European Union


European Union

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The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 27 member states, located primarily in Europe. It was established by the Treaty of Maastricht on 1 November 1993[5] upon the foundations of the pre-existing European Economic Community. With almost 500 million citizens, the EU combined generates an estimated 30% share (US$16.8 trillion in 2007) of the nominal gross world product.

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, guaranteeing the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital. It maintains a common trade policy, agricultural and fisheries policies, and a regional development policy.Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro. It has developed a role in foreign policy, representing its members in the World Trade Organisation, at G8 summits, and at the United Nations. Twenty-one EU countries are members of NATO. The EU has developed a role in justice and home affairs, including the abolition of passport controls between many member states under the Schengen Agreement, which incorporates also non-EU states.

The EU operates through a hybrid system of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. In certain areas it depends upon agreement between the member states. However, it also has supranational bodies, able to make decisions without unanimity between all national governments. Important institutions and bodies of the EU include the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. EU citizens elect the Parliament every five years.

The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community formed among six countries in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Since then the union has grown in size through the accession of new countries, and new policy areas have been added to the remit of the EU institutions.

Econmony

Since its origin, the EU has established a single economic market across the territory of all its members. Currently, a single currency is in use between the 16 members of the eurozone. Considered as a single economy, the EU generated an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of US$16.83 trillion in 2007, amounting to 31% of the world's total economic output, which makes it the largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the second largest trade bloc economy in the world by PPP valuation of GDP. It is also the largest exporter of goods, the second largest importer, and the biggest trading partner to several large countries such as India, and China.

170 of the top 500 largest corporations measured by revenue (Fortune Global 500) have their headquarters in the EU. In May 2007 unemployment in the EU stood at 7%[100] while investment was at 21.4% of GDP, inflation at 2.2% and public deficit at -0.9% of GDP. There is a great deal of variance for annual per capita income within individual EU states, these range from US$7,000 to US$69,000.

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Europe is one of the seven traditional continents of the Earth. Physically and geologically, Europe is the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, west of Asia. Europe is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, to the southeast by the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. To the east, Europe is generally divided from Asia by the water divide of the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, and by the Caspian Sea.

Europe is the world's second-smallest continent in terms of area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2.0% of the Earth's surface. The only continent smaller than Europe is Australia. It is the third most populous continent (after Asia and Africa) with a population of 710,000,000 or about 11% of the world's population. However, the term continent can refer to a cultural and political distinction or a physiographic one, leading to various perspectives about Europe's precise borders, area and population. Of Europe's 48 countries, Russia is the largest by area and population, while the Vatican is the smallest.

Europe is the birthplace of Western culture. European nations played a predominant role in global affairs from the 16th century onwards, especially after the beginning of colonization. By the 17th and 18th centuries European nations controlled most of Africa, the Americas and large portions of Asia. World War I and World War II led to a decline in European dominance in world affairs as the United States and Soviet Union took preeminence. The Cold War between those two superpowers divided Europe along the Iron Curtain. European integration led to the formation of the Council of Europe and the European Union in Western Europe, both of which eventually expanded to include Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Definition

The term 'Europe' has multiple uses. Its principle ones are political and geographical.

* Politically, Europe comprises those countries in the European Union, but may at times be used more casually to refer to both the EU together with other non-EU countries generally, in the same region.

* Physically and geographically, Europe is the westmost peninsula of the continent of Eurasia; its limits are well defined by sea to the North, South and West, and by a slightly arbitrary boundary discussed below on the east and south-eastern side. The Ural mountains are usually taken as the eastern limit of Europe; certainly points beyond are not usually considered to be part of the continent.

In addition, people in countries such as Great Britain, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean islands, may routinely refer to "continental" or "mainland" Europe (or simply "the Continent"), as a term for the main land mass containing countries such as France.

Etymology

I
n ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess who was abducted by Zeus in bull form and taken to the island of Crete, where she gave birth to Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. For Homer, Europe (Greek: ????p? Eur?pe; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was this mythological queen of Crete, not a geographical designation. Later Europa stood for mainland Greece, and by 500 BC its meaning had been extended to lands to the north.

