Continent stretching from the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. From the Mediterranean Sea in the south to the North Pole. With Asia, Europe forms the supercontinent Eurasia: Europe is the western fifth of the Eurasian landmass.
Often other borders of Europe are drawn, based on political, economical, cultural or practical considerations. For example it's usual for car maps of Europe to end just after Moscow but include Asia Minor or even Israel.
Increasingly, the word "Europe" is being used as a synonym for the "European Union"; thus we have such seemingly paradoxical statements as the following "A European Space Policy will also provide solid grounds for a closer relationship between Europe and Russia." ("Towards a Space Agency for the European Union", pg. 6)
In terms of population it is the second biggest continent after Asia.
Europe has a long history of great cultural and economic achievement, starting as far back as the Bronze Age. From the 15th century European nations, particularly Spain, Portugal, France, and Britain, built large colonial empires, with vast holdings in Africa, America, and Asia. The Industrial Revolution started in 18th century from here. After World War II and in the Cold War Europe was divided in two major political and economic blocks. Communist nations in Eastern Europe and capitalistic countries in Western Europe. Around 1990 the Eastern block broke up. See history of Europe.
15 European states are members of the European Union, with 12 more negotiating for membership and several more expected commence negotiations at some stage in the future. Almost all European states are members of the Council of Europe; the sole exceptions are Belarus and the Vatican.
Europe comprises at the beginning of the year 2001 the following countries (in alphabetical order):
- Bosnia Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Germany (Federal Republic of)
- Ireland (Republic of)
- Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of)
- Netherlands (sometimes called Holland)
- San Marino
- Turkey (Republic of)
- United Kingdom (Consisting of Great Britain, Northern Ireland)
- Yugoslavia (Federal Republic of)
Whilst the United Kingdom may sometimes be mistaken for Great Britain they are not the same. See United Kingdom. Also note that The Channel Islands & The Isle of Man, despite the popular belief, are legally speaking not part of the United Kingdom, but rather British crown dependencies.