Western Europe

Western Europe

Western Europe

Western Europe

Synopsis

Explore the rich cultural heritage of the 23 countries that comprise Western Europe, including both members of the European Union, and countries which are not EU members, such as Switzerland. Dornberg provides the necessary background information for comprehending the actions and attitudes of European nations, and in the process creates a valuable companion volume to Central and Eastern Europe. Accompanied by photographs and current and historical maps, the text describes each nation's history, physical geography, and cultural heritage, and discusses in detail the economic, political, and social factors at work in local affairs and foreign relations. Dornberg pays particular attention to the structure and functioning of the European Union and the overall process of European unification.

Excerpt

The history of Western Europe exhibits not only some of humanity's greatest cultural, scientific, and technological accomplishments but also some of its greatest acts of barbarity. the region's peoples have fought one another for 15 centuries, killing hundreds of millions and repeatedly devastating their cities and lands. Some still are wastelands, like regions in France, because of the gradually deteriorating but still highly explosive shells and grenades left in the top soil by the fighting of World War I. World War II, the bloodiest and most destructive European conflict, ended in 1945. Since then, the 18 principal countries of what we call Western Europe have not fired a single shot at one another, although wars have certainly occurred on the edges of the region. This peace has resulted in part from the Cold War, from the perception of a common enemy in the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc, and from the division of Europe into two conflicting ideological and sociopolitical systems. But in the context of Europe's long history, such a period of peace is an extraordinary achievement. Even more remarkable is the gradual movement of Western Europe, over the 35 years since the creation of the Common Market, toward a "United States of Europe."

Such a union is still a dream that probably will not be realized for decades to come. But the European Union (EU), as the Common Market is now called, is already a more unified community than anyone could possibly have imagined a few decades ago, despite all the language and cultural differences. the eu does not yet speak with one voice in foreign and defense affairs, and great differences of opinion continue over how far unity should go and how many national differences should remain. But this community of 370 million, almost half again the population of the United States, now includes all principal West European countries except Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. Borders between the European countries have become practically meaningless; people travel across them for business, work, and vacation. Goods are traded within the community free of duties. in the European Parliament, whose members are elected directly by the people of the 15 member countries, party political divisions play a bigger role . . .

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