|Scotland said "NO" to independence in a close vote last September.|
- New countries & breakaway states
- Membership in international organizations
- Recognition of disputed countries
- Territorial disputes
- Rebel control
- Sea borders and seabed claims
- New states and provinces
- Changes to world time zones
- And more!
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Declarations of Independence: New Countries in 2014?
Scotland passed up its chance to become the year's only fully-recognized new country, but 2014 saw no shortage of attempts at independence. Catalonia held a non-binding vote on separation from Spain, and separatists in Venice conducted a large-scale online poll on leaving Italy, but both were symbolic attempts that saw little participation from opponents.
See Also: What would have happened if Scotland voted to leave the UK?
|Actual territorial control of the "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Lugansk People's Republic"|
See Also: Was Crimea Really a Country?
The Ukraine conflict has also seen the emergence of two more aspiring countries, the Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic, sometimes unified as "Novorossiya". Neither is recognized by any other country (except fellow breakaway South Ossetia), but extensive territorial control lends their claims a degree of fact, if not official diplomatic status.
|The "Islamic State" took over much of northern Iraq in 2014.|
Rebels in Nigeria and Libya attempted to piggyback on the Islamic State's success by speaking of "caliphates" and "emirates" (small kingdoms), but it remains to be seen how serious they are about formal independence. Meanwhile, a rebel independence claim in the Central African Republic fizzled out after the group's own leadership declined to endorse it. Though each serious in its own way, Greenpeace's declaration of a "Glacier Republic" in Chile, a U.S. man's quest to make his daughter a North African princess, and several symbolic independence declarations by Australian aboriginal peoples were all ignored completely in diplomatic circles.
See all articles on newly declared countries
Country Name & Flag Changes
Unlike in 2013, no existing countries seem to have changed their official names last year. Nor have any flag changes come to our attention, though it often takes some time for small flag modifications to reach our ears.
|The World Trade Organization got a new member in 2014.|
The year 2014 saw many changes to membership in intergovernmental organizations, with these being the most prominent events:
- Yemen joined the World Trade Organization (WTO)
- Latvia adopted the euro as its currency, becoming part of the Eurozone
- Kosovo became a member of the International Olympic Committee
- Armenia joined the Eurasian Economic Union
- Equatorial Guinea became part of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries
- The French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte entered the European Union
- British territory Bermuda joined the Association of the Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union
- Russia left the G8 economic forum after being suspended over Crimea
- Madagascar, Egypt, and Guinea-Bissau were reinstated at the African Union after suspensions
- Fiji was reinstated at the Commonwealth of Nations
|Three countries were un-suspended at the African Union in 2014.|
Other than Crimea (see above), several of the world's other partially recognized countries also saw changes in recognition in 2014.
|Kosovo is now recognized by every country in Oceania.|
Western Sahara saw no net change in its number of active recognitions, with Mauritius "withdrawing" recognition and Paraguay's recognition "suspended", but Kenya and Malawi apparently resuming theirs. Withdrawing or suspending recognition is a legal gray area, since recognition of a country (as opposed to a particular government of that country) is usually considered irrevocable. However, Tuvalu did something similar in 2014 as well, backpedaling on its 2011 recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (both of which claim independence from Georgia).
See all articles about diplomatic recognition
|Crimea is now disputed between Ukraine and Russia.|
The biggest change to the world's territorial disputes in 2014 was the creation of a major new disputed territory: Crimea. This region was universally recognized as part of Ukraine at the beginning of the year, but after a swift military campaign in March, it's now a territory administered by Russia and claimed by Ukraine.
In addition to Crimea, Russian president Vladimir Putin hinted at another new territorial dispute, suggesting that all of eastern and southern Ukraine, which he referred to by the historical term "Novorossiya" ("New Russia"), should really be part of his own country. Elsewhere, local disputes arose during the process of marking out the border between Nigeria and Cameroon, while Iraq and Iran agreed to put to rest a border dispute over the Shatt al-Arab river mouth.
|The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands|
Another notable development affected one of the world's more unique territorial disputes: landlocked Bolivia's assertion that Chile owes it land with a coastline - any land with a coastline (Bolivia claims no specific rightful border). In 2014, Bolivia took Chile to the International Court of Justice over the claim, and Chile appears to be cooperating, feeling that the facts are heavily in its favor. However, the verdict could take years to arrive.