In etymology one theory suggests the name Europe is derived from the Greek words meaning broad (eurys) and face (opsis)—broad having been an epithet of Earth itself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion; see Prithvi (Plataia). A minority, however, suggest this Greek popular etymology is really based on a Semitic word such as the Akkadian erebu meaning "to go down, set",[2] cognate to Phoenician 'ereb "evening; west" and Arabic Maghreb, Hebrew ma'ariv. (see also Erebus).

The majority of major world languages use words derived from "Europa" to refer to the continent—e.g. Chinese uses the word Ouzhou (??), which is an abbreviation of the transliterated name Ouluóba zhou (????). However, for centuries, the Turks used the term Frengistan (land of the Franks) in referring to Europe.[3]

History

History of Europe

Prehistory

Homo georgicus, which lived roughly 1.8 million years ago in Georgia, is the first hominid to have so far been discovered in Europe.[4] Other hominid remains, dating back roughly 1 million years, have been discovered in Spain. [5]Neanderthal man (named for the Neander Valley in Germany) first migrated to Europe 150,000 years ago and disappeared from the fossil record about 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthals were supplanted by modern humans (Cro-Magnons), who appeared around 40,000 years ago.[6] During the latter part of this period, a period of megalith construction took place, with many megalithic monuments such as Stonehenge being constructed throughout Europe.

Development of complex society

In terms of human society, Prehistoric Europe was inhabited by nomadic bands and (subsequently) tribal cultures. Early city-states and states spread broadly from the Fertile Crescent (~ 5000 BC) outward, leading to the various Persian empires (~ 700 BC) and the city-states of Ancient Greece (~700 BC), followed by the Roman Republic (founded ~ 500 BC in modern-day Italy) and subsequent Empire, and the northward spread of organised states gradually throughout the rest of Europe over the following millennium.

Classical antiquity

Ancient Greece had a profound impact on Western civilization. Western democratic and individualistic culture are often attributed to Ancient Greece. The Greeks invented the polis, or city-state, which played a fundamental role in their concept of identity.[9] These Greek political ideals were rediscovered in the late 18th century by European philosophers and idealists. Greece also generated many cultural contributions: in philosophy, humanism and rationalism under Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato; in history with Herodotus and Thucydides; in dramatic and narrative verse, starting with the epic poems of Homer; and in science with Pythagoras, Euclid, and Archimedes.

Another major influence on Europe came from the Roman Empire which left its mark on law, language, engineering, architecture, and government.[13] During the pax romana, the Roman Empire expanded to encompass the entire Mediterranean Basin and much of Europe.[14] Stoicism influenced emperors such as Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, who all spent time on the Empire's northern border fighting Germanic, Pictish and Scottish tribes.[15][16] Christianity was eventually legitimized by Constantine I after three centuries of imperial persecution.

Dark Ages

During the decline of the Roman Empire, Europe entered a long period of change arising from what is known in America as the Age of Migrations. There were numerous invasions and migrations amongst the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Goths, Vandals, Huns, Franks, Angles, Saxons, and, later still, the Vikings and Normans. [17] Renaissance thinkers such as Petrarch would later refer to this as the "Dark Ages".[18] Isolated monastic communities in Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere carefully safeguarded and compiled written knowledge accumulated previously; very few written records survive and much literature, philosophy, mathematics, and other thinking from the classical period disappeared from European popular currency.

During the Dark Ages, the Western Roman Empire fell under the control of Celt, Slav and Germanic tribes. The Celtic tribes established their kingdoms in Gaul, the predecessor to the Frankish kingdoms that eventually became France.[20] The Germanic and Slav tribes established their domains over Central and Eastern Europe respectively.[21] Eventually the Frankish tribes were united under Clovis I.[22] Charlemagne, a Frankish king of the Carolingian dynasty who had conquered most of Western Europe, was anointed "Holy Roman Emperor" by the Pope in 800. This led to the founding of the Holy Roman Empire, which eventually became centered in the German principalities of central Europe.

The Eastern Roman Empire became known in the west as the Byzantine Empire. Based in Constantinople, they viewed themselves as the natural successors to the Roman Empire.[24] Emperor Justinian I presided over Constantinople's first golden age: he established a legal code, funded the construction of the Hagia Sophia and brought the Christian church under state control.[25] Fatally weakened by the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the Byzantines fell in 1453 when they were conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

Middle Ages

High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages

The Middle Ages were dominated by the two upper echelons of the social structure: the nobility and the clergy. Feudalism already developed in France in the Early Middle Ages, but soon spread throughout Europe.[27] The struggle between the nobility and the monarchy in England led to the writing of the Magna Carta and the establishment of a parliament.[28] The primary source of culture in this period came from the Roman Catholic Church. Through monasteries and cathedral schools, the Church was responsible for education in much of Europe.

