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Dissolving the 'Westphalian system'

Dissolving the 'Westphalian system'

Transnationalism in Transboundary Water Management

The "Westphalian system" of international relations, based on delineation, non-interference, and separation, hinders effective management of environmental resources, such as trans-boundary rivers. In this article, R. Andreas Kraemer of Ecologic Institute explains how cooperation and sharing responsibilities over watercourses between states provided the basis for the US Constitution and the institutional order of the EU, and now drive a new transnationalism that erodes the Westphalian system. The article is available for download.

The long essay sketches first the evolution of the "Philadelphia" Constitution of the United States on the basis of the Mount Vernon Compact, agreed by Virginia and Maryland to share the use of the Potomac river system and the Chesapeake Bay. Then it outlines the Act of Mannheim, a treaty among the riparian states along the Rhine, and how its key components provide the basis for the European institutions as we know them today.  A water-related treaty is found at the basis of the two most successful constitutions for democracies at a continental scale.

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) takes international cooperation over shared water resources further, and establishes rules that contradict the Westphalian order.  As can be seen in the emerging polity of Danubians, the inhabitants of the Danube basin, the more international cooperation is found necessary and is then practiced to meet transboundary environmental challenges, the more the old and outdated international order established with the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 is dissolved.


Kraemer, R. Andreas 2012: “Dissolving the 'Westphalian system' transnationalism in transboundary water management”. Strategic Review The Indonesian Journal of Leadership, Policy and World Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 4, 43-47.

4 pp.
international relations, international agreements, transboundary water courses, Act of Mannheim, Mannheimer Akte, EC Treaty, EU Treaty, European primary law, Mount Vernon Compact, US Constitution, EU Water Framework Directive, WFD, Danube Day, Europe, USA, Mannheim