Category: Diversity of European countries


Since the advent of the European Union, politicians have increasingly emphasized the notion of a European social model as an alternative to the American form of market capitalism.

European countries share common references, among which there are a number of values. Europeans are committed to democracy, human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination. They were even part of the criteria for the accession to the European Union.

In the economic sphere, the process of industrialization first started in Europe. Europe is also the birthplace of economic liberalism as Marxism and socialism. There is therefore still a European identity. Finally, in 2007, 67% of the Europeans believed that European countries had much in common culturally and in terms of values (peace, tolerance, respect for fundamental freedoms).

European countries are united by many things such as the currency (the €uro) or the European Institutions (European Parliament) but they have different backgrounds, cultures, they speak different languages..

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To put it in a nutshell, we can say that European Countries are “united in diversity”, and this motto is indeed the European Motto.

Social inequalities in Europe

Social inequalities in Europe

To begin with, let’s define what a social inequality is:

There are two kinds of social inequalities: the inequality of conditions which refers to the differences in incomes, wealth and material goods between different people in society and the inequality of opportunities refers to education and health status which are the main notions that enable to benefit from a good social status.

In the whole world, there are many social inequalities: for instance, between developed countries, developing countries and least developed countries.

But let’s focus on Europe:

All the Europeans benefit from a good social protection, but the economic crisis and unemployment increase the inequalities.

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The European Union has a secondary role in the social field even if it admitted the necessity to give to Europeans some basics rights: benefiting from family allowance or parental leave to raise children, benefiting from maternity ward or treatment in case of accident, receiving a pension…  These rights have been adopted in all the European countries, even if it took many years. However, each country has its own system to finance health and pensions for its citizens. This financing is mainly insured by the citizens themselves through social security contributions of employers and workers but also by income taxes.

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The inhabitants of the European Union benefit from a much better social protection than the ones from other countries, even the richer ones, like the USA. Nevertheless, inequalities persist: there are the most thriving countries which spend the greatest amount of money on social protection. For instance, the Danish and the Dutch, who have the highest standards of living, dedicate more than 30% of their GNP to social protection!  But because of the increase of population and its aging, financing pensions or medical care becomes more and more difficult for the states. Most of the Europeans choose to save up money or to subscribe insurances, but that’s not possible for all the Europeans.

With the economic crisis, unemployment keeps increasing. Thus the number of poor also keeps increasing. They are almost 50 million in the European Union. Are considered as poor, the people whose incomes are so low that their living-conditions are miserable. In Europe, the law insures to the most impoverished the JSA (=the jobseeker’s allowance), that is to say a minimum guaranteed income (in France, it’s called RMI = revenu minimum d’insertion). But from a country to another, this income can vary, creating inequalities.  According to 85% of the Europeans, struggling against joblessness must be a priority for the EU policy.

According to the old Greek myth, Europa, Phoenix and Perimede’s daughter, was a Phoenician princess who was so beautiful that Zeus, the Father of Gods, noticed her and turned into a great white bull, and invited her to ride him. Europe accepted and Zeus took her to Crete, where their three children were born, including Minos, the mythical founder of the Minoan civilization, one the first attested European culture.

Religions

Religions d'Europe

The first European religions were polytheist religions, brought by Indo-european-speaking peoples with the extension of agriculture in Europe at the end of the Neolithic period. These religions had similarities between them, and were inspired from Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythologies. Among the most known of them are the Celtic mythology and the Germanic mythology, which were “resurrected” by Wagner’s operas or the more famous Tolkien’s books, and the Greek/Roman mythology which knew a renewed interest during the Renaissance, and which is thanks to the Roman Empire the most famous polytheist religion of Europe.

Since the Roman period, Jewish communities have spread through Europe. Sephardi Jews originally lived in Spain and Portugal and were forced to exile in 1492 by the Catholic Kings of Spain. Sephardi Jews are now mainly located in Italy, Greece and Turkey, and in France since the 1960’s after the independence of Maghreb countries where they lived. The other main Jewish community are Ashkenazim Jews, whose origin is not really known. One hypothesis is that they lived in the Khazar Empire, which was a Jewish state of southern actual Russia and which collapsed with Russian invasions. Ashkenazim Jews live nowadays in Central and Eastern Europe, France and Great Britain, but the majority of them were killed during the Holocaust.

