Economics and Urban Geography of Europe
*Europe has a larger economy than any other continent in the
world. Europe as a whole produces $16 trillion dollars worth of
goods each year.
*Europe’s most productive country is Germany, which is also the 3rd
most productive country in the world, behind the USA and Japan (5th if
adjusted for purchasing power parity, behind the USA, PROC, Japan, and
India). Its nominal GDP is $2.9 trillion a year. Germany is
also the world’s #1 exporter of manufactured goods—mostly advanced
machinery, such as automobiles, and high-tech equipment.
*The UK is second in Europe (4th worldwide), with $2.29 trillion,
France is 3rd (5th) with $2.21 trillion, Italy is 4th (6th), with $1.8
trillion, and Spain is fifth (8th) with $1.1 trillion (although it is
lower than Russia if adjusted for purchasing power parity).
*The microstates of Europe tend to make their money from sales of
postage stamps, from tourism, and especially as tax havens or as free
ports, in which goods are sold without duties (taxes and
tariffs). The Vatican, of course, is supported by the donations
of the worldwide Catholic Church.
*Europe is still a centre of manufacturing, and its traditional
manufacturing nations are in Western Europe: Britain, northern
France, Benelux, western Germany, Switzerland, northern Italy.
However, the high cost of labour and many environmental and business
restrictions in Western Europe have led many companies to begin moving
to Eastern Europe or out of the continent altogether. This has
kept unemployment relatively high in much of Europe, despite the
continent’s overall high GDP.
*Agriculture remains important in Europe, partly because it has been
carefully maintained by the CAP and other government subsidies.
This is expensive, however: the CAP takes up 40% of all the EU’s
government expenditures. Today, more Europeans are employed in
agriculture than in any other single industry, although the number
varies widely by nationality: 2% of British people are employed
in agriculture, whereas 50% of Albanians are. Many of these
farmers still work on small family farms of about 30 acres.
*Services are important in Europe, too, especially in tourism, and 60%
of all Europeans work in some sort of service industry (compared to 75%
*Much of Europe’s economy is based around its cities, most of which are hundreds or (usually) thousands of years old.
*Europe’s cities are different from those in America, particularly in
their inner cities, in that they were never designed for automobiles,
so things tend to be smaller, closer together, and easier to access by
foot. Although many cities do have a largely un-lived-in Central
Business District and growing suburbs, many still have vibrant
downtowns and real neighbourhoods.
*Paris, thanks to Napoleon III, is an exception to the tendency of old
European city centres to have narrow, crowded streets—it has wide
boulevards to make it hard for revolutionaries to set up barricades.
*The most populous metropolitan area in Europe is Moscow (#15
worldwide) with about 13,600,000 people. Second is London (#18)
with 11,850,000; third is Paris (#24) with 11,570,000 (although the
Rhine-Ruhr area of Germany has many cities that have nearly become a
megalopolis with a slightly higher population than the Paris Area);
fourth is Istanbul with 11,332,000, which we will study later, when we
look at the Middle East, fifth is the Milan area, with 6,500,000, sixth
is Madrid with 5,600,000, and seventh is Saint Petersburg with
*Many of Europe’s nations have Primate City Syndrome: Paris, with
a regional population of 11.57 million contains at least one in every
six citizens of France. London is also a primate city, as are
Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and many others.
*In most cases, the primate city is the capital city, because the
national governments wanted to put as much power in their own hands as
possible. Some places have avoided this, however, notably the
Netherlands, which have long named Amsterdam as their capital, while
keeping most government offices in The Hague (so it could not compete
with any of the major cities).
*Germany and Italy do not suffer from Primate City syndrome (Rome is
not even Italy’s biggest city), nor does Spain or Poland. This
has a great deal to do, especially in the case of Italy and Poland,
with the histories of these countries, which experienced long periods
of time in which they were not unified nation-states.
*The European Union does not have a capital, but most of its major
government offices are in Brussels, capital of Belgium, and this is
often treated as the capital of the EU.