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Europe Government

 

The politics of Europe deals with the continually evolving politics within the continent. It is a topic far more detailed than other continents due to a number of factors including the long history of nation states in the region as well as the modern day trend towards increased political unity amongst the European states.

The current politics of Europe can be traced back to historical events within the continent. Likewise geography, economy and culture have contributed to the current political make-up of Europe.

Modern European politics is dominated by the European Union, particularly since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc of Communist states. With the end of the Cold War, the EU expanded eastward to include 25 member states that are represented in the European Parliament.

Modern political climate

Several issues dominate modern European politics.

Despite vastly improved relations between Russia and the Western European states since the end of the cold war, recently tensions have risen over the spread of 'Western' organisations, particuarly the EU and NATO, eastwards into former USSR states.

Most European states have either joined, or stated their ambition to join, the European Union. This has led to governments overhauling corrupt and overly-beauracratic systems in order to bring themselves in line with membership criteria. This in turn has led to improved relations between former enemies, such as Greece and Turkey.

There are few conflicts within Europe, although there remain problems in the Balkans and the Caucasus.

International alliances

European states are members of a large number of international organisations, mainly economical, although several are political, or both. The main political unions are detailed below.

European Union

The European Union or EU is a supranational union of 25 European states. It has many activities, the most important being a common single market, consisting of a customs union, a single currency (adopted by 12 out of 25 member states), a Common Agricultural Policy and a Common Fisheries Policy. The European Union also has various initiatives to co-ordinate activities of the member states.

The EU, considered as a unit, has the largest economy in the world, with a 2002 GDP of 9.613 trillion euro. The EU economy is expected to grow further over the next decade as more former communist countries join the union. There is also a trend of moving towards increased cooperation in terms of common defence and foreign policy.

The union has evolved over time from a primarily economic union to an increasingly political one. This trend is highlighted by the increasing number of policy areas that fall within EU competence: political power has tended to shift upwards from the Member States to the EU.

Commonwealth of Independent States

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a confederation consisting of 12 of the 15 states of the former Soviet Union, (the exceptions being the three Baltic states). Although the CIS has few supranational powers, it is more than a purely symbolic organization and possesses coordinating powers in the realm of trade, finance, lawmaking and security. The most significant issue for the CIS is the establishment of a full-fledged free trade zone / economic union between the member states, to be launched in 2005. It has also promoted cooperation on democratisation and cross-border crime prevention.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is a military alliance of mainly European states, plus the United States of America and Canada. The organisation was founded as a collective security measure following World War Two.

This provision was intended so that if the Soviet Union launched an attack against the European allies of the United States, it would be treated as if it was an attack on the United States itself, which had the biggest military and could thus provide the most significant retaliation. However the feared Soviet invasion of Europe never came. Instead, the provision was invoked for the first time in the treaty's history on 12 September 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States the day before.

Independence movements

Belgium

One of Belgiumís parties, the Vlaams Belang, a Flemish equivalent of the French National Front, wants Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, to become independent. Other Flemish parties plead for more regional autonomy.

The autonomous Belgian region of Wallonia has a movement wanting to leave the Belgian state and join with France.

Denmark

The Danish territories of Greenland and Faroe Islands have very strong independence movements.

France

The Mediterranean island of Corsica has a significant, and growing, group calling for independence from France. There are also movements in the Brittany region of northern France who wish to regain independence lost in 1532, and in Savoy in the south east, which was annexed to France following a disputed referendum in 1860.

Georgia

Georgia has two regions wishing to join with Russia; Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Moldova

The eastern Moldovan region of Transnistria has declared independence from Moldova, and wants to join with Ukraine. Despite having no control over the region, the Moldovan government refuses to recognise this claim.

Russia

Several of Russia's regions have independence movements, mostly in the state's north caucasus border. The most notable of these is Chechnya, which has well supported guerilla groups involved in open conflict with the Russian authorities.

To the west of Russia lies the enclave of Kaliningrad oblast, (formerly known as Prussia). This enclave is separated from the main Russian state by EU member states, which has led to an increased call for autonomy. However, ethnic-German groups call for complete independence.

Serbia and Montenegro

The Serbian autonomous community of Kosovo, which has a majority ethnic-Albanian population, overwhelmingly desires to leave Serbia and become a sovereign state, although some wish to have union with Albania. The province is currently governed by the United Nations, though remains part of Serbia under law. By the end of 2006 the UN has stated that it will have decided on Kosovo's future status.

In 2006 Serbia and Montenegro are to hold referendums on whether to retain their union or become separate states. There is currently a majority in each country desiring independence.

Spain

Within Spain there are independence movements in some of the autonomous regions, notably the regions of Catalonia and Basque country. These are mostly peaceful but some, such as ETA use violent means.

Ukraine

The Ukrainian autonomous region of Crimea has several movements, calling either for greater autnomy, complete independence, or unification with Russia.

The East of the country is majority ethnic-Russian, and there are calls from some groups for the area to leave Ukraine and join Russia. This is particuarly the case since the pro-western Victor Yuschenko became president.

United Kingdom

Within the United Kingdom there are political parties in each of the three British nations calling for independence from the union. In Northern Ireland there are parties calling for the province to leave the union and be united with the Republic of Ireland.

Sources: University World and Wikipedia