How far does the European Union reach? Foreign land acquisitions and the boundaries of political communities

Torsten Menge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The recent global surge in large-scale foreign land acquisitions marks a radical transformation of the global economic and political landscape. Since land that attracts capital often becomes the site of expulsions and displacement, it also leads to new forms of migration. In this paper, I explore this connection from the perspective of a political philosopher. I argue that changes in global land governance unsettle the congruence of political community and bounded territory that we often take for granted. As a case study, I discuss the European Union's Renewable Energy Directive as a significant driver of foreign land acquisitions. Using its global power, the European Union (EU) is effectively governing land far outside of its international borders and with it the people who live on this land or are expelled from it. As a result, EU citizens ought to consider such people fellow members of their political community. This has implications for normative debates about immigration and, in particular, for arguments that appeal to collective self-determination to justify a right of political communities to exclude newcomers. The political community to which EU citizens belong reaches far beyond the EU's official borders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Collective self-determination
  • Global land rush
  • Land governance
  • Large-scale land acquisitions
  • Legitimacy
  • Migration
  • Political community
  • Territory
  • Transnational governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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