Mon Feb 13th, 2006 at 11:22:12 PM EST
Wait, wait, wait. Let's back up here. This is "The European Tribune," but what are we tribuning exactly?
I was recently informed of the "true center" of Europe and it got me thinking. Thinking about the fact that two people might be talking about Europe, but thinking of two different concepts: political or geographical. And yet these are never entirely distinct, are they? Geography requires naming things and drawing borders and that's always a bit political. And then there is the concept of Europe as a set of cultural values. Or a group of people united by a shared currency.
It's all so frustrating to me. Everyone knows where and what America is. Even when we disagree about what it should be. But "Europe?" It's a malleable idea; we're happy to reshape it to fit the context and agenda at hand. It might mean France. It might mean the Continent. It might mean wherever they use a Euro to buy cheese. It might mean an ideology.
I went in search of a simple definition. Wikipedia is usually a good place to start.
Europe is conventionally considered one of the seven continents which, in this case, is more a cultural and political distinction than a physiogeographic one.
For those of you wondering what that continent is, exactly (I know I am!):
Geographically Europe is a part of the larger landmass known as Eurasia. The continent begins at the Ural Mountains in Russia, which define Europe's eastern boundary with Asia. The southeast boundary with Asia is not universally defined. Most commonly the Ural or, alternatively, the Emba River serve as possible boundaries. The boundary continues to the Caspian Sea, the crest of the Caucasus Mountains or, alternatively, the Kura River in the Caucasus, and on to the Black Sea; the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles conclude the Asian boundary. However, numerous geographers consider Azerbaijan's and Armenia's southern border with Iran and Turkey's southern and eastern border with Syria, Iraq and Iran as the boundary between Asia and Europe because of political and cultural reasons. The Mediterranean Sea to the south separates Europe from Africa. The western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean, but Iceland, much farther away than the nearest points of Africa, is also often included in Europe.
There is ongoing debate on where the geographical centre of Europe is.
Well, if one cannot say with certainty what is the center, one must not be very certain about the boundaries either. Yet while I still dont know just where it is, I've been assured it exists.
Photographic evidence of Europe:
Because of political, cultural and geographical differences, there are various descriptions of Europe's boundary. Therefore, in some sources, some countries are not included in Europe, while the other sources do include them.
Almost all European countries are members of the Council of Europe, the exceptions being Belarus, and the Holy See (Vatican City).
The idea of the European continent is not held across all cultures. Some non-European geographical texts refer to the continent of Eurasia, or to the European peninsula, given that Europe is not surrounded by sea.
In the past concepts such as Christendom were deemed more important.
In another usage, Europe is increasingly being used as a short-form for the European Union (EU) and its members, currently consisting of 25 member states and the candidate countries negotiating for membership, and several other countries expected to begin negotiations in the future (see Enlargement of the European Union). This definition, however, excludes non-members such as Russia and Switzerland.
Eh? We can't even agree that Europe's a continent? Well, maybe we can all agree that the EU is Europe, even if all of Europe is not in the EU. So what is this EU?
The European Union (EU) is a family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. It is not a State intended to replace existing States, nor is it just an organisation for international cooperation. The EU is, in fact, unique.
"Unique?" That's all ya got? Well, we may not have vocabulary sufficient to communicate what it is, this "Europe as big beautiful idea/burocracy," but we do have a name for the currency to represent it. A Euro is worth a thousand words...
Google can find us a nice, easy-to-swallow definition of Europe, right? The all-knowing Google?
Definitions of Europe on the Web:
~ the 2nd smallest continent (actually a vast peninsula of Eurasia); the British use `Europe' to refer to all of the continent except the British Isles
~ European Union: an international organization of European countries formed after World War II to reduce trade barriers and increase cooperation among its members; "he took Britain into Europe"
~ the nations of the European continent collectively; "the Marshall Plan helped Europe recover from World War II"
~ Europe is a Swedish hard rock band originally assembled as a progressive rock group; they later added keyboards to their sound in order to soften it, in hopes of gaining radio airplay. Europe's sound substantially influenced the power metal genre.
~ Europe is Europe's first album, released February 24, 1983, by Hot Records.
~ The Europe is a one-person dinghy. Designed in Belgium in 1960 by Alois Roland. LOA is 3.35 m (11 feet). Beam is 1.38 m. Weight 45 kg. Sail area is 7 m² (75 ft²)
~ Britain France Italy The Netherlands Russia
~ Refers to a region where Prometric conducts business.
~ Europe is one of the Earth's seven continents. It is connected to Asia on its eastern side. Major rivers in Europe are the Rhine, the Rhone, the Danube, the Vistula, and the Volga. Historically, Western Europe and Eastern Europe have had many important cultural and political differences, though many of these are changing.
~is a region that contains a Nation States role-playing community.
Uhm, Thanks, I guess...
Map of some probable European but not necessarily EU nations, by flag:
Yeah... I don't feel any less confused now. In fact, I feel rather like I'm being played. These "Europeans" must be up to something sneaky if they can't just give me a straight answer about this "Europe" place, thing, whatever. There's something fishy going on here, but I can't tell if it's the herring or the moules...
Europe. Europe. A place over there across the pond with no distinct borders, no permanently defined number of member countries, no common religion, culture, land mass, or currency (what, is half of Russia using the Euro now? Well, is it?) It proclaims itself "unique." Yet it has its own Superman. I give up.
Take my fun poll and then give me your own less snarky answer.
What do you think, when you think, "Europe?"