What is a country?

There are several definitions of what a "country" or a "state" is. In common parlance it is certainly meant that a country is independent and autonomous. But this is not a universally valid definition. Wikipedia writes:

A country is a region that is identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or part of a larger state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated people with distinct political characteristics.

A regulation must therefore first be found to define these "territories" and to classify them independently of political or international interests. Even the United Nations does not jointly recognise or reject a state. But every member state has the right to decide this for itself.

In order to prevent subjective political decisions, a country is defined as such on Everything that has a country code according to ISO 3166-1 is also a "country" here.

Hong Kong and Macau

Strictly speaking, Hong Kong and Macau are two partially-administered territories of China with a special status. But Hong Kong and also Macau have their own legislation (admittedly influenced by China), their own tax system and when you travel in or out you get a stamp of Hong Kong or Macau in your passport. If you travel from one of the two areas to the other or to China, you leave and return to China with another stamp.

Both countries have their own currency independent of China. Both countries have their own telephone codes, license plates and Internet domains. In Macau, Portuguese is even one of the official languages. And both areas have their own country codes according to ISO, STANAG, United Nations and Fips. Therefore, Hong Kong and Macau are treated as independent countries.


Kosovo is currently the youngest country, which previously included parts of Yugoslavia and Serbia. In 2008 independence was declared to Serbia. On Wikipedia one still speaks of a "stabilized de facto regime". However, there are currently (October 2020) no officially assigned ISO codes for Kosovo. The codes XK and XKX are widely used, but not official. On the other hand, more than half of the member states of the United Nations have already recognized the "Republic of Kosovo" as an independent state. In addition, it has its own country code, domain extension and license plate number.

West Bank and Gaza Strip

Both areas are covered by the CIA with their own data, as if they were individual states, and Wikipedia names "Gaza City" as the capital of the Gaza Strip. However, the ISO code "PS" given there refers to Palestine. Both regions do not have their own legislation, currencies, telephone codes, license plates, country domains or codes according to ISO 3166-1. Both regions are also under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are therefore for the time being only autonomous areas of Palestine, but not separate countries.

Germany and other EU countries

The fact that Germany appears in this list of questionable states may seem surprising at first glance. The influence of the European Union, however, severely limits the independent legislation. The German government, as well as other governments within the European Union, cannot even decide on a car toll without taking infringement proceedings from the EU. As the discussion about the "Internet Cookie Directive" showed, even an EU directive can automatically become a law in every EU member state, as long as it is formulated clearly enough in Brussels.

In theory, Germany's own legislation is still influenced by the former allies. The current Two-Plus-Four Treaty, for example, contains clauses that clearly limit military change. The Constitution and parts of the Basic Law must not be changed either. Germany is de facto not an independent and autonomous state, although 1955 is officially declared the year of independence.

On the Year of Independence: The Allied Right of Reservation only ended in 1991 with the "Two-Plus-Four Treaty". Until then, the former Allies could veto any law. Even if this right was not exercised, such a circumstance contradicts an independence status. 1955 (instead of 1991) is, however, declared by the Federal Government as the year of independence.

Nevertheless, Germany and other EU states meet all other requirements. There were or are own currencies, laws limited by national borders, own tax systems, financial budgets and the states are recognized as such by most UN countries.

Guam and other territories of the USA

The head of state of Guam is the president of the United States, the currency is the US dollar and even the highest judges are appointed by the White House in Washington. The citizens are officially citizens of the United States of America. On the other hand, there is an "inner autonomy", there are each their own national flags and formal peculiarities as well as their own Internet domains and country codes according to ISO, STANAG, United Nations and Fips. Even the CIA lists Guam as a "non-incorporated territory of the United States with political relations between Guam and the USA" - something that does not belong to the USA. Decisive for a classification as "country" for was the assignment of the ISO code according to 3166-1.


Antarctica is not an independent or even autonomous country. Roughly speaking, it consists of a bunch of research institutions from different countries. Officially there were 2 inhabitants until a few years ago, but nowhere was it possible to find out what an Antarctic passport looked like or who (apart from the two holders) could have carried out a passport control. The Antarctic, however, is listed as a "country" by the German Weather Service in order to assign the measuring stations there. There is even a domain extension of its own (aq). Antarctica also has its own country codes according to ISO, STANAG, United Nations and Fips, which ultimately led to the ice masses making it to a "country" on Please forgive it.

Non-independent countries without political sovereignty

The following local authorities are treated as countries, but are dependent territories of other States:

Territories of AustraliaISOStatus
Christmas IslandCX (CXR)non-self-governing territory of Australia
Cocos (Keeling) IslandsCC (CCK)non-self-governing territory of Australia
Heard Island and McDonald IslandsHM (HMD)Australian overseas department
Norfolk IslandNF (NFK)territory of Australia
Territories of ChinaISOStatus
Hong KongHK (HKG)special administrative region of China
MacaoMO (MAC)special administrative region of China
TaiwanTW (TWN)Semi-presidential republic
Territories of DenmarkISOStatus
Faroe IslandsFO (FRO)territory of the Kingdom of Denmark
GreenlandGL (GRL)territory of the Kingdom of Denmark
Territories of FinlandISOStatus
Åland IslandsAX (ALA)Autonomous region of Finland
Territories of FranceISOStatus
French GuianaGF (GUF)French overseas territory
French PolynesiaPF (PYF)territory of France
French Southern and Antarctic LandsTF (ATF)French overseas territory
GuadeloupeGP (GLP)French overseas territory
MartiniqueMQ (MTQ)French overseas territory
MayotteYT (MYT)French overseas territory
New CaledoniaNC (NCL)territory of France
ReunionRE (REU)French overseas territory
Saint BarthelemyBL (BLM)Corporation of France
Saint MartinMF (MAF)French overseas territory
Saint Pierre and MiquelonPM (SPM)territory of France
Wallis and FutunaWF (WLF)territory of France
Territories of the United KingdomISOStatus
AnguillaAI (AIA)self-governing territory of the UK
BermudaBM (BMU)self-governing territory of the UK
British Indian Ocean TerritoryIO (IOT)British overseas territory
British Virgin IslandsVG (VGB)self-governing territory of the UK
Cayman IslandsKY (CYM)self-governing territory of the UK
Falkland IslandsFK (FLK)self-governing territory of the UK
GibraltarGI (GIB)self-governing territory of the UK
GuernseyGG (GGY)autonomous Crown dependency of the UK
Isle of ManIM (IMN)autonomous Crown dependency of the UK
JerseyJE (JEY)autonomous Crown dependency of the UK
MontserratMS (MSR)self-governing territory of the UK
Pitcairn IslandsPN (PCN)British overseas territory
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSH (SHN)limited self-governing territory of the UK
South Georgia and South Sandwich IslandsGS (SGS)British overseas territory
Turks and Caicos IslandsTC (TCA)self-governing territory of the UK
Territories of the NetherlandsISOStatus
ArubaAW (ABW)territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and SabaBQ (BES)Special municipalities of the Netherlands
Sint MaartenSX (SXM)autonomous territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Territories of NorwayISOStatus
Bouvet IslandBV (BVT)Territory of Norway
SvalbardSJ (SJM)Territory of Norway
Territories of New ZealandISOStatus
TokelauTK (TKL)territory of New Zealand
Territories of the United StatesISOStatus
American SamoaAS (ASM)self-governing territory of the US
GuamGU (GUM)self-governing unincorporated territory of the US
Northern Mariana IslandsMP (MNP)unincorporated territory of the US
Puerto RicoPR (PRI)unincorporated territory of the US
Virgin IslandsVI (VIR)self-governing territory of the US
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