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Why does Western Europe have small 'in between' countries? For example, Andorra is a tiny country between Spain and France. Another example is Luxembourg which is between France and Germany. Even Monaco, which is surrounded by France, is close to the border of Italy, while little Liechtenstein is between Austria and Switzerland.
Is there a common reason why these kinds of countries form? For example, are they created to give people who don't identify with either of the surrounding countries' cultures or policies a place of their own? These 'in between' countries appear to be a Western European phenomenon.
Every country in the world has its own history. In Medieval Europe there were hundreds and possibly thousands of small states, most of which were more or less subordinate to larger states that in turn were more or less subordinate to still larger states, and so on.
In the later middle ages and modern times rulers of powerful states sought to gain more and more control over their subordinate states and to conquer small states that were not subordinate to them.
So after about 500 or 600 years of history the map of Europe is mostly composed of large countries whose members mostly speak the national language and feel like members of the national ethnic group. The large (but not total) coincidence between ethnic groups and national borders is due to the efforts of national governments to convert all members of ethnic groups within their borders to members of the national ethnic group.
So the few tiny countries remaining in Europe are the remnants of the large number of former countries that once existed in Europe, the survivors that were not annexed by larger countries.
In the case of Luxembourg, the country's independance was established during the early 19th century because of the strength of its main fortress in the capital, Luxembourg-ville.
But not so because some fierce nationalists would have used the fortress to defend the country against imperialist invaders. Rather because the fortress was such a huge advantage for whoever controlled it, that giving full sovereignty to either France, The Netherlands or Prussia/Germany would have been a threat to the security of the other two.
The balance of powers was considered during the 19th century, and possibly untill WWII, as the main garantee for peace. This concept drove the European policy of UK, and of some continental leaders like Metternich. As a consequence, the Congress of Vienna (1815), the first Treaty of London (1839) and the Second Treaty of London (1867) gradually led to the small, independant country of Luxembourg, and to the dismantlement of its capital's fortress - to make sure no imperialist power would take advantage of it.
Remaining neutral for the next 150 years must have helped Luxembourg to maintain or recover its independance ever since, even if it has not prevented its occupation by Germany during both World Wars.
This is actually part of a larger phenomenon -- in general, Europe is less unified politically than other parts of the world. China, for example, was a single empire for much of its history, often with a population greater than Europe's. India since about 1500 had one empire that controlled much of it.
In Europe, the losing side in a war was often not absorbed by the winning side, and sometimes the outcome of a war was the creation of more countries, i.e. WW1.
In recent decades, the already-large number of countries became even bigger as Yugoslavia, the USSR and Czechoslovakia all split up.
Various arguments have been made for why this is so. One was the influence of the Pope, and his independence from any State. By contrast, in other parts of the world, the political authorities often were also the religious authorities.
Another reason that has beens given is the geographic disunity of Europe. Water and mountains naturally divide it up into a lot of regions, with pieces such as Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, Iberia, and Italy that don't naturally fit into another piece.
Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.
Europe, second smallest of the world’s continents, composed of the westward-projecting peninsulas of Eurasia (the great landmass that it shares with Asia) and occupying nearly one-fifteenth of the world’s total land area. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the south (west to east) by the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Kuma-Manych Depression, and the Caspian Sea. The continent’s eastern boundary (north to south) runs along the Ural Mountains and then roughly southwest along the Emba (Zhem) River, terminating at the northern Caspian coast.
Europe’s largest islands and archipelagoes include Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, Svalbard, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the British Isles, the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, Crete, and Cyprus. Its major peninsulas include Jutland and the Scandinavian, Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas. Indented by numerous bays, fjords, and seas, continental Europe’s highly irregular coastline is about 24,000 miles (38,000 km) long.
Among the continents, Europe is an anomaly. Larger only than Australia, it is a small appendage of Eurasia. Yet the peninsular and insular western extremity of the continent, thrusting toward the North Atlantic Ocean, provides—thanks to its latitude and its physical geography—a relatively genial human habitat, and the long processes of human history came to mark off the region as the home of a distinctive civilization. In spite of its internal diversity, Europe has thus functioned, from the time it first emerged in the human consciousness, as a world apart, concentrating—to borrow a phrase from Christopher Marlowe—“infinite riches in a little room.”
As a conceptual construct, Europa, as the more learned of the ancient Greeks first conceived it, stood in sharp contrast to both Asia and Libya, the name then applied to the known northern part of Africa. Literally, Europa is now thought to have meant “Mainland,” rather than the earlier interpretation, “Sunset.” It appears to have suggested itself to the Greeks, in their maritime world, as an appropriate designation for the extensive northerly lands that lay beyond, lands with characteristics vaguely known yet clearly different from those inherent in the concepts of Asia and Libya—both of which, relatively prosperous and civilized, were associated closely with the culture of the Greeks and their predecessors. From the Greek perspective then, Europa was culturally backward and scantily settled. It was a barbarian world—that is, a non-Greek one, with its inhabitants making “bar-bar” noises in unintelligible tongues. Traders and travelers also reported that the Europe beyond Greece possessed distinctive physical units, with mountain systems and lowland river basins much larger than those familiar to inhabitants of the Mediterranean region. It was clear as well that a succession of climates, markedly different from those of the Mediterranean borderlands, were to be experienced as Europe was penetrated from the south. The spacious eastern steppes and, to the west and north, primeval forests as yet only marginally touched by human occupancy further underlined environmental contrasts.
The empire of ancient Rome, at its greatest extent in the 2nd century ce , revealed, and imprinted its culture on, much of the face of the continent. Trade relations beyond its frontiers also drew the remoter regions into its sphere. Yet it was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that modern science was able to draw with some precision the geologic and geographic lineaments of the European continent, the peoples of which had meanwhile achieved domination over—and set in motion vast countervailing movements among—the inhabitants of much of the rest of the globe (see Western colonialism).
As to the territorial limits of Europe, they may seem relatively clear on its seaward flanks, but many island groups far to the north and west—Svalbard, the Faroes, Iceland, and the Madeira and Canary islands—are considered European, while Greenland (though tied politically to Denmark) is conventionally allocated to North America. Furthermore, the Mediterranean coastlands of North Africa and southwestern Asia also exhibit some European physical and cultural affinities. Turkey and Cyprus in particular, while geologically Asian, possess elements of European culture and may be regarded as parts of Europe. Indeed, Turkey has sought membership in the European Union (EU), and the Republic of Cyprus joined the organization in 2004.