The Papacy reached the height of its power during the High Middle Ages. The East-West Schism in 1054 split the former Roman Empire religiously, with the Eastern Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Catholic Church in the former Western Roman Empire. In 1095 Pope Urban II called for a crusade against Muslims occupying Jerusalem and the Holy Land.[29] In Europe itself, the Church organized the Inquisition against heretics. In Spain, the Reconquista concluded with the fall of Granada in 1492, ending over seven centuries of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula.

Europe was devastated in the mid-14th century by the Black Death, which killed an estimated 25 million people - a third of the European population at the time.[27] Successive epidemics led to increased religious fervor,[31] a result of which was widespread persecution of Jews.

Early modern period
The School of Athens by Raphael. Contemporaries such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (centre) are portrayed as classical scholars.
The School of Athens by Raphael. Contemporaries such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (centre) are portrayed as classical scholars.

Main article: Early modern period
See also: Renaissance, Protestant Reformation, and Age of Discovery

The Renaissance was a period of cultural change originating in Italy in the fourteenth century. The rise of a new humanism was accompanied by the recovery of forgotten classical and Arabic knowledge from monastic libraries and the Islamic world.[31][33][34] The Renaissance spread across Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries: it saw the flowering of art, philosophy, music and the sciences, under the joint patronage of royalty, the nobility, the Roman Catholic Church and an emerging merchant class.[35][36][37] Patrons in Italy, including the Medici family of Florentine bankers and the Popes in Rome, funded prolific quattrocento and cinquecento artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Political intrigue within the Church in the mid-14th century caused the Great Schism. During this forty-year period, two popes - one in Avignon and one in Rome - claimed rulership over the Church. Although the schism was eventually healed in 1417, the papacy's spiritual authority had suffered greatly.[40] The Church's power was further weakened by the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther, a result of the lack of reform within the Church. The Reformation also damaged the Holy Roman Empire's power, as German princes became divided between Catholic, Protestant and Calvinist faiths.[41] This eventually led to the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which crippled the Holy Roman Empire and devastated much of Germany. In the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia, France rose to predominance within Europe.

The Renaissance and the New Monarchs marked the start of an Age of Discovery, a period of exploration, invention, and scientific development. In the 15th century, Portugal and Spain, two of the greatest naval powers of the time, took the lead in exploring the world.[43][44] Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in the 1498, and soon after the Spanish and Portuguese began establishing colonial empires in the Americas.[45] France, the Netherlands and England soon followed in building large colonial empires with vast holdings in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

18th and 19th centuries

Main article: Modern History
See also: Industrial Revolution, French Revolution, and Age of Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment was a powerful intellectual eighteenth century movement in which scientific and reason-based thought predominated.[46][47][48] Discontent with the aristocracy and clergy's monopoly on political power in France resulted in the French Revolution and the establishment of the First Republic: the monarchy and many of the nobility perished during the initial reign of terror.[49] Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power in the aftermath of the French Revolution and established the First French Empire that, during the Napoleonic Wars, grew to encompass large parts of Europe before collapsing in 1815 with the Battle of Waterloo.

Napoleonic rule resulted in the further dissemination of the ideals of the French Revolution, including that of nation-state, as well as the widespread adoption of the French model for administration, law and education.[52][53][54] The Congress of Vienna was convened after Napoleon's downfall. It established a new balance of power in Europe centered on the five "great powers": the United Kingdom, France, Prussia, Habsburg Austria and Russia.[55] This balance would remain in place until the Revolutions of 1848, during which liberal uprisings affected all of Europe except for Russia and Great Britain. The revolutions were eventually put down by more conservative elements and few reforms resulted.[56] In 1867 the Austro-Hungarian empire was formed; and 1871 saw the unification of Italy and Germany as nation-states from smaller principalities.

The Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain in the last part of the 18th century and spread throughout Europe. The invention and implementation of new technology resulted in rapid urban growth, mass employment and the rise of a new working class. [58] Reforms in social and economic spheres followed, including the first laws on child labor, the legalization of Trade Unions [59] and the abolition of slavery. [60] Karl Marx's Manifesto of the Communist Party was published in London in 1848.

