During the Cold War (1947-1991), the termWestern Europe was collectively used for theEuropean NATO allies of the United States:Belgium, Denmark, France (briefly left in 1966;rejoined in 1967), Greece, Iceland (not on map),Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway,Portugal, Turkey, the United Kingdom, andWest Germany. Austria, Finland, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, andSwitzerland were neutral states. The democratic states in Western Europe werealso called the First World.
Scandinavia• Denmark• Finland• Iceland• Norway• Sweden British Isles• Ireland• United Kingdom Iberian Peninsula• Portugal• Spain
Western Europe• Belgium• France• Luxembourg• Netherlands Central Europe• Austria• Germany• Switzerland Southern Europe• Greece• Italy• Malta
As indicated on slide 4 (see accompanyingmap), the categorization of Western Europeused in the Cold War is used to define post-ironcurtain Western Europe. Western Europe claims two of the oldestexisting democracies in the world (Iceland andSwitzerland), the strongest economy in Europe(Germany), and the richest country in theEuropean Union (Luxembourg). Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, theNetherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the UnitedKingdom are full members of the EuropeanUnion and NATO. Austria, Finland, Ireland, and Sweden are fullmembers of the European Union; Iceland andNorway are full members of NATO. Iceland is a candidate for EU membership.
The two existing language families of WesternEurope are the Germanic languages and theRomance languages. The Germanic languages are spoken chiefly inScandinavia and Central Europe (Austria,Germany, and Switzerland), and to a lesserextent, in Western Europe (Belgium, Ireland,Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the UnitedKingdom) and in Southern Europe (Malta). The Romance languages are dominant inSouthern Europe (Italy, Portugal, and Spain),and to a smaller degree, in Western Europe(Belgium, France, and Luxembourg) and inCentral Europe (Switzerland). Only in Finland is a Finno-Ugric language(Finnish) spoken; only in Ireland is a Celticlanguage (Irish) spoken; only in Malta is aSemitic language (Maltese) spoken. Greek forms an independent branch of the Indo-European language family.
Dominated by Western Christianity, religionin Western Europe is more or less dividedbetween Roman Catholicism andProtestantism. Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy,Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands,Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland are majorityRoman Catholic. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden,and the United Kingdom are majorityProtestant. Germany is half-Protestant half-Catholic. Greece is majority Eastern Orthodox.