Europe’s most far-flung enclave

Apparently, the Pitcairn Islands – famous from the many Mutiny on the Bounty movies – are a part of Europe, or so says the Pitcairn Islands tribunal in New Zealand. The story is up at the Head Heeb (via Crooked Timber). The whole story of the tribunal is long, sordid, and best described in the Head Heeb’s archives, but the salient bit is that the tribunal’s jurisdiction was challenged by the defence on the grounds that the islands have never been annexed by the UK, and are thus not subject to British law. This apparently did not impress the New Zealand tribunal, which will be operating according to UK law.

In fact, it appears that Pitcairn is not only British but also European. The statutory instruments relating to Pitcairn specify that where there is no local law governing a particular issue, British law applies. One area where there is no local legislation is human rights, and Britain has adopted the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as domestic law. In subsidiary motions, the defense in the Pitcairn case challenged the appointment of magistrates and absence of trial by jury under European human rights instruments and, although the judges found no violation, both the court and the prosecution acknowledged that those instruments apply. When the Pitcairn trial is conducted in New Zealand under British law, it will be measured against a European standard of human rights.

I presume this means that there will be a right to appeal to Strasbourg. Does this mean that the sun never sets on Europe?

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About Scott Martens

Scott is a US-raised Canadian living in Brussels with his American wife. His political background is well to the left of centre, even for Europe, and is very interested in immigration, cultural integration and language policy issues. He is presently working against a deadline on his doctorate in computational linguistics and is on hiatus. Wrote Pedantry, also on hiatus.

19 thoughts on “Europe’s most far-flung enclave

  1. Well, I’m reminded of the old joke about why the sun never set on the British Empire – because God doesn’t trust the British in the dark.

    And given that Europe already includes French Guiana and Reunion, I’m not sure that the sun set on it anyway – even if you don’t include the Antarctic territories!

    Seriously though, Pitcairn does seem to be posing a bit of a problem for Britain and New Zealand, though the attitude from London does seem to be along the lines of ‘if we ignore it, maybe it’ll go away’. Unlike France’s overseas departments, Britain’s never quite worked out what the position of its terriories should be in relation to both the UK and EU (and unlike France some of these places are a lot closer – the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, for a start) and it’s going to be an interesting prospect for the long term to see how it works out, especially in terms of representation.

  2. Well, yes, considering that the Pitcairns are next to French Polynesia, I suppose it doesn’t actually make much difference to the sunset thing. Antarctica, however, is dark for half a year.

    Still, I think the superposition of post-war European interstate and federal institutions on top of the vestiges of the colonial institutions is interesting. It tends to undermine a parochial conception of political Europe as limited to the somewhat fuzzy-edged continent of the same name. If the Pitcairn Islands are subject to EU human rights law, why not Israel or Lebanon? If Ceuta is a part of the EU, why not Morocco?

  3. I believe that EU law also applies in some of the French DOMs/TOMs and the Netherlands Antilles. The EU currently extends to Africa (by virtue of Ceuta and Melilla), North America (St. Pierre/Miquelon) and South America (French Guiana) as well as the Pacific.

    In any event, Scott’s point is an interesting one, and brings up four possible conceptions of Europe: geographic, political, cultural and historical. Is Europe limited to the European continent or does it include (1) countries in political union with European states, (2) countries with cultures and political systems derived from Europe, and/or (3) countries that have, at one time or another, been regarded as part of the European sphere? Israel and Lebanon qualify under (3), and arguably under (2) as well. I tend to think Europe eventually will embrace both countries as well as other borderlands like Tunisia, Libya and Armenia.

  4. “Britain’s never quite worked out what the position of its terriories should be in relation to both the UK and EU”

    Whereas it’s quite clear that Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, both Danish possessions, are nonetheless not EU territory.

  5. The French DOM-TOM are also outside of the EU, even though they use the euro as their currency. But I’m not sure that any of those places are outside the jurisdiction of the court in Strasbourg. Furthermore, many of them have found themselves less free of Brussels than they like to think. The Faroes in particular had a lot of fights over rasing revenue through a VAT or through tariffs. Brussels won that one – the Faroes have a VAT. If you think Switzerland is genuinely independent of the EU, you would be quite mistaken. It may not pay taxes to Brussels, but Swiss regulatory processes have a totally unremarkable tendency to align with what Brussels does.

    Europe is, as we should all remember, more than the EU. There are a surprising number of overlapping institutions here. The ECHR in Strasbourg, the WEU, the OCSE, the trade and immigration privileges extended to EFTA, Eurovision, the ESA, the EPO… even NATO counts, or at least employment at NATO gets you Eurocrat privleges in Brussels.

    I think that either there will be a core Europe/peripheral Europe sort of structure or a fuzzy-edged Europe that extends well beyond the continent. Right now, it looks like the second option is more likely to me. Consider the Treaty of Lomé and the indirect Euro backing for the African franc – much of the structure an extended Europe is already in place.

