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Difference between revisions of "Europe"

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With very few possible exceptions, the countries of Europe have adopted the principle of [[representative government]] and nearly all are signatories to the European [[Europe#Human Rights|declaration of human rights]]. The political parties range widely in attitude to government but, with very few exceptions, those of the extreme right and the extreme left are not in positions of power.
The main party groups in the [[Europe#The European Parliament|European Parliament]] are:
The main party groups in the [[Europe#The European Parliament|European Parliament]] are:

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Supplements to this article include data tables of the states of Europe and the languages of Europe and a chronology of the main events in the history of Europe.

Europe is the sixth largest (second smallest) continent on Earth with an area of approximately 10,000,000 square kilometers (3,900,000 square miles). It is the third largest continent in population with over 720,000,000 people. By definition, it is technically not a continent, as it is part of the larger Eurasian landmass. The eastern border between Europe and Asia is formed by the Ural Mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Black Sea. Europe also extends to the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the south, and the Atlantic Ocean in the west.


According to Homer the name Europe (Ancient Greek: Εὐρώπη, Eurṓpē) was originally given to central Greece. Later it stood for mainland Greece and by 500 BC its meaning was extented to all the lands of the north. The origin for the word Europe is usually given as from the Greek words for “broad” (eurys) and “face” (ops). In mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess who was abducted by a bull-shaped Zeus. Another theory derives the name from the Assyrian-Phoenician word ereb (sunset).


Europe has a long history of great cultural and economic achievement, starting as far back as the palaeolithic. The origin of Western culture is generally attributed to the cultures of Ancient Athens, and Ancient Rome. Following the decline of the Roman Empire, Europe entered a long period of stasis, referred to by enlightenment thinkers as the Dark Ages and by most modern historians, the Middle Ages. During this time isolated monastic communities in Ireland and elsewhere carefully safeguarded and compiled knowledge accumulated previously. The Dark Ages came to an end with the Renaissance and the New Monarchs, marking the start of a period of discovery, exploration, and increase in scientific knowledge. From the 15th century European nations, particularly Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain, built large colonial empires, with vast holdings in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

The Industrial Revolution started in Europe in the 18th century, leading to much greater general prosperity and a corresponding increase in population. Many of the states in Europe took their present form in the aftermath of World War I. After the Second World War, and until the end of the Cold War, Europe was divided into two major political and economic blocks: Communist nations in Eastern Europe and capitalistic countries in Western Europe. Around 1990 the Eastern block broke up.

In the last 50 years, Europe has begun a unifying process, which in its current form is known as the European Union and consists of 27 countries. These states are also members of the European Economic Arena (EEA). The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a third, smaller group; some states are also members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) comprising several former nations of the Soviet Union.



Geographically Europe is a part of the larger landmass known as Eurasia.

Its eastern boundary with Asia is defined by the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, the Caucasus Mountains and Turkey's eastern frontier. Nevertheless, another widespread, classical definition of Europe states that its eastern boundary is also defined by the Turkish Straits (Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara and Dardanelles) and by the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea, locating a little part of Turkey in Europe (i.e. Eastern Thrace) and its largest part in Asia (i.e. Anatolia or Asia Minor). The western boundary is formed by the Atlantic coast, but the British Isles and Iceland, are also included. The Scandinavian countries form its northern boundary and it is bounded on the south by the coast of North Africa.

In practice the borders of Europe are often drawn with greater regard to political, economic, and other cultural considerations. This has led to there being several different 'Europes' that are not always identical in size, including or excluding countries according to the definition of 'Europe' used. The idea of a European 'continent' is not universally held. Some non-European geographical texts refer to a Eurasian Continent, or to a European 'sub-continent', given that 'Europe' is not surrounded by sea and is, in any case, much more a cultural than a geographically definable area. In the past concepts such as 'Christendom' were deemed more important.

So, the following territories are often regarded as being at the edges of Europe:

  • Turkey is in Europe (Eastern Thrace) and in Asia (Anatolia or Asia Minor).
  • The island of Cyprus may be considered European or Asiatic.
  • The Caucasus region, including Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, may be considered European or Asiatic.
  • Russia belongs to Europe (Russian historical heartland) and to Asia (Siberia, east of the Ural mountains).
  • Kazakhstan is usually viewed as an Asiatic country, but its far western region, located west of Ural River, is sometimes included in Europe.
  • The island of Malta may be considered European or African.
  • Some remote islands are barely considered European, such as the Azores (in the Atlantic Ocean, belonging to Portugal) and Svalbard (in the Arctic Ocean, belonging to Norway).
  • Also, a few states whose roots are European possess overseas territories outside Europe: Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.