Europe’s boundaries have been especially uncertain, and hence much debated, on the east, where the continent merges, without sundering physical boundaries, with parts of western Asia. The eastward limits now adopted by most geographers exclude the Caucasus region and encompass a small portion of Kazakhstan, where the European boundary formed by the northern Caspian coast is connected to that of the Urals by Kazakhstan’s Emba River and Mughalzhar (Mugodzhar) Hills, themselves a southern extension of the Urals. Among the alternative boundaries proposed by geographers that have gained wide acceptance is a scheme that sees the crest of the Greater Caucasus range as the dividing line between Europe and Asia, placing Ciscaucasia, the northern part of the Caucasus region, in Europe and Transcaucasia, the southern part, in Asia. Another widely endorsed scheme puts the western portion of the Caucasus region in Europe and the eastern part—that is, the bulk of Azerbaijan and small portions of Armenia, Georgia, and Russia’s Caspian Sea coast—in Asia. Still another scheme with many adherents locates the continental boundary along the Aras River and the Turkish border, thereby putting Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in Europe.
Europe’s eastern boundary, however, is not a cultural, political, or economic discontinuity on the land comparable, for example, to the insulating significance of the Himalayas, which clearly mark a northern limit to South Asian civilization. Inhabited plains, with only the minor interruption of the worn-down Urals, extend from central Europe to the Yenisey River in central Siberia. Slavic-based civilization dominates much of the territory occupied by the former Soviet Union from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean. That civilization is distinguished from the rest of Europe by legacies of a medieval Mongol-Tatar domination that precluded the sharing of many of the innovations and developments of European “Western civilization” it became further distinctive during the relative isolation of the Soviet period. In partitioning the globe into meaningful large geographic units, therefore, most modern geographers treated the former Soviet Union as a distinct territorial entity, comparable to a continent, that was somewhat separate from Europe to the west and from Asia to the south and east that distinction has been maintained for Russia, which constituted three-fourths of the Soviet Union.
Europe occupies some 4 million square miles (10 million square km) within the conventional borders assigned to it. That broad territory reveals no simple unity of geologic structure, landform, relief, or climate. Rocks of all geologic periods are exposed, and the operation of geologic forces during an immense succession of eras has contributed to the molding of the landscapes of mountain, plateau, and lowland and has bequeathed a variety of mineral reserves. Glaciation too has left its mark over wide areas, and the processes of erosion and deposition have created a highly variegated and compartmentalized countryside. Climatically, Europe benefits by having only a small proportion of its surface either too cold or too hot and dry for effective settlement and use. Regional climatic contrasts nevertheless exist: oceanic, Mediterranean, and continental types occur widely, as do gradations from one to the other. Associated vegetation and soil forms also show continual variety, but only portions of the dominant woodland that clothed most of the continent when humans first appeared now remain.
All in all, Europe enjoys a considerable and long-exploited resource base of soil, forest, sea, and minerals (notably coal), but its people are increasingly its principal resource. The continent, excluding Russia, contains less than one-tenth of the total population of the world, but in general its people are well educated and highly skilled. Europe also supports high densities of population, concentrated in urban-industrial regions. A growing percentage of people in urban areas are employed in a wide range of service activities, which have come to dominate the economies of most countries. Nonetheless, in manufacturing and agriculture Europe still occupies an eminent, if no longer necessarily predominant, position. The creation of the European Economic Community in 1957 and the EU in 1993 greatly enhanced economic cooperation between many of the continent’s countries. Europe’s continuing economic achievements are evidenced by its high standard of living and its successes in science, technology, and the arts.
Why are countries classified as First, Second or Third World?
People often use the term “Third World” as shorthand for poor or developing nations. By contrast, wealthier countries such as the United States and the nations of Western Europe are described as being part of the 𠇏irst World.” Where did these distinctions come from, and why do we rarely hear about the “Second World?”
The “three worlds” model of geopolitics first arose in the mid-20th century as a way of mapping the various players in the Cold War. The origins of the concept are complex, but historians usually credit it to the French demographer Alfred Sauvy, who coined the term “Third World” in a 1952 article entitled “Three Worlds, One Planet.” In this original context, the First World included the United States and its capitalist allies in places such as Western Europe, Japan and Australia. The Second World consisted of the communist Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. The Third World, meanwhile, encompassed all the other countries that were not actively aligned with either side in the Cold War. These were often impoverished former European colonies, and included nearly all the nations of Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.
Today, the powerful economies of the West are still sometimes described as 𠇏irst World,” but the term “Second World” has become largely obsolete following the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Third World” remains the most common of the original designations, but its meaning has changed from “non-aligned” and become more of a blanket term for the developing world. Since it’s partially a relic of the Cold War, many modern academics consider the “Third World” label to be outdated. Terms such as veloping countries” and “low and lower-middle-income countries” are now often used in its place.
Map of Western Europe
Western Europe as we know it, is a geopolitical construct that came into being at the time of the Cold War. Although references to West and Eastern Europe can be traced back to the Roman empire.
Shortly after World War 2 the alliance between the USSR and England/USA broke down and in it’s place rose the cold war. The two sides where named the East and the West. The west was made up of the Western alliance countries of Europe, including countries such as Spain, England and France. However in this stand off even countries not in Europe like the United States of America were considered part of the “The West”.
Eastern Europe was a conglomeration of countries that the USSR annexed and countries that were subservient to the USSR. most if not all of these countries were communist countries. Here we have a new map of Easter Europe.
Post Cold War, the terminology of Western and Eastern Europe remained, even though technically the lines between East and West were becoming blurry.
In the map above the countries in blue are considered western countries, although during the cold war Germany was split into East and West. The Green countries are countries that are becoming more and more Westernized and would probably consider themselves as part of Western Europe now. many of which have joined or are attempting to join the European Union.
Why Can’t the EU’s West and East Work as One?
Fifteen years after the 2004 accession of eight former communist countries, the EU still behaves as two halves rather than a whole. Many Western Europeans routinely refer to these states, as well as those that joined in 2007 and 2013, as &ldquonew,&rdquo implying a failure to become fully &ldquoEuropean.&rdquo Some believe their neighbors to the east may never become fully democratic either, judging by recent developments in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán&rsquos Hungary.
For their part, while the Baltic, Western Balkan, and Central European countries remain, on balance, strongly pro-European, many of them feel ill at ease in the EU. The public in these nations feel that their countries have too little influence upon EU policymaking. Meanwhile, their governments are increasingly less inclined to play by the rules, with some, such as Budapest, making a virtue out of rebelling against Brussels.
The perception of an unbridgeable divide and an authoritarian creep is beginning to lead to a reevaluation of EU enlargements since 2004. Many in Western Europe now think that the EU has extended too far and too quickly. As Carnegie&rsquos Stefan Lehne notes, some are nostalgic for the &ldquoCarolingian Europe&rdquo dominated by France and Germany and have seized on the perception of an unbridgeable divide to push for a &ldquotwo-speed Europe.&rdquo Even in Germany, an original champion of EU enlargement, 46 percent of respondents in a recent poll said the 2004 enlargement was a mistake.