Christianity, which is the major religion in Europe, appeared during the first centuries of our era. It became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the IVth century AD, and was adopted by the Barbarian kingdoms after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Originally, Christianity was a unified religion, but there are three main churches nowadays: Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Catholicism corresponds to the Roman Church, lead by the Pope which is considered as the incarnation of Saint Peter. This religion is located in Western and Central Europe.

Eastern Christian churches (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem) separated from the Roman Church in 1054 (Great Schism). They are considered as “Orthodox Christianity”, but don’t consist in a unified Church. Indeed, Orthodoxy is composed of independent Churches lead by Patriarchs, the most powerful being the Church of Constantinople thanks to the extension of the Byzantine Empire. Nowadays, Orthodoxy is located in the Balkans, Cyprus and Eastern Europe.

Protestantism appeared at the end of the Middle Age with Luther’s thesis (Protestant reformations). Protestantism is not lead by a Pope or a Patriarch, because Luther rejected the clergy. An other Protestant branch is Calvinism, located in Switzerland, French Protestant minorities and Scotland. Lutheranism is more widespread: Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia and Baltic States. The Anglican Church is a totally independent Church, considered as Protestant but closer to Catholicism, lead by the British monarch.

Islam was introduced in Europe with the Ottoman invasion of Balkans. This religion originally appeared in Arabic peninsula and extended to Middle East, Central Asia and Northern Africa. Muslim countries in Europe are Albania and Bosnia in the Balkans, Turkish communities in Bulgaria, and Caucasian peoples in southern Russia. We can of course notice Turkey, if it is regarded as a European country. European Muslims are Sunni, like the majority of Muslims. However, Azerbaijan is a Shiite country. Islam is also present in Western Europe thanks to recent immigration (France, Belgium, United Kingdom).

We can also notice Buddhism in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, peopled by Mongols who descend from Genghis Khan’s armies who invaded Eastern Europe in the XIIIth century.

Languages

Langues en Europe

Indo-European languages are the majority of European languages. They were brought in the continent from Anatolia or Eastern Europe with the introduction of agriculture. They are now divided into several families : Baltic languages, in Latvia and Lithuania (so-called Baltic States), Celtic languages in the British isles, Germanic languages in Northern (Scandinavia, British isles) and Central Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), Romance languages (which descend from Latin language) in Southwestern Europe and Romania, Slavic languages in Eastern and Central Europe and in the Balkans, and isolated languages such as Albanian and Greek languages in Southern Balkans. An Asiatic branch of Indo-european languages is spoken in the periphery of Europe: Iranian languages in Kurdistan (Turkey) and Central Caucasus.

There are also some languages which don’t belong to this huge family. Basque language (Basque country in France and Spain), Georgian language (Georgia) and Caucasian languages (Northern Caucasus) are part of languages spoken in Paleolithic Europe and are now located in isolated mountainous areas. Altaic languages like Turkish and Finn-Ugric languages such as Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian languages were introduced more recently from Central Asia and Siberia. Maltese language of Malta island is an Arabic dialect.

Some of these languages have an official status, but a lot of them are spoken by ethnic minorities. The European Union, in its cultural policy, aims at protecting these languages and peoples, with two major texts: the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages aims at protecting these languages in several fields: education, justice, public services, medias, cultural activities, social and economic life. Many European countries have signed it, so had France but it hadn’t ratified it yet, because this charter is in disagreement with its Constitution.

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities ensures the rights of ethnic minorities. Many European countries have signed it, but France hadn’t, according to its Constitution. This attitude can however have negative consequences, like the extinction of regional languages, regarded as a cultural wealth.

THE EUROPEAN COUNTRIES

                  The founding countries (1957) :

   Belgium            France           Germany        Italy              Luxembourg            The Netherlands

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The European Union: a time-line

January 14th, 1962: adoption of the first regulations on the Common Agricultural Policy

July 1st, 1968: realization of the Customs Union enters the Six

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The customs duties between the six members of the EEC are completely removed. A common customs tariff is set on the external borders of the EEC.

January 1st, 1973: Europe of the 6 in Europe of the 9

The first widening of the EEC with the accession of

Denmark,            Ireland                 and the United Kingdom.

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June 14th, 1985: signature of the Schengen Agreements

In Schengen, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and FRG sign  the agreements planning the progressive abolition of the borders between these States and the free movement of persons.

But the convention of implementation of the agreement is signed only on June 19th, 1990 and is actually implemented on March 26th, 1995.

February 7th, 1992: signature of the treaty of Maastricht which creates the European Union

In Maastricht, in February the treaty on the European Union is signed. This one is based on 3 pillars: the Communities (ECSC, EC, EAEC), the foreign politics and of common security (CFSP), co-operation justice home matters. Besides, the EEC becomes the European Community (EC).