20th century and present

Main articles: Modern History and History of Europe
See also: World War I, Great Depression, World War II, Cold War, and History of the European Union

The first half of the 20th century was dominated by two world wars and an economic depression. World War I was fought between 1914 and 1918. It started when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip.[63] All European nations were drawn into the war, which was fought between two series of alliances: the Entente Powers (led by France, Russia and the United Kingdom, joined later by Italy and the United States) and the Central Powers (led by Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire). The war's casualties, both civilian and military, were around 40 million.[64] World War I changed the map of Europe. Russia was plunged into the Russian Revolution, after which the Tsarist monarchy was replaced by the communist Soviet Union.[65] Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire collapsed and broke up into separate nations, and many other nations had their borders redrawn or eliminated altogether. The Treaty of Versailles was harsh towards Germany, upon whom it placed full responsibility for the war and imposed heavy sanctions.

Economic instability, caused in part by debts incurred from the First World War, brought about the worldwide Great Depression during the 1930s, precipitated by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Fascist movements developed throughout Europe during the economic crisis, placing leaders Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany, Francisco Franco of Spain and Benito Mussolini of Italy in power.

Hitler began slowly expanding Germany's size after coming to power, incorporating Austria with the Anschluss in 1938 and later Czechoslovakia after already annexing the Sudetenland in a move that was highly contested by the other powers but ultimately permitted in hopes of appeasing Hitler. His invasion of Poland in 1939, backed by Soviet troops, prompted France and the United Kingdom to declare war, starting World War II in Europe. [69][70] In 1940 Germany quickly conquered the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway. Aided by their newly declared allies Italy, they occupied France, but failed in their bombing offensive on Britain.[71] In 1941 they unexpectedly turned on their former Soviet allies with an ultimately unsuccessful invasion of the Soviet Union.[72] Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into the conflict as allies of the British and Free French forces.[73][74] By 1944 the Germans were being attacked on two fronts: by Soviet forces in the east and by British and U.S. forces in the west. Berlin finally fell in 1945, ending World War II in Europe. The war was the largest and most destructive in human history, with 60 million dead across the world,[75] including between 9 and 11 million people who perished during the Holocaust.[76]

World War I and especially World War II ended the pre-eminence of Western Europe in world affairs. After World War II the map of Europe was redrawn at the Yalta Conference and divided into two blocs, the Western countries and the communist Eastern bloc, separated by an "iron curtain". The United States and Western Europe established the NATO alliance and later the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe established the Warsaw Pact. [77] The two new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, became locked in a fifty-year long Cold War, centered on nuclear proliferation. At the same time decolonization, which had already started after World War I, gradually resulted in the independence of most of the European colonies in Asia and Africa.[78] In the 1980s the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev and the solidarity movement in Poland accelerated the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the end of the Cold War. Germany was reunited, after the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the maps of Eastern Europe had once more to be completely redrawn.

European integration also grew in the post-World War II years. The Treaty of Rome in 1957 established the European Economic Community between six Western European states with the goal of a unified economic policy and common market.[80] In 1967 the EEC, European Coal and Steel Community and Euratom formed the European Community, which in 1993 became the European Union. The EU established a parliament, court and central bank and introduced the euro as a unified currency.[81] Beginning in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, Eastern European countries began joining, expanding the EU to its current size of 27 European nations.

Geography and extent

Geography of Europe

Physiographically, Europe is the northwestern constituent of the larger landmass known as Eurasia, or Afro-Eurasia: Asia occupies the eastern bulk of this continuous landmass and all share a common continental shelf. Europe's eastern frontier is now commonly delineated by the Ural Mountains in Russia. The first century AD geographer Strabo, [83] took the Tanais River to be the boundary, as did early Judaic sources. The southeast boundary with Asia is not universally defined. Most commonly the Ural or, alternatively, the Emba River serve as possible boundaries. The boundary continues to the Caspian Sea, the crest of the Caucasus Mountains or, alternatively, the Kura River in the Caucasus, and on to the Black Sea; the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles conclude the Asian boundary. The Mediterranean Sea to the south separates Europe from Africa. The western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean; Iceland, though nearer to Greenland (North America) than mainland Europe, is generally included in Europe. There is ongoing debate on where the geographical centre of Europe is. For detailed description of the boundary between Asia and Europe see transcontinental nation.

