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Just How Many Europes Are There?

Updated on January 4, 2015
UnnamedHarald profile image

I try to make history readable and interesting, warts and all. We must look to the past to understand the present and confront the future.

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Flag of Europe... but which Europe?
Flag of Europe... but which Europe? | Source

Four Europes... At Least

Many people think the names “Britain”, “England” and the “United Kingdom” are interchangeable-- much to the irritation of millions of the UK's inhabitants. Don't call the Scots, the Welsh or the Irish “English”, if you know what's good for you-- and the English aren't all that fond of being misidentified either. To be safe, just call them “Brits” and be done with it.

In a similar vein, what does it mean to be European? What, exactly does “Europe” mean? Well, it depends on which “Europe” you're talking about. This article identifies four of them-- but even these delineations are subject to debate. I can't promise this is the final word or that you'll be an expert on the subject, but at least you'll know enough to question which “Europe” is being discussed.

Text Color Key: blue: states which straddle the border between Europe and Asia; green: states not geographically in Europe, but closely associated politically.
Text Color Key: blue: states which straddle the border between Europe and Asia; green: states not geographically in Europe, but closely associated politically. | Source

The Continent of Europe (Largest Number of Countries)

The continent of Europe should be easy to identify. It is the geographical reference to the continental peninsula in the west of the Eurasian land mass, including related islands. Stretching roughly east to west from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural and Caucasus Mountains and north to south from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, it covers nearly 4 million square miles and contains 50 countries with a total population of about 730 million people. Among other countries, this version of Europe includes the island nations of Iceland and the United Kingdom and portions of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Although it should be easy to identify, beware when someone refers to “Continental Europe”, as this usually means the European mainland sans many of the islands. Therefore, the continent of Europe is different from “Continental Europe”. Also, the actual countries and boundaries of the continent are subject to debate. No one said this was going to be easy.

These are the 50 countries in the continent of Europe (note that this list does not include countries in dispute, such as Kosovo, Northern Cyprus, South Ossetia, etc):

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Vatican City

Map of the Council of Europe members. Member states are green and dark green and include dependencies.
Map of the Council of Europe members. Member states are green and dark green and include dependencies. | Source

The Council of Europe (Large Number of Countries)

The Council of Europe , headquartered in Strasbourg, France, is an organization that promotes cooperation among nearly all of the countries in the continent of Europe (see above). Its emphasis is on standards, human rights, democracy and culture. It cannot make binding laws like the European Union (see below). Three countries from the continent of Europe are not members of the Council of Europe:Belarus, Kazakhstan and Vatican City. Its 47 member states have a population of about 800 million; this is higher than that stated for the continent of Europe because the entire population of member states is counted (e.g. Russia and Turkey) instead of just those living in the European continent. The member states are:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom

European Union member states in blue.
European Union member states in blue. | Source

The European Union (EU) (Smaller Number of Countries)

Although there is no “country” of Europe, the European Union (EU), as a political and economic union, comes close to being the hypothetical “United States of Europe”, with its “capital” at Brussels, Belgium. The member states-- or countries-- that make up the EU, while part of this supranational union, struggle with developing a single market, common trade policies, free movement of subjects and trade across state borders, etc, while maintaining as much of their individual customs and laws as possible. The “economic” part of the European Union does not extend to a single currency-- that is under the auspices of the Eurozone (see below). There are 28 European Union countries, with a population of around 500 million (Croatia was the latest to join on July 1, 2013):

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom

Note that this is about half the countries that make up the continent of Europe (see above).

The 19 Eurozone countries (whose currency is the Euro) in dark blue and purple (Latvia and Lithuania joined in 2014 and 2015 respectively are purple).
The 19 Eurozone countries (whose currency is the Euro) in dark blue and purple (Latvia and Lithuania joined in 2014 and 2015 respectively are purple). | Source

The Eurozone (Smallest Number of Countries)

This is the “Europe” that has been in the news so much, dragging down the world's economic recovery. Also called the “euro area”, it is Europe's economic and monetary union. That is, its member states have adopted the “euro” as their common currency. There are currently only 19 member states in the Eurozone, since not all of the countries in the European Union (see above) have adopted the euro as their currency-- most notably, the United Kingdom. As the Eurozone wrestles with the monetary crisis involving its member states Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, among others, the rest of the European Union as well as the world struggle to emerge from the global recession that started in 2008.

The 19 member states of the Eurozone, with a population of 335 million, are:

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain

Finis

That concludes the whirlwind tour of four Europes. If you're still confused, then you're normal, but maybe now you understand why “Europe” never seems to stand still and why sometimes a country is European and sometimes it's not. And fear not, the memberships of the various Europes will change over time.

Finally, on the off chance you may be able to handle the truth, the following image shows that there are actually more than four Europes.