But an East-West split would spell trouble for both sides. Populists in the post-2004 accession states would argue that Western Europeans never fully accepted the accession states and that Central Europe&rsquos real place lies between the EU and Russia. In effect, the democrats in Central Europe face two interlinked challenges: the populists&rsquo rise within and Western Europe&rsquos response to it, which risks boosting populists further and killing off democracy.
For Western Europeans, it is an illusion to think that a separation would make them immune to instability emanating from its borders. Recognizing that either the &ldquoold&rdquo members export their norms and rules to the &ldquonew&rdquo ones, or they import the latter&rsquos problems, is what inspired enlargement in the first place. It is as true now as it was fifteen years ago. Separation would also endanger the prosperity that enlargement brought to both sides. It completely redefined trade patterns in the center of the continent. If the Visegrád 4 (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) were one country, they would be, by far, Germany&rsquos largest trading partner, with an annual turnover in bilateral trade nearly twice the size of China.
Majorities on both sides, therefore, have reasons to find ways to safeguard and improve the relationship. But they need to begin by understanding the roots of the discontent&mdashnot the immediate causes, such as different attitudes toward migration, but the deeper psychological causes. What are the unspoken assumptions Europeans hold about each other? How much do they really know each other? When do they talk past each other, and why? While the worst of the migration crisis appears to be over (for now), a number of potentially divisive issues lurk ahead, such as how to reduce carbon emissions and whether Europe should depend on the United States for its defense. These issues threaten to rekindle tensions unless EU member states find a way to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Thus far, they appear to have learned little from the past several years.
An examination of the roots of such discontent is not intended to lay blame or reduce serious problems, such as violations of the rule of law, to mere disagreements that can be explained away. When rules are broken, penalties should follow. But even in those cases&mdashperhaps especially in those cases&mdashthe right approach and the right language matter. If the European Commission or European Parliament act in ways that suggest bias or disrespect toward a particular government, it makes it easy for the offending government to rally public opinion and regional support behind its case. For example, when the European Parliament voted to launch proceedings against Budapest on the grounds of rule of law violations, many Central European members of parliament otherwise opposed to Orbán voted against the majority. This reflected a broadly held feeling in the region that the West does not understand the East&mdasha view that undermines the EU&rsquos credibility and strengthens authoritarians everywhere.
How Did Europe Get Here?
The easy answer to why East-West relations have become so poor is essentially that the two sides have fundamentally different values and simply see the world differently. While partly true, this fails to explain why the differences are so much more consequential than those between Europe&rsquos North and South or the big and small EU member states. Nor does it help understand, for example, why some of the most recent accession countries, such as the ones in the Baltic, have come to feel more at home in the EU than the Central European ones.
To understand the deeper roots of the tensions, Carnegie Europe assembled a group of experts (seven from Central Europe and six from Western Europe). Their research, mainly involving interviews conducted over one year in key European capitals, suggests that the real source of tensions is unfamiliarity with the nature of East-West differences rather than the differences themselves. The East-West divide has proven more divisive than other such gaps mainly because the nature of the differences is poorly understood.
Unfamiliarity Impedes Consensus
The 2004 enlargement was unique not only in size but also in that it brought together countries that had existed in essentially parallel and separate spaces for four decades. This was different to all previous rounds of enlargement. Those had always featured countries from the same (Western) political bloc. Their citizens had traveled across EU borders long before accession and knew each other&rsquos traditions and histories, which was simply not the case for the West and the ex-Soviet bloc.
Until the migration crisis, few in the West were aware of the history and particularities of the post-2004 accession states&rsquo attitudes to race (or gender, for that matter). Unlike many Western European countries, most ex-communist countries came out of the Cold War unabashedly nationalist, because pride in one&rsquos country was a natural response to the internationalist communist creed. Another legacy of Moscow domination has been an instinctively dim view of big powers telling them how to run their lives&mdasha tendency that should have informed the European Commission&rsquos and European Parliament&rsquos responses to rule of law concerns in Hungary and Poland.
In the years predating the 2004 accession and for years afterward, unfamiliarity with each other mattered little. Western European countries tended to regard the ex-communist countries as different, but also as victims of a foreign totalitarian regime that the latter dismantled through a combination of industriousness, courage, and self-sacrifice. The nature of ex-communist countries&rsquo otherness may not have been understood but it seemed almost endearing, and accession was the morally right response to their past suffering. It did not really matter that some viewed the Baltic or Central European countries as unequal in stature. Most older EU member states just saw them as brave and harmless and assumed that, in due time, the East would become like the West.
This assumption has not come to pass, though, and perhaps never will&mdashin the same way that the EU&rsquos smaller states will always, to some degree, mistrust the bigger ones and the northerners will continue to suspect the southerners&rsquo stewardship of their own finances. However, these differences have been aired and tested over decades of disagreements. The East-West differences, particularly on migration, quickly came to light during an existential crisis in 2015, with roughly 1 million migrants on the march and far-right anti-EU parties on a seemingly inexorable rise everywhere.
As a result, the West has come to regard the otherness that seemed almost charming at first as a danger to the EU&rsquos very existence. And that sentiment continues to poison consensus building in Brussels. When members of the same group (political or other) disagree, they are inclined to be patient, seek common ground, and make compromises. But this typically does not occur between groups, where one often sees the other as different, less consequential, or a liability. For example, during debates on rule of law or migration, there has been little will to suspend judgment, consider local specificities, and see things through the eyes of the other party, which should be the key ingredients in EU policymaking. Again, this is not to defend violators of EU rules. The point is that an eventual reprimand is more effective if the reprimanding side is seen as acting without prejudice, and from a position of understanding.
Unfamiliarity Leads to Stereotyping, Which Deepens the Sense of Difference
Precisely because the West and East are different in ways and for reasons that continue to be misunderstood, politicians and media on both sides have found it too easy to bash and stereotype. In a recent article, Stefan Lehne laid out the numerous myths at the heart of Europe&rsquos current tensions. One of these, in the West, is that Central Europe and the Western Balkan countries in particular are susceptible to xenophobic and authoritarian inclinations. Another, in Central Europe, is that the über-liberal, open-bordered West has lost sight of its cultural heritage.
Both views are largely unfounded and ahistorical. Aside from the aforementioned attitudes toward migrants and gender issues, there is little evidence of a &ldquoconservative East&rdquo and &ldquoliberal West.&rdquo In reality, attitudes toward religion, divorce, and abortion paint a mixed picture. Latvia and Estonia are among the European nations least defined by religion, while Greece is second only to Poland in opposing abortion (which remains illegal in Malta).
