General economic and geographical characteristics of countries in Western Europe.
Western Europe is a historical and geographical region that is part of the region of Europe Abroad. It is more than 20 countries, differing in historical, economic, natural, social and cultural originality.
The economic and geographical position of Western Europe is determined by two main features:
a coastal position that promotes the development of intercontinental links, the import of fuel and raw materials from developing countries; the neighboring position of the countries of the region in relation to each other, contributing to the development of integration processes.
The natural conditions of Western Europe are generally favorable for the development of the economy. Natural resources are quite diverse, but they are mostly developed and depleted, which puts the region in dependence on the import of natural raw materials.
This primarily applies to mineral resources, which do not fully meet the needs of the industry. In the allocation of mineral resources can be identified the following patterns:
In the northern part of the region, ore minerals are widespread (iron ore basins in Lorraine (France), Kiruna (Sweden), non-ferrous metals in Finland, Norway, Germany, France), as well as fuel (North Sea oil and gas basin, Russian and Saar coal basins in Germany , Welsh – in the UK); In the southern part, ore minerals predominate (chrome, copper, polymetallic, mercury ores in Spain, Italy, Greece, bauxite in France).
Water resources of Western Europe are unevenly distributed. The northern and western parts of the region are provided by them to a much greater extent than the southern ones. Large rivers: the Danube, the Rhine, Laura, the Seine, the Thames, the Mine and other rivers in Scandinavia, the Alps and the Pyrenees are rich in hydropower resources.
Soils are diverse and fertile.
Forest resources are preserved mainly in the north of the region – they are coniferous forests. In the rest of the territory, forests are cut down and occupy no more than 30% of the area. In their place anthropogenic landscapes were formed.
Recreational resources are most widely represented in Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Switzerland.
The population of Western Europe is more than 300 million people.
The majority of the population belongs to the Indo-European language family, and the north of the region is populated by representatives of the German language group (Germans, Dutch, Swedes, English, etc.), and the south – of the Romance group (Italians, French, Spaniards, etc.).
In all countries of Western Europe, Christianity remains the dominant religion, while Protestantism prevails in the northern countries, in the south – Catholicism.
The demographic situation is characterized by a low birth rate and low natural growth (in some countries it is zero or negative), the general tendency is the “aging” of the population. In recent years, the decline in natural growth has been particularly pronounced in Germany, Italy, Denmark, Greece and Spain.
Currently, Western Europe is a region of labor emigration from North Africa, Central America, India and Pakistan. The main countries of emigration: France, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland.
Western Europe is the most urbanized region in the world. The proportion of urban population in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands exceeds 80%. A characteristic feature of the urbanization of Western Europe can be called the concentration of the population in large cities. About 40 millionaires are located here. The largest urban agglomerations – the London, Paris, the Rhine-Ruhr.
Western Europe is the center of the world economy. It occupies a leading position in terms of industrial and agricultural production. Here, about 1/3 of the industrial output of all developed countries is produced. In world trade, it accounts for about half of the total turnover.
The economic power of the region is determined by four countries: Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy, the leading position among them is Germany. Among other countries in Western Europe, Spain has considerable weight. Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden.
Western Europe is the largest financial center of the world, and the role of “financial capitals” is played by London and Zurich.
The 1990s are marked by the emergence of a single economic space in Western Europe, consisting of twenty countries of the European Union and seven countries of the European Free Trade Association, which is currently contributing to an even more intensive development of the economies of European countries.
The “face” of Western Europe in the international geographical division of labor is industry, and primarily its leading industry is engineering. This industry accounts for about 1/3 of the cost of all industrial products. The machine building of Western Europe is represented by a multitude of sub-sectors. Almost all kinds of machine-building products are produced here, the production of machine tools, optics, electrical engineering and radio electronics, cars is especially distinguished.