In this Treaty of Maastricht, a European citizenship is instituted, the powers of the European Parliament are reinforced, and the economic and monetary Union (UEM) is launched. The treaty of Maastricht is implemented on November 1st, 1993.

January 1st, 1995: Europe of the 15

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The fourth widening with the entry of Austria, Finland, and of Sweden in European Union (EU).

January 1st, 1999: The Euro becomes the single currency of 11 of the Member States

11 States now form the “euro zone”: Austria, Belgium, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and FRG. The euro then becomes officially the legal currency of these States.

Greece will join them on January 1st, 2001, Slovenia on January 1st, 2007, Cyprus and Malta on January 1st, 2008, Slovakia on January 1st, 2009, Estonia on January 1st, 2011 and Latvia on January 1st, 2014, thus rising to 18 the number of countries in the “euro zone”.

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The coins and the notes in euro were released only on January 1st, 2002. But the individuals could already pay their taxes or issue cheques in Euros by 1999.

April 16th, 2003: towards a Europe with 25

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A Treaty of Accession at the EU of ten new States is signed in Athens. It is about Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia. To come into effect, the treaty must be ratified by the Fifteen and the ten new members before May 1st, 2004. It is on this date that their entry in the Union becomes effective.

October 29th, 2004: European signature of the constitution project

Gathered in Brussels on June 17th and 18th, 2004, the leaders of the 25 States of the European Union adopt, after ultimate and difficult negotiations, the first “constitutional treaty” of the European Union. Signed in Rome on October 29th, 2004, it gathers in only one document, simpler and readable, all of the texts which organize the operation of the EU. For the European Constitution to be implemented, it must be ratified by each State before the end of 2006. 

January 1st, 2007: Europe with 27

 The Treaty of Accession signed on April 25th, 2005 becomes effective. Romania and Bulgaria become members of the European Union.

July 1st, 2013: Europe with 28

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The Treaty of Accession  signed in Brussels on December 9th, 2011 becomes effective. Croatia becomes the 28th member of the European Union. The population of the EU reaches  more than 508 million people from now on.

Procedures to enter the European Union.

Any European State […] can ask to become member of the Union”, provided it respects its values (freedom, democracy, respect of the human rights, fundamental freedoms and the Rule of law) (Article 49 of the treaty on the EU).

Process of adhesion :

Any application to join is the object of an opinion of the Commission, and a Council Decision, which allots a statute of applicant country to the petitioning country. This statute does not necessarily lead to the immediate opening of the negotiations for adhesion. For that, the applicant country must match a certain number of conditions.

The country must answer the criteria of eligibility, which were defined at the time of the European Council of Copenhagen in 1993 and were supplemented at the time of the European Council of Madrid in 1995. These are: 

  • political criteria: the stability of the institutions must ensure democracy, the Rule of law, human rights as well as the respect and protection of minorities;
  • economic criteria: the existence of a viable market economy, the capacity to cope with the pressure of competition and the forces of the market inside the EU;
  • the capacity to assume the obligations of Member State, rising from the right and the policies of the EU (or community asset), including adhesion with the objectives of the political, economic and monetary Union.

Before we get it all started, let us say how proud we are to be Burgundians.

Burgundy is a small region of the North East of France. More precisely, it’s between the Paris Basin and the Saône Valley. It has a strong tradition: for a long time, Burgundy has benefited  from its rich soil, and more particularly of its pretigious vineyards that have made it famous worldwide. It is well known for its production of mustard, snails, all of its huge agricultural areas. It has a history : the Dukes of Burgundy are known all over France for being the closest opponents to the King during the XVth century.

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The land of Burgundy is composed of four departments  Yonne, Côte d’Or, Saône et Loire and Nièvre. All of them are really diversified, and rich of their diversity. By crossing the region, you can go from the limestone plateaux of Yonne to the rural areas of the Morvan, from the groves of Charolais to the plains of Saône and the vineyards of Mâcon. In the heart of Europe, Burgundy is crossed by a huge network of roads, railways, and it is truly a European crossroad, a land of welcome and passage.

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Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, concentrates, with its metropolitan area, almost half of the population of Côte d’Or !Its activities are mostly turned to  services and wine growing. It is very different from the wide rural areas of the Morvan, that are lowly populated.

Well, that’s all we can say about Burgundy without boring you, readers. Thanks for reading us, please leave some comments !