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Table of contents
Europe Introduction (Europe) European Union (EU) Geography of Europe People of Europe Language of Europe
Andorra Belgium Denmark France Iceland° Ireland¹ Liechtenstein Luxembourg¹ Netherlands¹ Norway Portugal¹ Switzerland United Kingdom¹
Albania Bosnia Herzegovina Croatia° Cyprus*¹ Greece¹ Italy¹ Malta¹ Monaco Montenegro° San Marino Slovenia¹ Spain¹ Vatican City
Austria¹ Czech Republic¹ Estonia¹ Finland¹ Germany¹ Hungary¹ Latvia¹ Lithuania¹ Macedonia° Poland¹ Serbia Slovakia¹ Sweden¹
Armenia* Azerbaijan* Belarus Bulgaria¹ Georgia* Kazakhstan* Moldova Romania¹ Russia* Turkey* Ukraine
Europe Introduction (Europe)
Europe is a continent which is home to more than a quarter of the world's countries. The climate of Europe varies from Arctic conditions to temperate in the south. Every world religion is represented in Europe and hundreds of languages are spoken too.
What is Europe?
Europe extends from Iceland in the west to Russia and Georgia in the east, Norway in the far north to Spain in the south. The map below shows geographical Europe, the countries generally referred to as Western Europe are highlighted in yellow. There are 50 countries in Europe at the moment although a few of these (Russia, Cyprus, etc.) are considered to be mostly or entirely in Asia. However, they are considered European for social-political, cultural, or other reasons. As well as these 50 countries, there are a number of small dependent territories which have their own governments but are not sovereign countries, such as the Faroe Islands and the Isle of Man.
What is WikiJunior Europe about?
Wikijunior is a part of Wikibooks which is devoted to creating books for children and teenagers. These books must be useful and accurate but they should also be interesting to read and not too in-depth. Wikijunior Europe provides a profile of each country with maps and flags plus information about the history, people and geography of each country. If you are reading this and wondering where to get more information, try the Web links for more detail on each country.
Is Europe the same as the European Union?
Europe is a geographic entity which runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural mountains (which are in western Russia). The European Union is a political, social and economic union of 27 countries in Europe. The members of the European Union (in order of when they joined) are: France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Romania (January 1st, 2007) and Bulgaria (January 1st, 2007).
There are also several countries which are in the process of joining the European Union. These countries are Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. Many other nations (Serbia, Ukraine, etc.) have also said that they wish to join the European Union in the future.
What are the languages of Europe?
More than 100 languages are spoken in Europe. The most spoken languages are German, English, French, Russian, Spanish, Italian and Polish. Visit Wikijunior Languages to find out more about European languages and other languages from around the world.
What are the religions of Europe?
Like every other continent, all religions are practised in Europe. Christianity is by far the most common religion and almost every country in Europe has a majority of people who are Christian. Islam is the major religion in Turkey and Azerbaijan and a large parts of Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania and Russia. Judaism is represented in small numbers in every country but especially in France and the United Kingdom. Indian religions like Sikhism and Hinduism are practised especially in the United Kingdom. Atheism (not believing in a god) is very common in Czech Republic (more than 50%), Estonia, the United Kingdom, Germany and many parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Visit Wikijunior World Religions to find out more about religion.
What are the currencies of Europe?
Eighteen countries in the European Union use the Euro. All countries in the European Union (except the United Kingdom and Denmark) are expected to start using the Euro in the future. All other countries in Europe have their own currencies.
European Union (EU)
What is the European Union?
The European Union is a supranational group of 27 countries in Europe, and was initially formed in the 1950's. Originally it was called the Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the first countries were France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. In 1973 the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark joined followed by Greece in 1981. In 1986 Spain and Portugal joined and later Finland, Sweden and Austria in 1995. In May 2004, 10 countries joined at the same time: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus. The most recent new members were Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. Croatia will join the EU soon, probably in 2013.
These countries trade with each other in a common market, meaning that goods can be sold and bought freely across the union. People can also live and work (with some restrictions) in any EU country if they are an EU citizen. Member countries also have some common laws derived from decisions made by the union. Each country in the EU also elects politicians to a European Parliament which helps make and decide what common goals the union should pursue. Fifteen countries in the European Union also share a common currency: the Euro.
Which countries are in the EU?
There are 27 countries in the EU which has a population of around 500 million and the largest economy in the world.
The members are (in order of when they joined): France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria.
Macedonia, Croatia, Turkey, Montenegro and Iceland are applicant countries who wish to join the European Union in the future. Croatia has been approved and will join soon.
Which countries use the euro?
Seventeen of the twenty-seven EU member countries use the euro as their currency: France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia and Estonia. All other members (except the United Kingdom and Denmark) are obliged by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty to adopt the euro at some point in the future.
In addition, a few smaller countries which are not part of the EU also use the euro: Vatican City, San Marino, Monaco, Andorra, Montenegro and the province of Kosovo in Serbia.
Which countries have "open borders"?
The Schengen Agreement was signed by many countries in Europe (including some which are not part of the EU). Countries which have singed up to this agreement have no border controls between similar countries. This means that you can travel from Portugal to Spain to France to Germany to Poland to Lithuania to Latvia to Estonia and Finland (several thousand kilometres) and you don't need to stop at borders, show passports.
The following countries have singed the agreement and removed border controls: Portugal, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Iceland (not part of the EU), Sweden, Norway (not part of the EU), Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland (not part of the EU), Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Hungary and Greece. Liechtenstein will join at the end of 2011. The only EU countries where passports are still needed are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria.
Geography of Europe
Europe is a continent of over 50 countries with a border that is largely undefined (defining which countries are European and which aren't is argued a lot) and with many different landscapes, climates and wildlife.
