Any American will rightly tell you that Europe is a continent of small countries. For example, less than a quarter of the European Union's twenty five full members have a population in excess of twelve million. Five of the new member states that joined the Union last spring have a population less than that of Wales. For the record, those five are Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Malta and Slovenia.
And the continent bristles with little polities that have varying degrees of independence. Sometimes we are guilty of viewing these small states through the lenses of their larger and more dominant neighbours. So Liechtenstein is all too often perceived as being merely an eastern annexe of Switzerland, a canton that never quite made it into the Swiss fold. Or Monaco is reduced to the status of a French jet set playground. Scarcely surprising, when you look at its glitzy casinos. And Monaco's perceived status as being almost part of France is reinforced of course when Monaco's soccer team regularly sits at or near the head of the top division (Ligue 1) of the French Football Federation's national league.
But the changing political dynamics of the new Europe demand that we look anew at the myriad of little entities that help make the political map of our continent so endlessly interesting.