Starting point of the Industrial Revolution and the modern era, Europe remains a continent of great contrasts, where there is prosperity and democracy, but also poverty, ethnic conflicts and dictatorships.
Their nations are usually divided into Western Europe , which brings together developed or growing ones, in which democratic institutions are consolidated – in the case of Finland, Holland and Ireland -, and Eastern Europe , formed predominantly by countries that left the communist regime and are with ruined or recovering economies such as Romania, Ukraine and Albania.
According to Carswers, most developed countries are members of the European Union (EU) , an economic bloc in which barriers to trade and transit across borders have been abolished. A single common currency, the euro, started to operate in 11 of the member countries in 1999.
PHYSICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS
Here we will analyze the entire area comprised by the countries of Western Europe and Eastern Europe, in addition to the countries that are part of the CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States (ex-republics that were part of the Soviet Union ). Some nations in this group have part or all of their territories on the Asian continent, such as the Russian Federation and Central Asian countries, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
RELIEF AND GEOLOGY – There are three types of relief, which we will describe below:
- Young and high mountain ranges, which were formed on terrain that suffered bending. They are considered young because they started to form about 40 million years ago, in the Cenozoic Era (tertiary period). These modern folds boast high altitudes and their best known examples are:
- Alps (part of Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria);
- Apennines (part of Italy);
- Balkans (part of Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria);
- Carpathians (part of Romania);
- Caucasus (part of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia).
- Plateaus and ancient mountain ranges, whose surfaces are already severely eroded by erosion. Its best known examples are:
- Pyrenees (border between France and Spain)
- Scandinavian Alps (part of Norway and Sweden);
- French Central Massif (part of France) and
- Ural Mountains (part of Russia), along with the Ural River, demarcate the border between the European and Asian continents.
- Low plateaus and plains, spread over several countries, almost always associated with basins of important rivers. The largest expanses of plains are located in Russia, Germany, Poland and Hungary.
HYDROGRAPHY AND COAST
The European coastline is extensive and quite sinuous, due to the expressive number of indentations formed by seas, bays and peninsulas. The most important peninsulas are:
- the Iberian peninsula(comprising Portugal and Spain);
- the Balkan peninsula(comprising Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, among others);
- the Scandinavian peninsula(comprising Sweden and Norway);
- the Jutland peninsula(comprises Denmark).
The rivers Europeans are of great economic importance, since it took excellent waterways for the transportation of goods and people, integrating the territory of several countries and encouraging trade.
The Rhine River is one of the most important rivers. It is born in the Swiss Alps, bathes the territory of small Liechtenstein and follows along the border between France and Germany. In its final course, it passes through the Netherlands (Holland), until it flows into the North Sea. Along this route, the Rhine traverses an intensely industrialized portion of Europe, contributing to the transport of goods to the port of Rotterdam, located near its mouth.
The Danube River runs through the territory of eight European countries: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania, being an important route for the integration of Eastern Europe.
The Volga River , located in Russia, is the longest river on the European continent.
The rivers Rhine, Danube and Volga, through crossing very industrialized areas, have suffered from the pollution caused by the dumping of industrial waste. The situation is particularly serious in Eastern Europe and Russia, where most industries are technologically backward, which makes them more polluting.
Pollution on the Rhine has decreased thanks to pressure from civil society and groups of ecologists on the governments and companies that operate along its course. Pollution in coastal regions is one of the main European problems: the North, Baltic and Mediterranean seas have several areas with high levels of pollution, caused by emissions of industrial and domestic waste.
Economic integration between the countries of Western Europe has contributed to the construction of major
works in the transport sector. In the 90’s, the Eurotunnel was opened , located under the English Channel, which links France to the United Kingdom. Through the Eurotunnel, a line of trains runs that
further intensifies the flow of goods and people between Britain and continental European countries.
Among the other important works is the channel that connects the Danube and Rhine rivers, through the Main river, work
to facilitate economic integration between the countries of Western and Eastern Europe.