Because of sociopolitical and cultural differences, there are various descriptions of Europe's boundary; in some sources, some territories are not included in Europe, while other sources include them. For instance, geographers from Russia and other post-Soviet states generally include the Urals in Europe while including Caucasia in Asia. Similarly, numerous geographers consider Azerbaijan's and Armenia's southern border with Iran and Turkey's southern and eastern border with Syria, Iraq and Iran as the boundary between Asia and Europe because of political and cultural reasons. In the same way, despite being close to Asia and Africa, the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta are considered part of Europe.

Physical geography

Land relief in Europe shows great variation within relatively small areas. The southern regions, however, are more mountainous, while moving north the terrain descends from the high Alps, Pyrenees and Carpathians, through hilly uplands, into broad, low northern plains, which are vast in the east. This extended lowland is known as the Great European Plain, and at its heart lies the North German Plain. An arc of uplands also exists along the north-western seaboard, which begins in the western parts of Britain and Ireland, and then continues along the mountainous, fjord-cut, spine of Norway.

This description is simplified. Sub-regions such as the Iberian Peninsula and the Italian Peninsula contain their own complex features, as does mainland Central urope itself, where the relief contains many plateaus, river valleys and basins that complicate the general trend. Sub-regions like Iceland, Britain and Ireland are special cases. The former is a land unto itself in the northern ocean which is counted as part of Europe, while the latter are upland areas that were once joined to the mainland until rising sea levels cut them off.

 

Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, is located in northeastern Iceland.

Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in Continental Europe, is located in Switzerland

Cape Roca, a cape that forms the westernmost point of mainland Europe, is located in Portugal

Geology

Main article: Geology of Europe

The Geology of Europe is hugely varied and complex, and gives rise to the wide variety of landscapes found across the continent, from the Scottish Highlands to the rolling plains of Hungary.

Europe's most significant feature is the dichotomy between highland and mountainous Southern Europe and a vast, partially underwater, northern plain ranging from England in the west to Ural Mountains in the east. These two halves are separated by the mountain chains of Pyrenees and Alps/Carpathians. The northern plains are delimited in the west by the Scandinavian Mountains and the mountainous parts of the British Isles. Major shallow water bodies submerging parts of the northern plains are the Celtic Sea the North Sea, the Baltic Sea complex and Barents Sea.

The northern plain contain the old geological continent of Baltica, and so may be regarded geologically as the "main continent", while peripheral highlands and mountainous regions in south and west constitute fragments from various other geological continents. Most of the older geology of Western Europe existed as part of the ancient microcontinent Avalonia.

Geological history

The geological history of Europe traces back to the formation of the Baltic Shield (Fennoscandia) and the Sarmatian craton, both around 2250 million years ago, followed by the Volgo-Uralia shield, the three together leading to the East European craton (˜ Baltica) which became a part of the supercontinent Columbia. Around 1100 million years ago, Baltica and Arctica (as part of the Laurentia block) became joined to Rodinia, later resplitting around 550 million years ago to reform as Baltica. Around 440 million years ago Euramerica was formed from Baltica and Laurentia; a further joining with Gondwana then leading to the formation of Pangea. Around 190 million years ago, Gondwana and Laurasia split apart due to the widening of the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, and very soon afterwards, Laurasia itself split up again, into Laurentia (North America) and an Eurasian continent. The land connection between the two persisted for a considerable time, via Greenland, leading to interchange of animal species. From around 50 million years ago, rising and falling sea levels have determined the actual shape of Europe, and its connections with continents such as Asia. Europe's present shape dates to the late Tertiary period about five million years ago.[84]

Biodiversity

See also: Fauna of Europe

Biogeographic regions of Europe (including Asian part of Turkey)
Biogeographic regions of Europe (including Asian part of Turkey)

Having lived side-by-side with agricultural peoples for millennia, Europe's animals and plants have been profoundly affected by the presence and activities of man. With the exception of Fennoscandia and northern Russia, few areas of untouched wilderness are currently found in Europe, except for various national parks.