Failure to move past prejudices and generalizations leads to poor decisionmaking. If it is believed, for example, that the East and West have fundamentally different values, the view that &ldquoWestern&rdquo cultural beliefs are necessarily an integral part of the European acquis, and that newer member states need to get on board, becomes almost inevitable. The European Parliament has implied this in its report on Hungary. But this view ignores the differences within Western Europe on many of the same values. More importantly&mdashand completely unnecessarily&mdashit pushes thousands of otherwise pro-EU Balts or Central Europeans of more conservative inclination into the euroskeptic populist camp.
This is not to say that generalizations and myths are unique to the relationship between the East and the West. A popular French quip before Spain&rsquos accession to the EU held that &ldquoAfrica starts at the Pyrenees.&rdquo And disagreements between Europe&rsquos North and South during the 2010&ndash2011 euro crisis generated a fair deal of venom, which could easily return if the economic crisis deepens.
But for the past five years, it has been the new-old divide that has produced the most stereotypes, and these now frequently feed social media outrage and influence actual policies. Resentment generated by poor policy decisions, in turn, has tended to drive the most recent accession states further into an angry defensive crouch, which only makes it easier to caricature them as different&mdashthereby creating a debilitating cycle.
Unfamiliarity Breeds Misperceptions and Missed Opportunities
Most of the post-2004 member states have yet to crack the code on how EU policymaking works. Somewhat self-defeatingly, most have not even tried, sticking unnecessarily to the mind-set of an EU candidate country. Those that actually have tried their hand at driving decisions, rather than just abiding by them, have neglected the building blocks of success: developing alliances and relationships and using the media and think tanks to seed ideas and drum up public support. The newer accession states&rsquo ambassadors have come to understand these techniques, but many ministers and prime ministers from the region have not furthermore, except perhaps for those from Estonia and Hungary, they often lose battles in Brussels mainly because their cases are made too poorly. Then they tend to conclude that different rules apply to newer and older EU members, and they portray Brussels as unfair and biased to newcomers, which is only partly true.
Fifteen years and nearly four electoral cycles after joining the EU, most Central European, Balkan, or Baltic heads of state have also failed to build personal relations with their Western European counterparts. With some exceptions, such as Estonia&rsquos former president Toomas Ilves (Sweden-born and U.S.-educated), few socialize with partners across the former Cold War divide. Think of the familiar pictures of EU leaders huddling over beersafter EU summits&mdashnot a single Central European among them. This matters because without a personal rapport with the German chancellor or the French president, a country&rsquos leader is far less likely to secure a desired portfolio in the European Commission or to bend budgets and legislation his or her way.
Given Central Europeans&rsquo repeated failures to move their agendas forward, many in the region believe that the EU does not treat newer member states with equal seriousness. And this is not just the view of people far removed from Brussels policymaking. It is also a surprisingly common refrain among senior EU officials from the most recent accession states. They are not entirely wrong&mdashbut, per the points above, the failures are often of their own making.
The perception that double standards are at play carries political consequences. The more people feel that their governments have too little say in the EU&mdashthat the 2004 and later accession members are in effect second-class citizens&mdashthe stronger the antipathy in Central Europe against Brussels becomes. No one likes to be a rule-taker forever. Having tried and failed to make a significant mark on EU policy, the Visegrád countries, in particular, have responded by resorting to mainly presenting policies together, further damaging their ability to be taken seriously. As one Western European member of Carnegie Europe&rsquos group of experts said, &ldquothey need to break out of their ghetto&rdquo if they want to have more influence on EU policies.
What Can Be Done?
The above lessons certainly do not provide the full picture. One could add, for example, the effect of the Eurozone crisis, which, in the eyes of many Central Europeans, destroyed the EU elites&rsquo reputation for competence. However, even if the financial and migration crises had not occurred, another event sooner or later would have exposed the nature of differences at the heart of the East-West relationship. Unless these differences are better understood and managed, the EU will remain crisis-prone.
The good news is that little about the nature of East and West differences suggests they should be more consequential than other EU divides (between large and small countries and between the North and South). The specificities are simply a lot less well understood&mdashdue to an historical unfamiliarity with each other&mdashand therefore more feared. Differences that in other contexts would be, and used to be, seen as innocuous loom more significant than they really are, allowing those who never supported enlargement to argue that it should be reversed. One obvious exception to this is the trend of authoritarianism, which isindeed a challenge to the EU&rsquos existence. But it hardly defines Central Europe as a whole, nor is it confined to the post-2004 accession states.
Three lines of action might help take the sting out of East-West disagreements:
Chip Away at Unfamiliarity
For the EU to work well, the East and West will need to make more of an effort to get to know each other. The goal is not to overcome their differences the EU is a patchwork of regions with greatly varying political cultures and traditions, and the EU project still works reasonably well. The idea is to reduce unfamiliarity&mdashto turn the new members of the EU, in the eyes of the West, from an unknown and perhaps less important part of the continent to one whose differences are seen as charming features of the European landscape. Features like the long silences of the Finns or the siestas of the Spanish are unusual perhaps but are considered profoundly European and celebrated as enriching the cultural diversity of the EU.
Steps taken before Central European countries&rsquo accession to the EU, such as providing scholarships for students from candidate countries, have helped acquaint the two sides with each other but only up to a point. They produced a mostly one-way (westward) flow of people and knowledge. Because the West remains much wealthier than the East and has better schools, far fewer Westerners have traveled eastward. Moreover, many Easterners have stayed in the West, meaning that opportunities to help their countries of origin better understand Western mind-sets are being lost.
In a free but economically uneven Europe, the flow of people and ideas will always be lopsided, but for Europe to work as one, there need to be more long-term, ingrained learning opportunities. This will be a generational challenge, but steps such as making sure that textbooks introduce the ex-communist countries to Robert Schuman or Konrad Adenauer, two of the EU&rsquos founding fathers, and the Western Europeans to József Antall or Lech Wałęsa, two heroes of the democratic revolutions in Central Europe, could start making a difference within a few years. EU treaties leave education largely in the hands of member states, so European countries need to lead the effort to improve the teaching of each other&rsquos history.
Central Europeans, for their part, should invest in French and English-language websites about their politics and history. Similarly, perhaps a joint East-West TV channel, such as a German-Polish one modeled after Franco-German ARTE, might help. The EU, after all, overcame much greater gaps in familiarity&mdasheven open hostility&mdashafter World War II. But those successes did not just organically happen over time they required a conscious effort. Nothing similar has taken place since the reunification of Europe&rsquos East and West, and the EU is now paying the price.
Informed discussions on what ails East-West relations remain rare, but the mood appears to be turning, with the Economist and other media now giving more space to, and thoughtful treatment of, the issue. More such intelligent coverage is badly needed. When politicians and opinion-forming media perpetuate the view that the East and West are fundamentally incompatible, they lend support and credibility to the argument that the EU should divide into two classes of membership. Some politicians will continue to hold this line for electoral gains, but there are ways to reach those who support it unwittingly.