    Like Jonathan, I think some sort of embrace of peripheral Europe is inevitable.

  6. “The French DOM-TOM are also outside of the EU, even though they use the euro as their currency.”

    French Polynesia doesn’t. But given that its currency, the Franc CFP, is (like the Franc CFA) pegged to the euro, the distinction is somewhat academic.

  7. This is not strictly on thread, I know, but does anyone know what is the status of the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic? Is that part of Europe – if only for reasons of nostalgia? I was reminded of the question by:

    “In a best-selling account of Napoleon’s final days published two years ago, France’s multi-talented foreign minister, Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin, argues that, yes, even today, Napoleon’s defeat ‘shines with an aura worthy of victory.'” – from:

    Which reminds me, I must re-read Jean Anouilh’s Antigone. What with the new Constitution, surely a new production would be timely. No?

  8. The French DOM-TOM are also outside of the EU…

    According to Wikipedia, the DOM are represented in the European Parliament, which suggests that they are in the EU.

  9. DOMs are parts of the republic of France, with the same laws, same treaty memberships, etc…, and are definitely part of the EU. TOMs, on the other hand are much more autonomous and may not be part of the EU.

  10. The DOMs, and Gibraltar, are part of the EU but not part of the customs area. The TOMs, on the other hand, are not part of the EU at all.

    It always amuses me when people say Turkey can’t join the EU because 97% of it’s land area is in Asia – because on that logic French Guiana would get the boot tomorrow!

  11. St. Helena is a Crown Colony, the same status as Gibraltar, so the answer is YES. What about Ascension Island, then – volcanic isle of spooks, rocks and RAF personnel? It’s technically a dependency of St Helena, go figure…

  12. I think that either there will be a core Europe/peripheral Europe sort of structure or a fuzzy-edged Europe that extends well beyond the continent. Right now, it looks like the second option is more likely to me.

    I think there will be a combination of both – “core Europe” will expand beyond the continent but there will also be a division between core and periphery. Prodi’s Euro-Mediterranean Partnership goes a good way toward creating a core-periphery structure, with the core being the current EU members and the periphery being approximately equivalent to the classical Roman sphere. I believe there is a similar move to extend the periphery into Ukraine and the Caucasian states.

    Whether peripheral countries will join the core depends upon both their own desires and those of the established EU members. Some countries, like Armenia and Turkey, have EU membership as an explicit goal; others would be satisfied (at least for now) with a lesser degree of integration. There might ultimately be several levels of associate membership with peripheral countries able to pick and choose the European institutions in which they will participate. Israel and Turkey (and to a lesser extent Morocco) are already part of many European institutions despite not having formal membership.

    There also are, and will be, various degrees of integration among overseas territories. Netherlands Antilleans carry EU passports but have different tax laws; the British territories are legally distinct from the EU and the French DOMs/TOMs seem to be somewhere in between. New Caledonia is defined as an autonomous “overseas country” of France, for instance, but it has associate EU status and it is subject to the human rights jurisdiction of Strasbourg. It’s a wonderful mess.

  13. I’m still waiting for the light to shine on Europe. Wake up, peeps. They’re taking the best and only chance they have to remove trade barriers and tame their future-killing socialistic tendencies, and they’re wasting it.
    They’re just barely out of the downward spiral and chaos of the 80’s, they have much more to do: economy, security, social policy, free speech, the future of their populations….

  14. St. Helena is a Crown Colony, the same status as Gibraltar, so the answer is YES.

    Nope, of the UK overseas territories, only Gibraltar is in the EU.

  15. Just a point on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands – they’re not part of the EU, in fact they’re not even part of the UK, rather they are dependencies of the British Crown. But then Monaco is not part of the EU either, nor, I think, is the Vatican, though both Monaco and the Vatican have adopted the euro as a result of their monetary union with France and Italy respectively. The French Overseas Territories, meanwhile, are fully eligible for Structural Fund assistance (and they get a fair chunk), as are the Azores.

  16. Teh French TOM unlike the DOM are not in the EU, but their French inhabitants vote in European elections. ( Non French EU inhabitants of French Polynesia, Wallis and New Caledonia cannot vote so here we have two classes of Euro citizens, which should be illegal!) And the French TOM differ from the people of the Falklands and the Dutch Overseas Countries in the Caribbean since these latter have European passports also but cannot vote for the EP. Thus the TOM French vote for a Parliament whose laws do not apply to them. No wonder turnout is low! Finally, the euro is used only in the DOM, (plus in Mayotte and Miquelon) not in the extra-EU TOM. There is an island called Sint Maarten/St Martin which is half Dutch and half French and one half is EU and one half is not… but it is all one customs area… and the currency seems to be the US dollar. Gibraltar is partly in the EU; it has just been condemned by Brussels because of its off shore financial advantages. So it is all rather quaint legally.

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