The main natural vegetation cover in Europe is mixed forest. The conditions for growth are very favourable. In the north, the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift warm the continent. Southern Europe could be described as having a warm, but mild climate. There are frequent summer droughts in this region. Mountain ridges also affect the conditions. Some of these (Alps, Pyrenees) are oriented east-west and allow the wind to carry large masses of water from the ocean in the interior. Others are oriented south-north (Scandinavian Mountains, Dinarides, Carpathians, Apennines) and because the rain falls primarily on the side of mountains that is oriented towards sea, forests grow well on this side, while on the other side, the conditions are much less favourable. Few corners of mainland Europe have not been grazed by livestock at some point in time, and the cutting down of the pre-agricultural forest habitat caused disruption to the original plant and animal ecosystems.

Eighty to ninety per cent of Europe was once covered by forest. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean. Though over half of Europe's original forests disappeared through the centuries of deforestation, Europe still has over one quarter of its land area as forest, such as the taiga of Scandinavia and Russia, mixed rainforests of the Caucasus and the Cork oak forests in the western Mediterranean. During recent times, deforestation has been slowed and many trees have been planted. However, in many cases monoculture plantations of conifers have replaced the original mixed natural forest, because these grow quicker. The plantations now cover vast areas of land, but offer poorer habitats for many European forest dwelling species which require a mixture of tree species and diverse forest structure. The amount of natural forest in Western Europe is just 2–3% or less, in European Russia 5–10%. The country with the smallest percentage of forested area (excluding the micronations) is Iceland (2%), while the most forested country is Finland(72%).

In temperate Europe, mixed forest with both broadleaf and coniferous trees dominate. The most important species in central and western Europe are beech and oak. In the north, the taiga is a mixed spruce-pine-birch forest; further north within Russia and extreme northern Scandinavia, the taiga gives way to tundra as the Arctic is approached. In the Mediterranean, many olive trees have been planted, which are very well adapted to its arid climate; Mediterranean Cypress isalso widely planted in southern Europe. The semi-arid Mediterranean region hosts much scrub forest. A narrow east-west tongue of Eurasian grassland (the steppe) extends eastwards from Ukraine and southern Russia and ends in Hungary and traverses into taiga to the north.

Glaciation during the most recent ice age and the presence of man affected the distribution of European fauna. As for the animals, in many parts of Europe most large animals and top predator species have been hunted to extinction. The woolly mammoth was extinct before the end of the Neolithic period. Today wolves (carnivores) and bears (omnivores) are endangered. Once they were found in most parts of Europe. However, deforestation caused these animals to withdraw further and further. By the Middle Ages the bears' habitats were limited to more or less inaccessible mountains with sufficient forest cover. Today, the brown bear lives primarily in the Balkan peninsula, Scandinavia, and Russia; a small number also persist in other countries across Europe (Austria, Pyrenees etc.), but in these areas brown bear populations are fragmented and marginalised because of the destruction of their habitat. In addition, polar bears may be found on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago far north of Scandinavia. The wolf, the second largest predator in Europe after the brown bear, can be found primarily in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans, with a handful of packs in pockets of Western Europe (Scandinavia, Spain, etc.).

Other important European carnivores are Eurasian lynx, European wild cat, foxes (especially the red fox), jackal and different species of martens, hedgehogs, different species of reptiles snakes (vipers, grass snake…), different birds (owls, hawks and other birds of prey).

Important European herbivores are snails, amphibian larvae, fish, different birds, and mammals, like rodents, deer and roe deer, boars, and living in the mountains, marmots, steinbocks, chamois among others.

Sea creatures are also an important part of European flora and fauna. The sea flora is mainly phytoplankton. Important animals that live in European seas are zooplankton, molluscs, echinoderms, different crustaceans, squids and octopuses, ish, dolphins, and whales.

Biodiversity is protected in Europe through the Council of Europe's Bern Convention), which has also been signed by the European Community as well as non-European states.

Demographics

Main articles: Demographics of Europe, European ethnic groups, and Aging of Europe

The population growth/decline of European countries

Since the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery, Europe has had a major nfluence in culture, economics and social movements in the world. European demographics are important not only historically, but also in understanding current international relations and population issues.

Some current and past issues in European demographics have included religious emigration, race relations, economic immigration, a declining birth rate and an aging population. In some countries, such as the Republic of Ireland and Poland, access to abortion is currently limited; in the past, such restrictions and also restrictions on artificial birth control were commonplace throughout Europe. Furthermore, three European countries (The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland) have allowed a limited form of voluntary euthanasia for some terminally ill people.