One way to improve media coverage of the East-West discourse is through generating more nonbiased research and data that pierces through the many stereotypes and generalizations surrounding the relationship. In the age of the twenty-four-hour news cycle, opinion-forming media outlets are constantly hungry for content and would be interested in the data if it were to come from trustworthy sources, have a basis in solid research, and be timed to coincide with newsworthy events.
In the Czech Republic, a coalition of individuals, businesses, and organizations concerned about rising euroskepticism have come together to fund research into how the Czechs regard the EU and why. The data are available to everyone who wants to their sharpen arguments regarding continued membership in the EU. Similar efforts also have sprung up in other Central European countries, even if they are mostly for local audiences and in local languages.
What is needed now is a cross-boundary look at how the East and West regard each other, what underlying beliefs inform those views, and which communication strategies could most effectively bridge the divide. That sort of research will require money and collaboration among polling agencies, think tanks, and communication experts.
Lastly, help from the top will be needed: more intelligent media coverage and research will count for little unless Europe&rsquos leaders in both regions join the effort. The president-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has shown the desire to be a bridge builder, most notably by dividing the rule of law portfolio of work between Central and Western European commissioners. Her State of the Union speeches will present further opportunities to push back against the myth of East-West &ldquoincompatibility.&rdquo
Forge Collaboration at the Top
If Central European leaders want to exercise more influence in Brussels&mdashand change the perception at home that the EU does not listen to them or care&mdashthey need to start floating joint policy proposals with their Western European counterparts on issues where they see potential commonalities and shared interests. These include incentives to shift to cleaner electric cars and ways to deepen Europe&rsquos single market.
The idea is not only to improve the EU&rsquos image in Central Europe but also to change the most recent accession states&rsquo reputation for having little constructive to say on anything beyond &ldquousual&rdquo Central European priorities such as enlargement or Russia. While the Baltic governments are already closely cooperating with the Nordic governments in an informal Hanseatic League, the Central European countries influence EU policy only intermittently and at the working level in Brussels. Far too little collaboration on EU policy happens at the top levels of government, so Central Europe&rsquos reputation further west is primarily informed by opposition to quotas for asylum seekers or tighter emission controls.
Admittedly, the advice for newer member states to refrain from only banding together seems to differ from the current typical approach, as most EU coalitions are regional. The Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) team up with one another when they need to get things done in the EU so do the Southern Europeans. When Central Europeans&rsquo interests align, such as on the sale of inferior foods in their region, it makes sense for them to stick together.
But on most other issues, they would be better off reaching out westward, in order to improve their image in the West and to make it more difficult for euroskeptics to argue that the EU does not take its newer members seriously. The Central European countries, along with others who joined in 2004 or after, face a unique policy challenge. They came to the EU later than other members and need to work harder to prove themselves. The fastest way for their preferences to gain legitimacy is to be endorsed by the older member states.
Where to Start
All the above recommendations may seem trivial or irrelevant to Europe&rsquos major challenges. They do not propose ways to resolve rule of law issues or East-West disagreements on migration.
But that was never the intention. The point is that each potential solution needs to start with a reflection on the deeper, underlying problems of poor understanding the propensity to buy into stereotypes, generalizations, and misperceptions and the lack of a common political agenda to support East-West relations. Without a greater understanding of why the East and West sometimes see things differently, the differences will continue to plague EU policymaking.
Unless the East and West learn about, and largely accept, the nature of their differences, they risk the gap widening again, when a new crisis appeals to the different instincts in them. The smart approach would be to take stock now of what has gone wrong in the relationship and to start developing solutions while the memories of the post-2015 fallout over migration are still fresh, but the passions have cooled somewhat.
Carnegie Europe is grateful to the German Federal Foreign Office and the Körber Foundation for their financial support of this publication. The views expressed in this article are the author&rsquos only and do not necessarily represent those of the funders or the full group of assembled experts, who wish to remain anonymous.
Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.
Western World mainly refers to Europe and North America. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are some of the most common religions practiced in the Western world.
People in the west are more open-minded than those in the east. The westerns are more open and forthright. For example, topics such as the birth of a child and sex are still taboo in some eastern countries.
People in the west are also more open about their feelings. If they are angry, they might express. But people in the east might cover it for the sake of diplomacy and politeness. Westerns may also display their feelings and emotions in public.
Moreover, the individual is given preference over family, so a person has more freedom and power to take decisions on his own, unlike those in the east. Therefore, concepts like arranged marriages are not common in the west they marry for love.
Why are urban and rural areas so politically divided?
In both North America and Western Europe, the political divide is increasingly a geographic divide. Urban areas are more liberal, and rural areas are more conservative. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won metropolitan areas with more than 1 million residents and Donald Trump won all other types of areas. In the 2018 midterm election, Democrats won every congressional district in the most urban areas, while Republicans won 87 percent of rural districts.
Urban-rural divides are likely to continue growing. Yet it is unclear why they are happening. One possibility is that living in dense urban environments with a diverse mix of people promotes liberal values, while living in small towns and rural areas promotes political conservatism. But my research suggests that this is not the reason. People aren’t much affected by the experience of living in these environments.
Instead, the urban-rural divide exists because different types of people decide to live in different geographic areas in the first place.
The urban-rural divide in Western Europe
My research focuses on Western Europe, where urban-rural divides are important. In France, for example, “yellow vest” protesters claim that President Emmanuel Macron’s policies favor wealthy urbanites at the expense of poorer rural residents. In Britain, urban dwellers tend to oppose Brexit and want a connection to the European Union, while small-town and rural residents tend to favor leaving the E.U.
In general, the core supporters of right-wing populist political parties across Europe are in more rural areas, where they feel left behind the globalized economy and alienated from the multiculturalism of European capitals.
People live in urban and rural areas for reasons that are associated with political preferences. My research suggests that these sorting processes drive urban-rural political polarization.
Macroeconomic trends have concentrated better-educated professionals in big cities, where jobs have expanded for highly skilled workers in financial services, technology and creative industries. Meanwhile, agriculture and manufacturing have declined in small towns and rural areas. As better-educated people leave these areas, they are increasingly dominated by less-educated manual workers.
The relationship between socioeconomic status and geography is important for politics because better-educated professionals tend to be the most positive about immigration, while less-educated manual laborers tend to be the most negative about immigration. I analyze data from 13 West European countries and find that people with the same educational and occupational profile tend to have the same immigration attitudes, regardless of where they live. And in research on Switzerland, I find that people who move to big cities tend to have progressive political views before their move. Regardless of education or occupation, people who move to large cities are more positive about immigration and the European Union and are less likely to support radical right-wing parties.