See the states of Europe - a tabular summary of the main characteristics of each of Europe's countries.

Europe is made up of 51 sovereign states (including 9 that may be considered to be on the edge of Europe) that differ widely as regards area, population and economic output, and of which 47 are members of the Council of Europe, 27 are members of the European Union, 16 are members of the eurozone and 26 are members of NATO..


Western Europe is always assumed to include: the British Isles (United Kingdom, Ireland), the central western mainland (France, Monaco) and Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg). It usually also includes Germany, though geographically the country may be more central European. In some circumstances, it refers to the entire western half of Europe, including the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra), the Italian peninsula (Italy, San Marino, Vatican City), the Nordic Countries or Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark) and the Alpine Countries (Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Slovenia). Used in a historical or political sense (referring to Cold War divisions), this term may even include Greece and Turkey.

Northern Europe is depicted as only encompassing the Nordic Countries (i.e. "Scandinavia" in the widest sense: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark). The term Northern Europe does, however, usually cover a much larger area, in fact an arbitrary part of Europe north of the Alps. Typically, it includes the British Isles (the United Kingdom and Ireland), Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Northern France, Germany, often all the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), sometimes Poland, and on occasion even Russia.

Central Europe is not perhaps as common a term as Western or Eastern Europe. Most of the countries included in the definition are often labelled Western or Eastern. A definition of Central Europe usually includes the Visegrad Group (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary) and often also the Alpine Countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Slovenia and sometimes Germany). According to the most recent usage, Central Europe may even be those countries that joined the European Union on 1 June 2004. This would mean Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary (the Visegrad Four), Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia (the Baltic States), Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta.

Southern Europe is a term used in much the same ways as Northern Europe. It includes the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra), the Italian peninsula (Italy, Vatican City, San Marino) and the Balkan Peninsula (Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia & Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria). Usually the Mediterranean States (Cyprus, Malta) and Asia Minor (i.e. Turkey) are also included. In a cultural sense, southern France (i.e. Occitania) may be included.

Similarly to Western Europe, the term Eastern Europe may be used in a strict or broad sense. It includes the European CIS States (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Russia), and not seldom the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and Poland. It often includes the Caucasus or Transcaucasian countries (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia), though these are often also regarded as part of Asia. In a broader economic/political context, it may also encompass all of the Visegrad Group (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary) and the Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia & Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria).


The climate of Europe varies from polar in the Scandinavian North to generally dry and warm in the Mediterranian South, and the intervening countries have a mild, generally humid climate. There is comparatively little east-to-west variation except for a tendency for a milder climate in the West, resulting from the moderating influence of Atlantic currents. [1] [2]



See the languages of Europe - a tabular summary of the main characteristics of each of Europe's languages.

Europe has at least as many languages as countries.

The vast majority of them belong to the extended family of the Indo-European languages. They are conventionally categorised into the three main groups of Romance, Slavic, and Germanic, and into various smaller groups and sub-groups (Celtic, Baltic, Greek, Albanian, Armenian and Indo-Iranian). The Latin-based Romance languages are spoken in the southern half of Europe (chiefly in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Romania); the Slavic languages are widely spoken in Eastern and Central Europe (from Russia to Poland and to the Balkans), and the Germanic languages are spoken in Northern and Central Europe (from Austria to Britain and Scandinavia).

Outside Indo-European, other important language families are found in Europe such as Altaic (chiefly in Turkey), Uralic (chiefly in Finland and Hungary), Kartvelian (chiefly in Georgia), North Caucasian, Basque and Afro-Asiatic (in Malta).


The ambiguous term “ethnicity” may be processed according to a cultural or to a physical point of view. There is not any correlation between ethnic groups (defined with cultural criteria) and physical types.

According to cultural criteria, there are many ethnic groups which often match (but not always) with the languages of Europe. Some ethnic groups represent the dominant cultures of the states. Non dominant groups form ethnic minorities with various statuses, ranging from a broad autonomy (especially in the states of Spain, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Russia) to a total lack of recognition (and even to some forms of cultural intolerance, especially in France, Turkey, Greece and Slovakia). Almost all European states have rooted, autochtonous, ethnic minorities (the only exceptions may be Iceland, Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania and tiny states such as Luxembourg, Malta, Andorra or Liechtenstein).