In 2005 the population of Europe was estimated to be 728 million according to the United Nations, which is slightly more than one-ninth of the world's population. A century ago Europe had nearly a quarter of the world's population. The population of Europe has grown in the past century, but in other areas of the world (in particular Africa and Asia) the population has grown far more quickly.[85] According to UN population projection (medium variant), Europe's share will fall to 7% in 2050, numbering 653 million.[86] Within this context, significant disparities exist between religions in relation to fertility rates. The average number of children per female of child bearing age is 1.52. According to some sources,[87][88] this rate is higher among Muslims. In 2005 the EU had an overall net gain from immigration of 1.8 million people, despite having one of the highest population densities in the world. This accounted for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth.

Political geography

Territories and regions

See also: Demographics of Europe and List of European countries by population

Regions of Europe as delineated by the United Nations (other categorisations may vary): Northern Europe Western Europe Eastern Europe Southern Europe
Regions of Europe as delineated by the United Nations (other categorisations mayvary): Northern Europe Western Europe Eastern Europe Southern Europe

The countries in this table are categorised according to the scheme for geographic subregions used by the United Nations, and data included are per sources in cross-referenced articles. Where they differ, provisos are clearly indicated.

According to different definitions, such as consideration of the concept of Central Europe, the following territories and regions may be subject to various other categorisations.

 

Economy of Europe

As a continent, the economy of Europe is currently the largest on Earth. The European Union, or EU, an intergovernmental body composed of most of the European states, is one of the two largest in the world. Of the member states in the EU, Germany has the largest national economy. Thirteen EU countries share a common unit of currency, the euro. Major economic sectors in Europe include agriculture, manufacturing, and investment. The majority of the EU's trade is with the United States, China, India, Russia and non-member European states.

Language

Main article: Languages of Europe
See also: Eurolinguistics

European languages mostly fall within three language groups: the Romance languages, derived from the Latin language of the Roman Empire; the Germanic languages, whose ancestor language came from southern Scandinavia; and the Slavic languages.

Romance languages are spoken primarily in south-western Europe as well as Romania and Moldova which are situated in Eastern Europe. Germanic languages are spoken more or less in north-western Europe and some parts of central Europe. Slavic languages are spoken in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.

Many other languages outside the three main groups are spoken in Europe. The English language is unique, as it is a hybrid of the Romance and Germanic languages. The Celtic language group was once a distinct group like the Romance, Germanic and Slavic language groups but has mostly died out, with the exceptions of Welsh and Gaelic in the British Isles and some speakers in Brittany.

Multilingualism and the protection of regional and minority languages are recognized political goals in Europe today. The Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Council of Europe's European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages set up a legal framework for language rights in Europe.

Religions

Religion in Europe

 

The most prevalent religions of Europe are the following:

* Christianity
o Roman Catholicism: Countries or areas with significant Catholic populations are Andorra, Austria, west Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, south and west Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latgale region in Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, south Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, central and south Switzerland, and Vatican City. There are also large Catholic minorities in Great Britain: England, Scotland, Wales and most European countries.
o Eastern-Rite Catholicism also known as "Uniatism", is found in western Ukraine, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Armenia, Hungary, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia, southern Italy (Sardinia and Sicily) and Corsica, France.
o Orthodox Christianity: The countries with significant Orthodox populations are Greece, Russia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Armenia, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, easternmost Hungary, a small minority in Southern Italy, Kazakhstan, sizable minorities in Albania, Latvia and Lithuania, small minority in Poland, Finland (Karelia).
o Protestantism: Countries with significant Protestant populations include Denmark, Estonia, Finland, north and east Germany, Iceland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden; east, north and west Switzerland; and the United Kingdom. There are significant minorities in France, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland, and a small minority in Poland.
* Islam: Countries with significant Muslim population are Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, several republics of Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Crimea in Ukraine, and, from Western Europe, France.