However, it does not work in reverse: Conservatives are not moving into rural areas, at least in Switzerland. Swiss people who move to rural areas are more liberal than the people already living there. This may arise simply because people who make major geographic moves tend to have a higher socioeconomic status and thus more liberal attitudes regardless of where they move.
Why does Western Europe tend to have small 'in between' countries? - History
What do they expect? What do they really want? What were the "suffragists" really fighting for?
Pretty much all of our ancestors lived in poverty. Who was happier, us or them?
And what is poverty? How much does it cost to live? What is the difference between poverty in the United States and in other countries? Is it better to be in poverty in the United States than in poorer countries?
What we call poverty in America is "relative poverty". It isn't that the poor can't acquire the basic necessities, but that they are poor relative to other members of society, and thus fall below a "decent standard of living".
So what then is rich? The rich in the future will certainly be richer than the rich today. And the rich of today are certainly richer than the rich of the past. Thus rich is not an absolute state, but rather a relative state. To the extent rich is an absolute state, it means having the means to acquire anything you want with little to no effort. Or to put it another way, it is a person who lives wholly or largely off the work of others. Thus there cannot be rich unless there are poor. The rich require someone to provide labor and services for them to enjoy.
When we examine the evils and miseries of poverty more closely, we'll see that it all stems from the same thing, inequality. Life without cell phones doesn't suck on its own, but it does suck when other people have them and you don't. Inequality is the seed of hatred and resentment.
This obsession with poverty is a waste of time. Not only because poverty is not as important as it seems, but because it distracts us from the greater evil, inequality. The reason we focus on poverty is because so-called solutions to poverty always mean more money for the producers and the distributors. Thus paradoxically, it is the rich who want to solve poverty far more than the poor, so long as they are in a position to profit.
My point wasn't that a caste-system is good. My point was, people are happier where there is less in-group inequality, and where they are competing against fewer people. If there are two people, then there is one winner and one loser. If there are a hundred people, there is one winner and ninety-nine losers.
Imagine your slave ancestors. They had wives and families, big families, but how? Who would want to marry a slave? That's simple, another slave. But what if you were the only slave? Who would marry you?
A lot of people complain that slave-masters having sex with their slaves was rape, regardless of it was consensual, because of the "imbalance of power". But slave women mostly had sex with their white masters because they were rich and could give them better better conditions, better food, less work, or no work at all. So what is the fundamental difference between that and gold-diggers today? And isn't gold-digger just a fancy name for prostitute?
Furthermore, we have to look at the nature of a society. Throughout almost all of human history, we lived in small tribes/clans of extended family. Small groups tend to self-regulate. It is difficult to imagine many prostitutes in a medieval village. Prostitution is always and forever an urban phenomenon, where everyone are strangers, and thus feel no responsibility for anyone else. They're only out for themselves.
There is a huge difference between competing with your friends/family, and with strangers. Your family cares about you. Thus even if your brother wins, you'll likely benefit in some way. But if you're competing against strangers, they'll take everything and leave you with nothing. Thus the competition among strangers is necessarily ruthless, callous, and selfish.
I agree somewhat, but I also disagree somewhat. The primary motivation for most things men do is sex. To gain access to women we compete among other men for a position in society. The highest positions generally get the first choice of women.
If you're only allowed to marry black women, and black women are only allowed to marry black men, then your competition for sex is limited only to other black men. Thus whether Norwegians are richer than me doesn't matter to me as long as they stay in Norway.
With that said, I am not in favor of segregation. I am for separation. I hate this world of strangers. I want to create a world of family. But you can't have a world of family with 8 billion people all following their temporary economic interests wherever it leads them.
You seem eager to compete against me, but why are we together in the first place? Do you actually want to be with me? Why won't you just let me go? Is this your country? Is this your land? How did this become your land? What right do you have to anything?
Suffragists wanted to vote. They wanted a say in matters regarding the government, in matters affecting them. Same thing any American citizen would and should have.
I don't know. I don't think my ancestors were that much happier than I am. I look back at what they had, and what I have. I am happier to live today than back then. I can shout if I'm unhappy. I don't live in as much fear as Black people did back in the days of Jim Crow.
|And what is poverty? How much does it cost to live? What is the difference between poverty in the United States and in other countries? Is it better to be in poverty in the United States than in poorer countries?|
I cannot believe you would ask such a contrarian question. Everyone knows what poverty is. You know what it is. And I wouldn't want to be poor anywhere. Life is hard being poor. It may be harder being poor somewhere like India or Mexico than here. However, I wouldn't want to be poor ANYWHERE.
|What we call poverty in America is "relative poverty". It isn't that the poor can't acquire the basic necessities, but that they are poor relative to other members of society, and thus fall below a "decent standard of living".|
Being poor often means your quality of life suffers. Being poor means you will live is quite shoddy housing. The food you eat won't be that good. Go somewhere like rural Appalachia or some rural areas of the Mississippi Delta. Many places look similar to 3rd world areas.
|So what then is rich? The rich in the future will certainly be richer than the rich today. And the rich of today are certainly richer than the rich of the past. Thus rich is not an absolute state, but rather a relative state. To the extent rich is an absolute state, it means having the means to acquire anything you want with little to no effort. Or to put it another way, it is a person who lives wholly or largely off the work of others. Thus there cannot be rich unless they are poor. The rich require someone to provide labor and services for them to enjoy.|
Rich of the future may be richer than the rich of tomorrow. However, I wasn't even talking about being rich. I did talk about rising out of being poor.
|When we examine the evils and miseries of poverty more closely, we'll see that it all stems from the same thing, inequality. Life without cell phones doesn't suck on its own. It only suck when other people have them and you don't. Inequality is the seed of hatred and resentment.|
And where does inequality come from? It comes from not being able to raise one's self out of certain conditions. It often comes from barriers being put in place to make it harder for people to achieve. Life with a cell phone is getting harder. It's difficult to get a job (even an entry level job) if you don't have a number someone can call you at. Consider this. If you're poor and don't have a car, it's hard to get around. Many jobs are located in places where public transportation doesn't go to. Or in many case, some poor people live where no buses go (such as rural areas). Inequality is created when one group is favored over another. Jim Crow created alot of inequality.
|This obsession with poverty is a waste of time. Not only because poverty is not as important as it seems, but because it distracts us from the greater evil, inequality. The reason we focus on poverty is because so-called solutions to poverty always mean more money for the producers and the distributors. Thus paradoxically, it is the rich who want to solve poverty far more than the poor, so long as they are in a position to profit.|
No it isn't a waste of time. Poverty and inequality are linked. You can say what you will about some rich people. However, the reason poverty is an issue is because of the desperation that comes from it. Poverty and inequality are linked in the larger picture.
