UNIT 4: Europe and the European Union

Unit 4. Human Geography of Europe.

  1. Europe
  2. The European Union
    • Origin and development
    • Institutions
  3. Economy
  4. Migration

  1. The European continent

Europe has a historical and cultural heritage and legacy that have been shared from the Antiquity to current days. Several wars and peace treats, from that vast empires ruled Europe over time to current changes in UE and, maybe, one of the most important challenges in the last years. Four strong and big Empires ruling every historical period:

  • Roman Empire. In Antiquity, then was continued in Eastern by Western Roman Empire, Bizantine Empire.
  • Carolingian Empire in Middle Ages (and Holy Roman Empire)
  • Spanish Empire in Modern Age 16th -17th
  • Napoleon´s Empire in Contemporary Age, 19th 

After the Second World War and the dissolution of USSR and Yugoslavia, the current boundaries of the European countries remain the following, after the last independence, Kosovo, in 2008:


 European Population

740 million people inhabited Europe. Europe is becoming an ageing continent. Above 0.1 % natural increase. From the 1950´s life expectancy has increased and new policies, economic and social development has allowed several improvements in lifestyle.

  1. The European Union.

UE 28

The European Union is a supranational institution of 28 European states. It was founded to promote economic collaboration between them. This institution has brought about the economic integration of the countries that make it up through the creation of a single market and the adoption of the euro as the common currency. Economic measures have been taken which mean that the European Union is one of the world’s largest economies. In addition, agreements have also been established between countries that seek greater political integration between member states.

2.1. Origin and development.

A peaceful Europe – the beginnings of cooperation

The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The 1950s are dominated by a cold war between east and west. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’.

Member countries of the European Union Admission date
Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, France 1957
Ireland, the United Kingdom, Denmark 1973
Greece 1981
Spain, Portugal 1986
Austria, Sweden, Finland 1995
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus 2004
Bulgaria, Romania 2007
Croatia 2013


2.2. Institutions of the European Union

    This is made up of the heads of state and government of the 28 countries. The European Council meets several times a year to decide on EU policies.
    This is the main legislative body and coordinates the exterior economic policy and security issues. It is made up of ministers from the EU states.
    This approves the EU budget and the laws proposed by the Council of the EU. Its members are elected every five years by universal suffrage.
    This puts European policies into practice and proposes legislation to the Council of the EU. It is made up of one commissioner from each member state.
  1. European Economy.

Europe´s economy is among the most developed in the World.  Developed countries have a Tertiary Sector more developed and employed more than 50% of the labour employed. The primary sector is related to less developed countries and Secondary Sector has decreased in the last years.

  • Luxembourg has the highest GDP per capita in Europe. 100.000 $
  • Spain is below the average. Over 30.000 $ (2016)
  • Romania and Bulgaria are over 20.000 $
  • EU average is over 35.000 $


Economic sectors.

– Primary Sector

Agriculture, Farming and Fishing. High degree of mechanisation. The most important areas are in the Western Mediterranean and Atlantic. Spain, Denmark and UK.

– Secondary Sector

Highly developed. Northern Italy, Germany and UK. Investment in technology and industrial research (I+D+i). Mediterranean Arch and Eastern Europe, are also well developed.

Tertiary sector

This one generates the greatest wealth in member countries. Trade, Tourism (Hospitality), are favoured by dense transport networks (favoured by lowest prices in travel, Low-cost companies, etc). The European Currency, EURO have driven the development of the financial sector. Also, the Sterling Pound, the other one strong currency.

Spain, France, UK and Italy received million of tourists every year.

Economic Regions

  • Central and Atlantic. The most developed. Good communication networks, many energetic resources. Powerful service sector. The axis London-Paris-Berlin, lead this region.
  • Nordic region. High income per inhabitant. Sparsely populated but very developed in technology. Denmark; Sweden, Finland.
  • Eastern Europe. Lower developed. The primary sector is still important. New countries, former USSR and former Yugoslavia. Secondary sector, Industrial, is developing in this area.
  • Mediterranean region. High revenues it obtains from tourism. Spain, Southeastern France, (Côte Azur), Italy, Greece.

– Big cities in Europe (Economic).

The majority of the population live in cities. Europe is one of the most urbanised continents. Most populated urban areas overpass 5 million people. Metropolises such as Moscow, London or Istanbul. But European population mainly live in medium-sized and small cities.

Most populated urban areas
City Population
Moscow 16 800 000
London 14 300 000
Istanbul 14 200 000
Paris 11 200 000
Madrid 6 400 000
Ruhr region 5 600 000
Saint Petersburg 5 400 000
Milan 5 150 000
Cologne-Düsseldorf 4 825 000
Barcelona 4 700 000

Source: www.citypopulation.de


Resultado de imagen de Banana Azul
Blue Banane


Manchester, Birmingham, London, Paris, Milan, Turin, Rome, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Madrid, Barcelona, and Moscow, are the most important cities in Europe, according to economic activities and services. There are important economic and financial cities in central Europe (Netherland, Belgium, Switzerland…)

5. Migrations

Europe has sent migrants to other continents: America and Oceania. Economic development means that Europe has become a continent that receives migrants, mainly since the last years of the 20th century.

Causes of migrations (Revise Migrations in Unit 1):

  • Economic: Mainly since the second half of the 20th century, after the WWII, European population migrated to USA, Canada, Australia. Labour demand is provoking internal migrations in EU. Spaniards are moving through Germany, UK and France, searching for a job.
  • WWII provoked the highest rates of migrants. From all the affected countries, but mainly Jews, from all central Europe, mainly, Poland, Hungary and Germany, were settled in Israel (1948) Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) caused a lot of migrations. They were refugees in France, also in Mexico and South America (Argentina).

Social. Movements among countries because of studies, Erasmus interchange among Universities, is one of the main reasons for moving for youth.
Healthcare system is highly developed in many European countries, so that has provoked the “Healthcare Tourism” in order to profit the benefits allowed by the member states of the 28 UE countries. Spain has implemented a strong a developed National Health System (Public) and sometimes, have been used by different citizens of EU memberships.

  • Inmigrants

Europe has become in a receipt continent. Europe is receiving migrants from Africa and Asia, because of both reasons: Economic and political. Refugees from conflicts (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, Sudan, Ethiopia).

The Refugees crisis in Europe (Learn more about Refugees with the Final Project).

  • Migration Policies in EU.

Among member of EU, there is no control. Free movement of people is one of the most important achievements of EU. That brought highly movements (people and money). But, nowadays exist different policies trying to limit the free movement and, related to forced migrations (refugees), trying to stop the arrival of people that left their countries because of wars. Some countries have built some fences, walls in order to avoid the massive arrival of refugees (Albania, Slovenia, Hungary, etc.) Greece and Turkey are the borders. In Lesbos are living many people trying to cross the continent.You can find out more information on the internet (MOAS are aiding several people trying to reach the continent) https://www.moas.eu/

Overpassing migrations this matter has become a humanitarian crisis, with plenty of people drowned in the Mediterranean, not only crossing from Turkey to Greece, also from Lybia to Italy.


 Activities. REVISION ACTIVITIES. PG. 78-79. Complete exercises. 1,2, 3,4, and 11.

  1. Names and capital cities.
Europe revision
Escribir una leyenda

11. Look at the map of population density by country and compare it to the population map on page 71. Are the countries with the largest populations those with the highest densities? Justify your answer by explaining the main distribution factors of the population.



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