According to physical criteria, the vast majority of Europeans fit in the subjective category of “white people” (also called “Caucasians”), with a lot of internal variations, gradations and exceptions, which can be explained by a complex succession of migrations and genetic intermingling since Prehistory.[3] All regions of Europe, without any exception, are characterised by a strong mixing between various types of “white people”, even if some of these types are more frequent in some parts of the continent. A Caucasian, “Mediterranean type” tends to be prominent in Southern Europe (typically: dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin) whereas a Caucasian, “Nordic type” is more often seen in some parts of Northern Europe (typically: blonde hair, blue or green eyes, pale skin). Within some peripheral European populations, located at the edge of Asia, a “Mongoloid” type (typically: slanted eyes, dark hair) may be prominent, especially in Kalmykia, Kazakhstan and in some ethnic minorities near the Ural Mountains. A Caucasian type with light Mongoloid admixtures may be found in some countries such as Lappland, Finland, Russia, Hungary or Turkey. Following the modern migrations of the 20th and the 21st centuries, some Europeans belong to physical types originating from various parts of the World (Black Africa, Northern Africa, Far East, Near East, Indian subcontinent, Antilles, etc.).


Religious observance in Europe is dominated by the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Christianity being the majority religion in its northern countries and Islam in Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, North Cyprus, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Roman Catholiicism is the principal religion of most of the countries of Western, Central, and Southern England, the major exceptions being the predominantly Protestant countries of Germany and the United Kingdom. Protestantism also predominates in the Scandinavian Countries of Northern Europe, and the mostly Christian countries of Eastern Europe are generally either Catholic or Orthodox[4].


During the second half of the 20th century, there was renewed acceptance of the values traditionally ascribed to western culture - founded on a view of authority as the product of public choice: not its determinant. By the early 21st century, those values were firmly entrenched in the constitution of the European Union, and had the support of the majority of its citizens (asked what values the European Parliament should defend, 62 per cent of the respondents to an opinion poll gave first priority to human rights[5]).


With very few possible exceptions, the countries of Europe have adopted the principle of representative government and nearly all are signatories to the European declaration of human rights. The political parties range widely in attitude to government but, with very few exceptions, those of the extreme right and the extreme left are not in positions of power.

The main party groups in the European Parliament are:

  • the European People’s Party - European Democrats (EPP-ED) Group - the MEPs from the Christian Democrat, conservative, mainstream center and centre-right national parties;
  • the Party of European Socialists (PES) Group - the MEPs from the social democratic and labour parties; and,
  • the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group - the MEPs from liberal, democratic and reform parties.

Cultural cooperation

As early as 1954, the Council of Europe decided to assume responsibility for "the management of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue", and its steering committee has since been active in assisting in the implementation of cultural policies and developing European standards, principles and good practices. In 1992 the Treaty of Maastricht[6] introduced the concept of European citizenship for members of the European Union, and there have since been attempts to combine it with the concept of "cultural citizenship". The management of the European Union is believed to be actively promoting the idea of a "European cultural identity"[7], which would imply a mutual obligation to accept the free exercise of the differing practices and beliefs of the cultures of all of its citizens. However, there is widespread popular resistance to the idea among those who prefer to associate citizenship with ethnic identity [8], and those who believe that immigrants and ethnic minorities in their countries should be expected to adopt the cultural practices of the indigenous majority.

Treaties and agreements

The Brussels Treaty

The Treaty of Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence[9], was signed in 1948 by Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom was amended by the Paris Agreements signed on 23 October 1954 . The signatories undertook: -

to fortify and preserve the principles of democracy, personal freedom and political liberty, their constitutional traditions and the rule of law; to co-ordinate their efforts to create a firm basis for European economic recovery; to afford assistance to each other in maintaining international peace and security and in resisting any policy of aggression; and, to take such steps as may be held to be necessary in the event of a renewal by Germany of a policy of aggression.

The modified treaty established the Western European Union and set a date for its expiry, which is now scheduled for the end of June 2011, its functions having been replaced by those of European Union's Foreign and Security Policy.

The Treaty of Lisbon

The Treaty of Lisbon[10][11] is the most recent of a succession of treaties beginning with the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and including the creation of the European Union by the Maastricht Treaty[12].

Human Rights

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms[13] came into force in 1953. It is an undertaking by its signatories[14] to secure the following rights and freedoms to everyone within their jurisdiction:-

right to life, prohibition of torture, prohibition of slavery and forced labour, right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, no punishment without law, right to respect for private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, right to marry, right to an effective remedy, and the prohibition of discrimination.

- and to abide by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and take all necessary measures to comply with them.

The Schengen Agreement


Council of Europe

The Council of Europe[15] covers virtually the entire European continent, with its 47 member countries (including all the countries of Europe except Belarus, the Vatican City, Kazakhstan, and Kosovo). It seeks to develop common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other agreement concerned with the protection of individuals. Following the signing in 1954 of the The European Cultural Convention [16], it formed a Steering Comittee for Culture [17] which was instructed to focus on "cultural polices, and good governance in culture, the management of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue".

Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights[18] rules on individual or State applications alleging violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1998 it has sat as a full-time court and individuals can apply to it directly. The Court has delivered more than 10,000 judgments. They are binding on the countries concerned and have led governments to alter their legislation and administrative practice in a wide range of areas.


The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe[19] was founded by the United Nations in 1975 as the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Its functions include preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and crisis management, and post-conflict reconstruction. It has acquired a rôle in attempts to resolve conflicts with the Russian Federation. It has missions in Kosovo, Georgia and Afgnanistan[20]. Its first summit for 11 years was held in Astana on 2 December 2010[21].

European Union

The European Union is a group of 27 countries that share a common political ideology. It is governed jointly by Ministers of member countries' governments and a directly-elected Parliament. It is an association of sovereign states, but its constitution provides for the central control of defined aspects of political, social and economic policy. 16 of its members have joined in an economic and monetary union known as the eurozone, membership of which involves the adoption of the euro as their common currency, the delegation of monetary policy to a European Central Bank, and the acceptance of agreed limits on the conduct of fiscal policy. The future of the eurozone is under review,


The 2009 output of Europe's 50 countries was worth $14,430 billion[22] (roughly the same as that of the United States). About 70 per cent of that output came from its five largest economies (Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain). Almost half of its economies are classified by the International Monetary Fund as developing or emerging, including Russia and the former satellites of the Soviet Union (see the IMF category column of the states of Europe table). Most of its developing economies are in an advanced state of transition from command economies to market economies, and most are are predominately industrial economies. In Europe as a whole, only 5.6 per cent of the workforce is engaged in agriculture, which accounts for only 2.1 per cent of total output [23]. Of the remaining workforce, 28 per cent is employed in industry, accounting for 26 per cent of domestic output, and 67 per cent in services, producing 72 per cent of domestic output. After the United States, China and Japan, the world's largest manufacturing countries by value of output are Germany, Russia, Italy, the United Kingdom and France. Oil and gas production contributes significantly to the economies of Russia and Norway, and oil and gas from the North Sea is making a declining contribution to the British economy. There are large financial sectors in the major advanced economies of Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Spain, and also in Iceland and Ireland. Exports account for between a quarter and half of the output of most European economies (see the states of Europe table).

The Great Recession caused a fall in Europe's total output of nearly 5 per cent, but with large variations in national impact. Unemployment rates rose above 10 per cent in Ireland, the Baltic states and most of the Balkans (see Europe in the Great Recession). Growth resumed throughout 2010 (except in Greece, Portugal. Iceland, Ireland and the Baltic States) and is expected to continue in 2011 in all of the European Union countries (except Greece and Portugal) but public debt had risen, as a result of the recession, to over 70 per cent of GDP in Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, and was due to rise further in 2010. Combinations of high debt and low growth prospects raised investor doubts about the fiscal sustainability of the PIIGS countries (Portugal. Ireland, Italy. Greece and Spain), making it difficult for them to roll-over their debt. The ensuing eurozone crisis has raised questions about the future of the eurozone


  1. Europe,
  2. Europe: Weather and climate statistics, all met sat, 2010
  3. See a survey in Eupedia: Origins, age, spread and ethnic association of European haplogroups and subclades.
  4. Countries of Europe Summary, Vaughn's Summaries Vaughn Aubuchon 2006
  5. European Parliament Eurobarometer, February 2010
  6. [1]
  7. Juan M Delgado-Moreira: Cultural Citizenship and the Creation of European Identity, Electronic Journal of Sociology, 1997
  8. Rainer Bauböck (project coordinator): The Acquisition and Loss of Nationality in 15 EU States, Imiscoe Policy Brief, 2007
  9. Treaty of Economic, Social and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-Defence, European Navigator, 2010
  10. Treaty of Lisbon
  11. Peadar ó Broin: Lisbon Treaty enters into force: a brave new Europe is born?, The Institution of International and European Affairs, 2nd December 2009
  12. Maastricht Treaty on European Union, Europa, 1992
  13. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Treaty Office on
  14. Member States of the Council of Europe, 21/12/2010
  15. Council of Europe website
  16. The European Cultural Convention – a framework for action, Council of Europe
  17. Steering Comittee for Culture, Council of Europe, 2010
  18. website of the European Court of Human Rights
  19. websitr of The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
  20. Foreign Minister Outlines Agenda as Kazakhstan Starts Historic Term at Head of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe United Nations Security Council, 5 February 2010
  21. Summit 2010 Astana, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 2 December 2010
  22. 2009 GDP at purchasing power parity acording to the CIA World Factbook[2]
  23. European Union Economy 2010, CIA World Factbook, 2010