|My point wasn't that a caste-system is good. My point was, people are happier where there is less in-group inequality, and where they are competing against fewer people. If there are two people, then there is one winner and one loser. If there are a hundred people, there is one winner and ninety-nine losers.|
There will be winners and losers. However, one of the ways inequality gets created comes from people not being allowed the opportunity to compete. When you can't even compete, that creates inequality. When race determines whether or not you can compete or not, it becomes a bigger problem. And something you need to understand about the caste system. It is inequality in itself.
|Imagine your slave ancestors. They had wives and families, big families, but how? Who would want to marry a slave? That's simple, another slave. But what if you were the only slave? Who would marry you?|
Slaves were often sold off and separated from their families. This was a big problem. If one was the only slave, said slave got sold off. And there was plenty of inequality from the slave system. Slaves living in the rude shacks of the slave quarters while the master and his blood family lived in comfort. Inequality right there. How do you prevent any kind of resentment? You convince the slave that he is inferior and that slavery is his fate in life. You convince the slave that because of his skin color, he's destined to be a slave, and to make him accept his fate.
|A lot of people complain that slave-masters having sex with their slaves was rape, regardless of it was consensual, because of the "imbalance of power". But the truth is, slave women had sex with their white masters mostly they were rich, and could give them better better conditions, better food, less work, or no work at all. So what is the fundamental difference between that and gold-diggers today? And isn't gold-digger just a fancy name for prostitute?|
Well, when you are considered property, you don't get much say in terms of consenting to sexual relations. You just learned to accept what was. And alot of those "rich slave women" were often in Louisiana, and were known for being in "left handed marriages". They were lighter-skinned concubines. Most females slaves didn't even get this fate. I've read enough about slavery to know that what you're saying isn't totally correct.
There are times people within your own group will turn on you because of what you have. People who lived in clans tended to self-regulate voluntarily. And consider that back in those days, human movement wasn't as vast as it is now.
There are many cases where family members have turned on each other. Human beings will do horrible things even to their own families.
Sex isn't always the reason many men do what they do. In alot of cases, MONEY is the reason many a man do what they do.
Historically, the men of high positions married women of high positions. However, consider this. In many cases, it isn't always the men with the most money getting the women. I've seen it for myself.
If you aren't limited in terms of who you can marry, it might open you up to alot of competition. However, it will open other people up for competition. What if you don't fit in to the culture you live in? What if you get rejected by your own women? If you're not limited, you can always go somewhere else. With infinite freedom, there is infinite competition. But there are also more chances you could win.
|With that said, I am not in favor of segregation. I am for separation. I hate this world of strangers. I want to create a world of family. But you can't have a world of family with 8 billion people all following their temporary economic interests wherever it leads them. Capitalism destroys communities and families. It must die.|
I have considered this a lot the past few years. I think a case could be made for it. Of course, none of the eastern European countries are perfect, but most of them have lived through the hell of communism and hardcore socialism and they know what it's like. They (many of them) are moving away from it, whereas we smart Americans are moving towards it. thinking that the result will somehow be different than it has been every other time. (a good definition of insanity)
I've worked with several people over the years who escaped communism in the USSR and eastern Europe. Their eyes were open. Ours are closed. It's pretty sad when Russia and the former east block (at least much of the population who knows tyranny and wants no part of it) is trying to move in the right direction and we are trying to emulate the hell that was the USSR. Thinking communism 2.0 will be somehow better than communism 1.0
1) Suffragists were just part of a larger feminist movement comprised almost entirely of middle and upper-class women who wanted political and economic power. I don't blame them, but they're no heroes.
2) You have more material things, more comforts. They had better relationships.
3) I would rather be a medieval serf than live on the southside of Chicago. I would rather live in a tent in the woods and eat unseasoned food than live on the southside of Chicago. What sucks about being poor in America is having to be around other poor people. It probably wasn't so bad to be poor in Sweden or Britain back in the 1970's, but now it is miserable, especially if you're white.
Reminds me of that George Carlin quote. "The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work. The poor are there just to scare the sh-- out of the middle class. Keep them showing up at those jobs."
4) You'd be so lucky to eat like a medieval peasant.
5) Inequality is 100% natural. Even if there were no obstacles, there would be inequality. An anarcho-capitalist system would be even more unequal than America is today.
6) You need a car because cars exist. You need a cell phone because cell phones exist. But what if they didn't exist?
7) I was just using slavery and the caste-system to explain a concept pertaining to competition.
8) There were certainly many slave women who preferred to be a concubine because it afforded them special privileges. So while I agree that the slave system was by its nature coercive, many were basically the slave-equivalent of a gold-digger. Regardless, my focus was not on slavery, but the "imbalance of power". I was more trying to make an analogy to wealth-imbalances generally, and the concept of "hypergamy"(people want to "marry up"). Thus if you're a male slave, and you're at the bottom economically and socially, you would have very few options if not for the existence of female slaves, also at the bottom, in a time where miscegenation was illegal.
9) Families are far more likely to stab each other in the back today than in the past. Family isn't as close as they used to be, and people can basically get away with things because they can always go somewhere to escape any social consequences. My sister does meth and basically lives like a hoodrat criminal. But that is only possible because there is a whole swath of the city filled with people like her. If she lived with her family, separate from the rest of "society", she would have been a good person.
10) But why do they want money? Isn't the primary desire for money, women? You know, buying a big house, a nice car, etc, what's it for?
11) While what you said is theoretically true, if you look at the historical record, that is never what happens. But I think you misunderstand me. You're imagining New York City but where people only marry people within their own group. As I said before, I don't believe in segregation, it doesn't work. Either we must separate, or we must come together.
12) Separation means to live in a completely separate society/government/etc. France is separated from Germany(more so before the European Union). The Jews were segregated into ghettos in Medieval Europe. Blacks were segregated into their own part of town. But they still lived in the same society, had the same government, with the same laws, paid the same taxes, fought for the same Army, etc.
8. Food sucks
Eastern Europe isn’t known for its variety of exquisite dishes. Most of the dishes are a combination of three ingredients: bread, potatoes, and meat. While it’s very hearty, it’s also very flavorless. If you’re there on a short trip or at the beginning of a more extended sojourn, you might find the food interesting and even exotic, but I can guarantee that you’ll quickly get tired of it.
Once you get tired of going out and eating bland local food, you’ll have two options: go to restaurants that serve international cuisine or cook your own food. The problem with the first option is that the international restaurant scene is rather limited in Eastern Europe. While there’re plenty of international restaurants in huge cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, you won’t have many good options in the smaller cities.
