obviously heard about San Marino as the enclave in the north of Italy is known for its valuable collector editions: While the country -- about a third of Washington in size -- is not a member of the EU, it has adopted the euro and minted its own coins, which rose in price immediately. Largely dependent on Italy economically, San Marino has been an independent nation since the year 301 and lies claim to the world's oldest constitution from 1600. About 28,500 people live there. The two heads of state are always elected for a six-month period.

Papst Johannes Paul II. beschützt von der Schweizer Garde

Pope John Pope II is framed by a Vatican Swiss Guard during mass.

Vatican City in Rome is Europe's smallest state and about 0.7 times as big as The Mall in Washington. Pope John Paul II works and lives here and serves as head of state as the head of the Catholic Church. Formally, Vatican City and the Holy See are two different entities: While the former refers to the physical state, the latter is a non-geographical sovereign entity and participates in many international organizations such as the U.N. as an observer. Neither Vatican City nor the Holy See are EU members, but the euro is used there. Italy is in charge of defending the city state, but the pope also has his own personal guard, the Swiss Guards, which belong to Vatican City's 921 inhabitants. Only cardinals under the age of 80 are allowed to elect the pope as head of state, however.

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