Islands of Europe
Europe has many thousands of islands and some of these are countries (Iceland and Cyprus, for example). The largest islands are Iceland, Great Britain, Ireland (includes the country called "Ireland" and Northern Ireland which is part of the UK), Sicily, Spitsbergen and Sardinia.
Mountains of Europe
In the east of the continent are the Ural mountains (click the mountain links to read the article on Wikipedia) which separate Europe from Asia. North of the Mediterranean Sea are the Alps which run through France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. In the centre and south of the continent are the Carpathian Mountains.
Climate of Europe
The far north (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) pass through the Arctic Circle which is the area near the North Pole where temperatures can be very low. Countries to the east and inland of Europe can have very cold winters but those in the west have milder winters because of warmth from the Gulf Stream which brings hotter temperatures. Southern areas around the Mediterranean Sea can have constantly hot summers and pleasant winters.
Volcanoes and Other Natural Occurrences in Europe
Europe has 11 volcanoes. The second-highest and most famous is Etna in Sicily, Italy at 3,263 metres. It is well-known for its height, its close location to the major city of Catania and its constant eruptions over the past few years. Europe's highest volcano is Pico del Teide in the Canary Island, Spain.
A landlocked country is a country which has no connection to a sea or ocean. Countries like Georgia and Ukraine are not landlocked because they have coastlines on the Black Sea. There are 16 landlocked countries in Europe: Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland and Vatican City. Liechtenstein is unique in Europe because it is doubly-landlocked meaning it is both landlocked and surrounded by countries which are also landlocked.
People of Europe
731 million people live in Europe. The largest countries, by population, are Russia (143 million but many of these live in Asian parts of Russia) and Germany (80 million). The smallest countries, by population, are the Vatican City (1,000 inhabitants), Monaco, San Marino and Liechtenstein.
The major religion in Europe is Christianity. Most countries in Europe have a majority of people who are Christian - generally Roman Catholic (most of southern Europe, central Europe and Ireland), Protestant varieties (the UK, Germany and parts of central Europe) and Orthodox (eastern and south-eastern Europe). Large minorities of Jews live in the UK and France (and Poland, Germany and central Europe in the past). Turkey, Albania, Kosovo (Serbia) and Azerbaijan have majority Muslim populations with large numbers also in Bosnia Herzegovina and Russia.
Over 100 languages are spoken today in Europe and many hundreds of others were spoken in the past. The European Union has 23 official languages although there are 27 countries in the EU. This is because some languages are spoken in more than one country. English is spoken in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta. German is an official language in Germany, Austria and parts of Belgium. French is spoken in France and Belgium. Italian is spoken in Italy and also in parts of Slovenia.
The most spoken native EU language is German. English is spoken by more people as a second language than any other language in the EU.
There are many languages in Europe which don't have large numbers of native speakers like Manx and Kashubian.
Language of Europe
Languages of Europe
Russian is the language spoken by the most people in Europe with native speakers found in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia and other parts of Europe.
The European Union has 24 official languages. Many Europeans speak 2 or 3 languages but the most common language to learn, by a long way, is English.
Most languages spoken in Europe are Indo-European languages which are languages which originated between Europe and India. The Indo-European languages in Europe can be divided into different groups:
- Albanian - spoken in Albania and Kosovo
- Armenian - spoken in Armenia
- Baltic Languages - Lithuanian (in Lithuania) and Latvian (in Latvia)
- Celtic Languages - Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish and Manx, all spoken in the United Kingdom or countries which depend on the UK. Also Irish and Breton, spoken in Ireland and France.
- Germanic Languages - English (UK, Ireland and Malta), German (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Dutch (Netherlands and Belgium), Danish (Denmark), Norwegian (Norway), Swedish (Sweden and Finland) and Icelandic (Iceland).
- Greek - spoken in Greece and Cyprus.
- Romance Languages - Catalan (Spain), French (France, Switzerland, Belgium), Italian (Italy and Slovenia), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian (Romania and Moldova), Sardinian (Italy), Sicilian (Italy) and Spanish (Spain).
- Slavic Languages - Russian (Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus), Ukrainian (Ukraine), Belarusian (Belarus), Czech (Czech Republic), Polish (Poland), Slovak (Slovakia), Bulgarian (Bulgaria), Macedonian (Macedonia), Slovene (Slovenia and Italy) and Serbian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Bosnian (Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina)
There are a few languages spoken in Europe which are not Indo-European languages:
- Kartvelian Languages - this group includes Georgian, spoken in Georgia.
- Uralic Languages - this group includes Estonian (Estonia), Finnish (Finland) and Hungarian (Hungary and Serbia)
- Turkic Languages - this group includes Turkish (Turkey and Cyprus), Azerbaijani (Azerbaijan) and Kazakh (Kazakhstan)
- Semitic Languages - this group includes Maltese (Malta)
All of the languages above - those in the Indo-European Language group or those from other groups are all related in some way to other languages. There is one language spoken in Europe which has no relation to any other language in the world:
- Basque - spoken in Spain and France.
You can read more about European languages and other world languages at Wikijunior Languages
Alphabets of Europe
- The Latin alphabet is used in most of Europe. Most EU countries use this alphabet. The first letters of the Latin alphabet are: A, B, C
- The Cyrillic alphabet is used in some parts of Eastern Europe and South Eastern Europe. At present, Bulgaria is the only EU country using this alphabet. Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia are noteworthy because both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets are regularly used in those countries. The first letters of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet are: а, б, в
- The Greek alphabet is used in Greece and Cyprus. The first letters of the Greek alphabet are: Α, Β, Γ
- The Georgian alphabet is used in Georgia. The first letters of the Georgian alphabet are: ა, ბ, გ