Here in Vilnius, Lithuania, a mid-sized city of half a million located in the European Union, my only reliable option is to have a decent, albeit pricy, burger. There are a couple of ethnic restaurants that serve Mexican or Greek food, but they leave a lot to be desired the Mexican food is bland, the Greek food is not only bland but also expensive. Don’t get me started on the crappy pizza or flavorless Italian food. As a result, I simply all but stopped going out and now mostly cook my own meals.
It’s situations like these that I miss living in New York. There, I can leave my apartment and eat any kind of food from pretty much any country I want, any time of the day, any day of the week, and within any price range. I also remember fondly my days of living in Brazil and Argentina, where I constantly ate fantastic churrasco or a juicy steak, respectively.
If you like food with flavor (please remind me how spicy food tastes) or are a vegetarian, you’ll have a pretty difficult time in Eastern Europe.
Here are 10 things Europe does way better than America
The term “American exceptionalism” is often tossed around by politicians. Neocons, far-right Christian fundamentalists and members of the Republican Party in particular seem to hate it when anyone dares to suggest that some aspects of European life are superior to how we do things. But facts are facts, and the reality is that in some respects, Europe is way ahead of the United States. From health care to civil liberties to sexual attitudes, one can make a strong case for “European exceptionalism.” That is not to say that Europe isn’t confronting some major challenges in 2014: neoliberal economic policies and brutal austerity measures are causing considerable misery in Greece, Spain and other countries. The unemployment rate in Spain, the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone, stands at a troubling 26%—although Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland have lower unemployment rates than the U.S. (5.1% in Germany, 3.1.% in Switzerland, 4.6% in Iceland, 4.2% in Denmark). But problems and all, Europe continues to be one of the most desirable parts of the world. And the U.S.—a country that is in serious decline both economically and in terms of civil liberties—needs to take a close look at some of the things that European countries are doing right.
Below are 10 examples of “European exceptionalism” and areas in which Europe is way ahead of the United States.
1 . Lower Incarceration Rates
Benjamin Franklin famously said that those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither, and the U.S. is more dangerous than most of Europe (especially in terms of homicide) even though it is becoming more and more of a police state. The U.S. incarcerates, per capita, more people than any other country in the world: in 2012, the U.S.’ incarceration rate, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies, was 707 per 100,000 people compared to only 60 per 100,000 in Sweden, 72 per 100,000 in Norway, 78 per 100,000 in Germany, 75 per 100,000 in the Netherlands, 87 per 100,000 in Switzerland, 99 per 100,000 in Italy, 103 per 100,000 in France, and 144 per 100,000 in Spain. Certainly, the failed War on Drugs and the Prison/Industrial Complex are major factors in the U.S.’ appallingly high incarceration rate, and unless the U.S. seriously reforms its draconian drug laws, it will continue to lock up a lot more of its people than Europe.
2. Less Violent Crime Than the U.S.
Major European cities like Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Milan can be very bad for nonviolent petty crimes like pickpocketing. The tradeoff, however, is that much of Europe—especially Western Europe—tends to have a lot less violent crime than the United States. Research conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that in 2012, the U.S. had a homicide rate of 4.8 per 100,000 people compared to only 0.3 per 100,000 in Iceland, 0.7 per 100,000 in Sweden, 0.8 per 100,000 in Denmark and Spain, 0.9 per 100,000 in Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, 1.0 per 100,000 in France, and 1.2 per 100,000 in Portugal and the Republic of Ireland. Russia, however, had a homicide rate of 9.2 per 100,000 that year, but overall, one is more likely to be murdered in the U.S. than in Europe.
3. Better Sex Education Programs, Healthier Sexual Attitudes
For decades, the Christian Right has been trying to convince Americans that social conservatism and abstinence-only sex education programs will reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The problem is that the exact opposite is true: European countries with comprehensive sex-ed programs and liberal sexual attitudes actually have lower rates of teen pregnancy and STDs. Looking at data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Guttmacher Institute, Advocates for Youth and other sources, one finds a lot more teen pregnancies in the U.S. than in Europe. Comprehensive sex-ed programs are the norm in Europe, where in 2008, there were teen birth rates of 5.3 per 1000 in the Netherlands, 4.3 per 1000 in Switzerland and 9.8 per 1000 in Germany compared to 41.5 per 1000 in the United States. In 2009, Germany had one-sixth the HIV/AIDS rate of the United States (0.1% of Germany’s adult population living with HIV or AIDS compared to 0.6% of the U.S. adult population), while the Netherlands had one-third the number of people living with HIV or AIDS that year (0.2% of the Netherlands’ population compared to 0.6% of the U.S.’ adult population).
4. Anti-GMO Movement Much More Widespread
Anti-GMO activists are fighting an uphill battle in the U.S., where the Monsanto Corporation (the leading provider of GMO seeds) has considerable lobbying power and poured a ton of money into defeating GMO labeling measures in California and Washington State. Some progress has been made on the anti-GMO front in the U.S.: in April, Vermont passed a law requiring that food products sold in that state be labeled if they contain GMO ingredients (Monsanto, not surprisingly, has been aggressively fighting the law). And GMO crops have been banned in Mendocino County, California. But in Europe, GMO restrictions are much more widespread. France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Greece are among the countries that have either total or partial bans on GMOs. And in Italy, 16 of the country’s 20 regions have declared themselves to be GMO-free when it comes to agriculture.
5. Saner Approaches to Abortion
Logic never was the Christian Right’s strong point. The same far-right Christian fundamentalists who favor outlawing abortion and overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 cannot grasp the fact that two of the things they bitterly oppose—contraception and comprehensive sex education programs—reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and therefore, reduce the need for abortions. But in many European countries, most politicians are smart enough to share Bill Clinton’s view that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” And the ironic thing is that European countries that tend to be sexually liberal also tend to have lower abortion rates. The Guttmacher Institute has reported that Western Europe, factoring in different countries, has an average of 12 abortions per 1000 women compared to 19 per 1000 women in North America (Eastern Europe, according to Guttmacher, has much higher abortion rates than Western Europe). Guttmacher’s figures take into account Western Europe on the whole, although some countries in that part of the world have fallen below that 12 per 1000 average. For example, the UN has reported that in 2008, Switzerland (where abortion is legal during the first trimester) had an abortion rate of 6.4 per 1,000 women compared to 19.6 per 1000 women in the U.S. that year. And Guttmacher has reported that countries where abortion is illegal or greatly restricted tend to have higher abortion rates than countries where it is legal: back-alley abortions are common in Latin America and Africa.
Clearly, better sex education, easier access to birth control and universal healthcare are decreasing the number of abortions in Western Europe. So instead of harassing, threatening and terrorizing abortion providers, the Christian Right needs to examine the positive effects that sexually liberal attitudes are having in Switzerland and other European countries.