Here’s why European politics takes longer to explain than perhaps you have time for

European politics

Before there was a concept of European, there was a host of other ethnic models which colored how people who lived in Europe thought of themselves. Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland would see themselves as a nation first but as part of the Nordic bloc too.

This would not prevent them from fighting among st themselves when the occasion demanded, but it did also form a series of loosely national alliances when they were under threat. But even that broad generalization has issues. Finland borders Russia on its eastern side and has a different relationship with its huge neighbor than the others.

Europe is not the European Union

We often use the words Europe to mean the European Union and vice versa, but not all countries are part of the Union. There are some counties who have been denied membership and others who declined to join. Notable non-members are Switzerland and Norway. The UK is about to leave the Union, a decision which is contentious and unpopular with much of the country.

What is Europe

The continent of Europe contains Iceland in the north and stretches to the beaches and island of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus in the south. The western boundary is marked by Portugal and the eastern by the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan.

Europe has thirty-three different peoples as a large group but this breaks down into many more. For example, France which by 2018 is considered a strong ethnic group with a country of known boundaries comprises of Bretons, Corsicans, Occitans, Alsatians, Arpitans, Basques, Catalans and Flemings. In eastern Europe, the situation can get even more complex. Some countries have come into being since the 1990s others have taken control of their own destiny having shaken off communism.

No wonder politics is so complex

The issues facing a country like Hungary are completely different from those facing Portugal. Hungary is trying to rebuild and develop whereas Portugal is fighting off the throes of austerity and returning to a growth economy.

Yet there are some factors which many European countries face in common. For example, all have a continuing issue with terrorism. Paris particularly has been very publicly hit, but then so has the UK and Spain.

Many countries also have increasing problems with far-right political movements. For historical reasons extremist politics sit badly with modern liberal Europeans but there are still enough divisive elements to cause ongoing issues.

Sport

The influence of sport is both a cohesive and a divisive factor on the political front. Cohesive because the Europeans love their sport and love to talk about it. Divisive because like no other factor it highlights the differences between the haves and the have-nots.

France’s ethnic problems placed under the spotlight in 2018 when their football (soccer) team won the world cup. All were happy to take the cup home, not all were happy with the makeup of the team who won it.