See all articles on disputed territories
|Boko Haram now controls parts of Nigeria.|
Though less heard-about, what happened to Libya in 2014 was in some ways even more dramatic. Although the government had only kept tenuous control of the country since the revolution in 2011, with local militias providing security in most places, last year the country fell apart in earnest. By the end of 2014, the militias had aligned into several opposing coalitions, with the internationally-recognized government exiled from the capital in Tripoli to a smaller city near the border with Egypt. (Coming Soon: Stay tuned to PolGeoNow for an all new map of territorial control in Libya!)
|South Sudan spent 2014 split by civil war.|
There were major events in the claimed State of Palestine during the past year as well, with the West Bank and Gaza Strip nominally reunited in a peace deal between rival political parties Fatah and Hamas, but parts of the Gaza Strip temporarily re-occupied by Israel during a war between Hamas and that country. Overflow from the year's major conflicts also saw small-scale seizures of territory in Lebanon by Syrian rebels, and in Cameroon by Boko Haram rebels from Nigeria. It was less clear whether activity by rebels in Mozambique and anti-cartel vigilantes in Mexico constituted real territorial control.
See all articles on countries with divided territorial control
Sea Borders and Claims
Jurisdiction over much of the world's oceans is still unresolved, with neighboring countries often disagreeing on where the lines fall between their respective waters, which include both territorial seas (a thin strip along the coast) and exclusive economic zones (EEZ; a much wider band where they have economic control but not full ownership). However, 2014 was a relatively big year for settling these maritime boundaries.
|Peru and Chile's maritime dispute was settled in court.|
Meanwhile, a number of countries signed treaties to resolve their own sea border issues. Germany and the Netherlands agreed to jointly govern a long-disputed bay, Lithuania settled its final undefined sea border with Sweden, and the Philippines and Indonesia drew the line through a once-disputed area of sea between their respective islands. The Netherlands also signed a boundary treaty with Caribbean island country St. Kitts and Nevis (which lies close to the Dutch island of Sint Eustatius), and long-overdue boundary treaties were signed by Ecuador and Costa Rica (see map below) as well as Russia and Estonia.
|Ecuador and Costa Rica's outlying islands share a maritime boundary (2012 map)|
The West African countries of Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, and Sierra Leone made a single joint submission of their claim to the UN, defining the seven countries' collective continental shelf without saying where the lines between each country's piece would be drawn. The UN commission that administers continental shelf claims stamped its final approval on a 2009 claim by Ghana and partial claims by Russia and Denmark.
See all articles on maritime borders and jurisdiction
Provinces & States
Though creating a new U.S. state is a major legislative ordeal, some countries' provinces and other divisions are created, redrawn, or abolished at will. The many changes to the world's administrative subdivisions can be hard to keep track of, but luckily we have the wonderful Statoids website to help with that.
In 2014, Crimea took the spotlight for subdivision changes as well as other political geography categories, with rebels declaring the region independent from Ukraine, then with Russia creating two new subdivisions to accommodate Crimea's merger with that country. But India also made news with the creation of a new state, Telangana, while Panama, Egypt, Mauritania, and Montenegro all created new provinces or equivalent divisions. Bahrain also eliminated one of its provinces, while the nearly-independent Kurdistan created a new province within Iraq.
|In Ukraine's 2014 political strife, not even the clocks were safe.|
Papua New Guinea also added a new time zone, with its eastern island of Bougainville jumping forward an hour to sync with neighboring Solomon Islands. The British Caribbean territory of Turks and Caicos decided to stay permanently in daylight savings time from 2014 onward, and Egypt reinstated DST after a three-year break, but with a temporary suspension during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Meanwhile, a number of countries adjusted their dates for the annual beginning and ending of DST.
What major political geography events will happen in 2015?
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