Europe Economy

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Economy Europe is highly industrialized; the largest industrial areas are found in W central Europe, England, N Italy, Ukraine, and European Russia. Agriculture, forestry (in N Europe), and fishing (along the Atlantic coast) are also important. Europe has a large variety of minerals; coal, iron ore, and salt are abundant. Oil and gas are found in E Europe and beneath the North Sea. Coal is used to produce a significant, but declining amount of Europe’s electricity; in Norway and Sweden and in the Alps hydroelectric plants supply a large percentage of the power. More than 25% of Europe’s electricity is generated from nuclear power. Patterns of Economic Development Europe has long been a world leader in economic activities. As the birthplace of modern science and of the Industrial Revolution, Europe acquired technological superiority over the rest of the world, which gave it unquestioned dominance in the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the 18th century and from there spread throughout the world, was a transformation involving the use of complex machinery and resulting in greatly increased agricultural production and new forms of economic organization. An important impetus for growth since the mid-20th century has been the formation of supranational organizations such as the European Union (EU), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Agriculture Farming in Europe is generally of the mixed type, in which a variety of crops and animal products are produced in the same region. The European portion of the former USSR is one of the few large regions where one-product agriculture predominates. The Mediterranean nations maintain a distinctive type of agriculture, dominated by the production of wheat, olives, grapes, and citrus fruit. In most of these countries farming plays a more important role in the national economy than in the northern countries. Throughout much of western Europe dairying and meat production are major activities. To the east, crops become more important. In the nations of the Balkan Peninsula, crops account for some 60 percent of agricultural production, and in Ukraine, wheat production overshadows all other agriculture. Europe as a whole is particularly noted for its great output of wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, potatoes, beans, peas, and sugar beets. Besides dairy and beef cattle, large numbers of pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry are raised by Europeans. In the late 20th century Europe was self-sufficient in most basic farm products. On most farmland advanced agricultural techniques, including the application of modern machinery and chemical fertilizers, were used, but in parts of southern and southeastern Europe, traditional, relatively inefficient techniques were still dominant. For much of the period when the Communists held power, agriculture in the countries of the Eastern bloc (with the exception of Poland and Yugoslavia) and the USSR was based on large, state-owned farms and state-dominated collectives. Forestry and Fishing The northern forests, which extend from Norway through northern European Russia, are the main sources of forest products in Europe. Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia all have relatively large forestry industries, producing pulpwood, wood for construction, and other products. In southern Europe, both Spain and Portugal produce a variety of cork products from the cork oak. Although all of the coastal European countries engage in some commercial fishing, the industry is especially important in the northern countries, particularly Norway and Denmark. Spain, Russia, Britain, and Poland also are major fishing nations. Mining The present pattern of population distribution in much of Europe has been influenced by past mining activities, particularly coal mining. Coal mined in areas such as the British Midlands, the Ruhr district of Germany, and Ukraine attracted factories and helped establish the industrial patterns that continue today. Although employment in mining is declining in Europe, largely because of mechanization, several centers are still important. Northeastern England, the Ruhr region, the Silesian area of Poland, and Ukraine are major coal producers. Iron ore is produced in large quantities in northern Sweden, eastern France, and Ukraine. A wide range of other minerals, such as bauxite, copper, manganese, nickel, and potash, are mined in substantial amounts. One of the newest and most important extracting industries in Europe is the production of petroleum and natural gas from offshore fields in the North Sea. These products have been extracted in great quantity for longer periods in the southern part of European Russia, notably in the Volga River region. Manufacturing Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing has been a dominant force in shaping ways of life in Europe. Northern and central England were early centers of modern manufacturing, as were the Ruhr and Saxony (Sachsen) regions of Germany, northern France, Silesia in Poland, and Ukraine. Products such as iron and steel, fabricated metals, textiles, clothing, ships, motor vehicles, and railroad equipment have long been important European manufactures, and a great variety of other items also are produced. The production of chemicals and electronic equipment and other high-technology items have been leading growth industries of the post-World War II period. On the whole, manufacturing is particularly concentrated in the central part of the continent (an area including England, eastern and southern France, northern Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, southern Norway, and southern Sweden) and in European Russia and Ukraine. Energy Europe consumes great quantities of energy. The leading energy sources are coal (including lignite), petroleum, natural gas, nuclear power, and waterpower. Norway, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Spain all have major hydroelectric installations, which contribute large portions of the annual output of electricity. Nuclear power is important in France; Britain; Germany; Belgium; Lithuania, Ukraine, and other former Soviet republics; Sweden; Switzerland; Finland; and Bulgaria. Transportation Europe has highly developed transportation systems, which are densest in the central part of the continent. Scandinavia, European Russia, and southern Europe have fewer transport facilities. Large numbers of passenger cars are owned in Europe, and much freight is transported by truck. Rail networks are well maintained in most European countries and are important carriers of passengers as well as freight. Water transport plays a major role in the European economy. Several countries, such as Greece, Britain, Italy, France, Norway, and Russia, maintain large fleets of merchant ships. Rotterdam, in The Netherlands, is one of the world’s busiest seaports. Other major ports include Antwerp, Belgium; Marseille, France; Hamburg; London; Genoa, Italy; Gdańsk, Poland; Bilbao, Spain; and Göteborg, Sweden. Much freight is carried on inland waterways; European rivers with substantial traffic include the Rhine, Schelde (Escaut), Seine, Elbe, Danube, Volga, and Dnieper. In addition, Europe has a number of important canals. Almost all European countries maintain national airlines, and several, such as Air France, British Airways, and KLM (Netherlands), are major worldwide carriers. Most transportation systems in European countries are government controlled. Since World War II a large number of pipelines have been built in Europe to transport petroleum and natural gas.

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