This answer was originally posted on Quora as Thomas Foster's answer to If the EU unified would it be a world superpower?
I would argue that the European Union is already a world superpower in many areas - it’s one of the two largest economies in the world, it has a larger population than all but two countries (500+ million) and has a reasonably large amount of legislative (European Parliament), executive and judicial power over a large jurisdiction.
However, the European Union has two major things working against it as far as superpower status goes:
- It works more as a continental confederation than a continental federation - so the European Union as an entity shares a lot of power on the world stage with its member states.
- The European Union lacks military power - NATO as an organisation has a lot of the military power that would have, in a parallel universe, perhaps have been instead given to the EU.
The sum of the power that the European Union and its member states (notably the UK, France, Germany, etc.) have probably rivals the USA or China - but no one body posses the majority or all of that power. Were the powerful countries in the EU to transfer much of their foreign policy and military power to the European Union itself, then the EU would be much more powerful and justifiably a super power.
So to answer the question - in the areas that the EU is already fairly unified, the EU is arguably already a world superpower. As the EU gains more powers in the future in more areas, it will very likely become a more general world superpower.
Ultimately, the move by many countries to confederate and become continental unions (Africa and South America seem to be going down the European path, and Oceania may follow) will result in many continental unions becoming fairly powerful to the point of being world superpowers.