The orientation of engineering on the scientific base, labor resources and infrastructure has led to the fact that this industry is located mainly in large cities and agglomerations. At the same time, machine building is represented practically in all large cities, that is why clearly expressed territorial knots did not work out.
Western Europe remains the leader in the chemical industry. The main producer of chemical products is Germany. Many countries have in this industry a clear specialization: Germany – the production of dyes and plastics, France – synthetic rubber, Belgium – mineral fertilizers, Switzerland – pharmaceuticals.
In the location of the chemical industry, there have recently been changes associated with its reorientation to hydrocarbon raw materials (oil and gas) imported from developing countries by sea. Therefore, large petrochemical plants originated in the mouths of the Thames, the Seine, the Rhine, the Elbe. The largest mills are built in Rotterdam and Marseilles. The old chemical enterprises are located in the areas of extraction of potassium salts, stone and brown coal. (Germany, France).
The fuel and energy industry of Western Europe is based on oil and gas, (own and imported) and coal. The share of coal in the fuel and energy balance is very high, but it has a tendency to decrease. On oil, gas and coal of thermal power plants, whose share is particularly significant in Germany, in Great Britain, the Netherlands. The role of hydropower plants especially the century in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland; NPPs – in France, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany.
Metallurgy is one of the oldest industries in Western Europe. The oldest metallurgical base was formed in countries with reserves of coking coal or iron ore. Germany, France, Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg – the main producers of ferrous metals. In the second half of the twentieth century, metallurgical plants began to focus on the import of iron ore and scrap metal, which led to the location of enterprises near the seaports (mills in Taronto, Italy). Non-ferrous metallurgy is represented, first of all, by smelting of aluminum, which is produced in the bauxite mining areas (France, Italy, Greece), as well as the production of cheap electricity (Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Austria). The copper industry is the most developed in Germany, France, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy.
The timber industry is a branch of specialization in Sweden and Finland.
The traditional industry of Western Europe is light industry. An important role is played by old textile areas in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Italy. The clothing industry is developed in most countries of Western Europe (especially in Portugal and France), shoe industry in Italy and Spain.
Typical features of the industry of Western Europe is the specialization of some countries in the production of certain types of products: watches – Switzerland, perfumes – France, etc.
The agriculture of the countries of Western Europe is high-quality and fully meets the needs of the population in food products, and also allows them to export their products.
In accordance with the natural and historical conditions in Western Europe, there were three types of agriculture.
Northern European type – Scandinavia, Finland, Great Britain – Prevalence of intensive dairy cattle breeding. Plant growing is focused on growing fodder crops and gray loaves.
Central European type – Central Europe – Predominance of dairy-meat cattle breeding, pig breeding, poultry farming. Crop production is focused on the main food and fodder crops.
South European type – Mediterranean – The predominance of crop production: grain economy, viticulture, horticulture (citrus fruits, fruits), and the cultivation of olives, almonds, tobacco, essential oils.
The transport system in Western Europe is well developed. To ensure the transport network, Western Europe ranks first in the world. Characteristic features of the West European regional transport system:
density and complex configuration of the transport network; short range of transportation; high share of international and transit traffic; increasing the share of motor transport and reducing the share of the railway; existence of large transport hubs incl. sea, port and industrial complexes (London, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Le Havre); great importance of river routes (Rhine, Danube); development of ferry communication (Baltic, Northern and Mediterranean seas).
The following basic elements are distinguished in the territorial structure of the economy and the settlement of Western Europe.
Highly developed areas included in the Central Axis of Development, where the newest industries are concentrated: Greater London, Greater Paris, Southern Germany (with the centers of Stuttgart and Munich), Italy’s industrial triangle (Milan-Turin-Genoa).
Old industrial areas with a predominance of old basic industries that arose mainly on the basis of coal basins: Ruhr in Germany; Lancashire, Yorkshire, South Wales in the UK; Alsace and Lorraine in France.
Backward agricultural regions: the south of Italy, the west of France, the center and the south-west of Spain, Portugal, Greece.