Other religions are practiced by smaller groups in Europe, including:

* Judaism primarily in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia. At one time Judaism was practiced widely throughout the European continent, though it has dwindled in numbers since the expulsion, extermination, and exodus of Jews during the later portion of the second millennium.
* Hinduism mainly among Indian immigrants in the United Kingdom. In 1998 there were an estimated 1,382,000 Hindu adherents in Europe alone [1].
* Buddhism thinly spread throughout Europe.
* Indigenous European pagan traditions and beliefs, many countries (a fast-growing neopagan movement in France, Germany, Ireland and United Kingdom is noted), and one neopagan faith Asatru recognized as a minority religion in Iceland (since 1973), Norway and Sweden.
* Rastafari, communities in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and elsewhere.
* Sikhism and Jainism, small membership rolls, both mainly among Indian immigrants in the United Kingdom.
* Voodoo, mainly among black Caribbean and West African immigrants in the United Kingdom and France.
* Traditional African Religions (including Muti), mainly in the United Kingdom and France.
* Other religions with few (or under a million) adherents in Europe: Animism, Christian Scientists, Eco-religion, Gnosticism, Paganism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, Moravian Church, Mormonism or Latter-day Saints, Pantheism, Polytheism, theological relativism, Scientology, Seventh-day Adventists, Universal Life Church, Unitarians, Wiccan, and Zoroastrianism.

Millions of Europeans profess no religion or are atheist, agnostic or humanist. The largest non-confessional populations (as a percentage) are found in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the former soviet countries of Belarus, Estonia, Russia and Ukraine, although most former communist countries have significant non-confessional populations.

Official religions

A number of countries in Europe have official religions, including Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, the Vatican City (Catholic), Greece (Eastern Orthodox), Denmark, Iceland, and Norway (Lutheran). In Switzerland, some cantons are officially Catholic, others Reformed Protestant. Some Swiss villages even have their religion as well as the village name written on the signs at their entrances.

Georgia has no established church, but the Georgian Orthodox Church enjoys de facto privileged status. In Finland, both the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church are official. England, a part of the UK, has Anglicanism as its official religion. Scotland, another part of the UK, has Presbyterianism as its national church, but it is no longer "official", and in Sweden, the national church is Lutheranism, but it is also no longer "official". Azerbaijan, France, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and Turkey are officially "secular". (Credit: Wikipedia).

 

European Union Unable To Agree On Online Gaming Accords, by Earl Burton - 11th March 2009
(Credit: Poker News Daily)


While the United States has been unable or unwilling to broach the regulation of the online gaming world, Europe has - in some cases - ventured into that area. Countries such as England and Ireland have introduced regulation of the online poker and gaming worlds with a great deal of success. Others, however, have attempted to nationalize this industry rather than welcome worldwide competition. A recent decision by the European Parliament demonstrates how divisive the issue has become.

According to a report from the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) on Tuesday, the European Parliament - which is part of a bicameral legislative body, along with the Council of the European Union, and is the only elected body that leads the EU - has introduced a resolution that looks at “the integrity of online gambling.” In this resolution, there are many issues that are brought to light but there is conflict among the officials in an alternative report that was presented.

The majority report resolution that was adopted by the European Parliament states that the European Commission should “carry out studies and make appropriate proposals” regarding online gaming while insisting at the same time on “the Member States’ right to regulate (the online gaming sector) in accordance with their traditions and cultures”. The minority report, which is backed by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) representing nine of the Member States and the three main European political parties, looks to approach online gaming and betting in a more practical way. It wants to recognize the cross-border nature of the industry and take into consideration both the challenges and opportunities offered in this area by Internet technology.

What this means is that, according to the EGBA, that there will be no agreement in the near future for the European Union to coordinate the world of online gaming and poker. The Secretary General of the EGBA, Sigrid Ligné, admitted this when she said, “Today’s vote shows that we cannot expect an EU harmonized legislation to be adopted in the near future. It clearly means that it is the rules of the Treaty and the case law of the Court of Justice that continue to apply and that will prevail for our sector in the years to come”.

Since the mid-point of this decade, the European Union has wrestled over the questions that continue to plague the online gaming and poker industry. While regulation has been accepted in some countries, other countries have attempted to nationalize the operations for the benefit of their own countries and prevent the freedom of trade in online gaming. France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Spain have been the major players in this nationalization effort, but some of those countries have changed their minds in the face of potential penalties or restrictions by the European Union through the Treaty of Commerce that all member nations have signed.

Recently, France announced that they would begin accepting applications for companies to legally accept French action in 2010; Sweden will start the same program next year, while Spain has already implemented a regulatory agency. Until all nations of the European Union can come to an agreement, there will still be stormy conditions for the online gaming and poker worlds in the future.

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