Relationships between various multinational European organizations.
Relationships between various multinational European organizations. | Source

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    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks, robie2. Glad you enjoyed what potetially could be a somewhat dry subject. It's amazing how many geological features are crammed into the (relatively) small British Isles. The closest I got to the continent was the beach at Great Yarmouth looking out over the North Sea. I planned on going on to Germany but it didn't work out that way, much to my regret.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      3 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I totally enjoyed this merry romp through the various versions of Europe and I really love your writing. What always amazes me is how so many countries can be crammed into such a small space. The first time I went to Europe ( back in the days when there were two Germany's and only one Russia) I was surprised at how small it was. How astounding to get on a train in the morning and by evening be in a totally different cou8ntry with different language, money, architecture etc. At least the EU is a step in the right direction, sort of :-) Voting this up and awesome.

    • profile image

      Kieran Gracie 

      3 years ago

      I'd like to take issue with Gordan Zunar about Britain (actually the UK) no longer wanting to be part of the EU. This has yet to be decided by referendum, promised sometime after the next general election - if the Conservatives win. My own view is that the country is probably going to stay in the EU for the time being, but with a sizable minority opposed.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for the update, Gordan. I have updated the article to include Croatia in the EU.

    • Gordan Zunar profile image

      Gordan Zunar 

      3 years ago from New York

      Small update: Croatia was the last country that entered EU, which makes her the 28th member.

      It's true, Europe can be very confusing, and it's very divided. For example, not all European countries want to enter the EU (Russia, Belarus), not all countries that are in EU want to stay in it any longer (Britain), and not all countries that want to join are fully on European continent (Turkey- her most part is in Asia).

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Kieran. It was an eye-opener for me as I compared the "Europes". The continent is bigger than I thought and the Eurozone is smaller! Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image

      Kieran Gracie 

      5 years ago

      Great Hub, UnnamedHarald, although I've no idea how you managed to unravel the 'European' tangle of nations! From a personal point of view I've never understood how, for instance, Turkey could have a claim to be European, or Cyprus, or Israel (as part of the Eurovision Song Contest), or any of the '-stans'. Whatever happened to Asia Minor?

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Brummie refers to someone who lives (or in my case, lived) in Birmingham, England. There's not much danger of someone, say, from Glasgow or anywhere else in the universe, calling themselves a Brummie.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Brummie? I've never heard of that one before. But it's probably better than the term "Pommy" that Aussies use.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi JKenny. ANOTHER Europe (please see my reply to Pavlo just above)? Same here, when someone refers to my British-ness or English-ness. Actually, I prefer Brummie.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hey Pavlo! I'm not sure what I've uncovered here. Is this a secret plot by Europeans to take over the world by eventually including every country in one European definition or another? What next, Euros in Iowa?

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      fpherj48, great hear from you. As the Brits, er English, might say, I'm dead chuffed you found this hub so interesting. I'm using my hub articles to hypnotize readers and I may be having some success :) Seriously, thanks for your great comment. Yes, perhaps one shouldn't generalize. "Brit" is not the equivalent of "English" of course, but I thought it the least troublesome. Apparently not. On the other hand, I suspect Nell knows first hand how Scots and Irish feel about being called English.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi Larry. Head-scratching is right and maybe as exciting as the theory of economics, but I hoped to keep it short and sweet. This was a question that lodged in my mind earlier this week and found its way to a hub. By my calculations, Armenia is part of the continent of Europe plus a member of the Council of Europe.

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 

      5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Interesting hub Harald, its amazing to think just how many 'Europe's' there are. Another one to add that I've just thought of is the European football governing body (UEFA) which includes two Asian countries as its members (Israel and Kazakhstan). Interesting to hear fpherj48's comments about Nell Rose preferring to be called English rather than British. Most people on this side of pond prefer that, or being called Welsh and Scottish.

      Me personally, I don't mind, as I have a number of ancestral links to several European countries including Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and Denmark. So whether people call me English, British or European- I really don't mind.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I know the fourth definition of Europe. According to IATA (international air transport association) Europe also includes Turkey, South of Africa (Marokko) and some others which I just can not remember at the spot. I should search for it and add in a later comment...

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Unnamed....Wow!..this may just be your most interesting hub to date...Well, I think so, anyway. I can't believe I find this interesting. You History buffs has really gotten under my skin!......

      Now, I have to tell you.....one of our greatest writers here, Nell Rose From England.....FREAKS over ever being referred to as "British." She nicely but fiercely explains this in one of her hubs. I have been extremely careful ever since. BTW..she would not even approve of, "Brits." She is adamant about being "English." period, the end....

      My paternal grandparents are of Ukranian ethnicity, but for most of their lives, before coming to America, of course, they lived in Austria.

      My maternal grandparents are both from Sicily.......

      Great HUB.... I thoroughly enjoyed all this NEW-to-me....info!..UP+++

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      A highly educated friend from Armenia admitted that he wasn't sure whether his home country was a part of Europe or a part of Asia. Now I understand why.

      Thanks for the head-scratching exercise. Voted up and interesting.

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