Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Royale with Cheese - First of a series.

by senilebiker Thu Aug 13th, 2009 at 09:15:40 AM EST

Crossposted from DKos. I am sure my European based readers will be much more critical than the Kossacks, but I welcome the additional information.

You want to know what the funny thing about Europe is?
Its the little differences

Vincent Vega


When I published a photo diary last week on a small town in Germany, I received a suggestion that I should do a follow up diary on what makes Europe different from the US, and how we Europeans differ from Americans.

I was initially thinking of a photo diary, but the more I thought about it, the bigger the topic became. So I thought that I might make an ongoing diary stream on the subject, some photo diaries, other text based.

This is the first, with the object of defining what is Europe. Hop over the orange line.

promoted by whataboutbob


Over the years of lurking, and sometimes contributing to DKos, I have often encountered comments about Europe and Europeans that bare no resemblance to reality. In diaries about gas taxes, fuel efficiency etc, it is often repeated that

Europe is much smaller than the US

Europe's population density is much higher than the US

But first of all we need to define what Europe is.

There are many different definitions of Europe, geographic, political, ethnic etc, so we can start with Geographic.

Europe by Geography

The standard definition of Europe is the North West part of Eurasia, bordered by the Atlantic, the Meditterranean, The Caspian and Black Seas, and the Urals.

europe_pol_2004

This of course includes a large chunk of Russia, and a part of Kazahkstan - from which the name Cossack is derived - hat tip to Borat. The total area of this is 10 million square kilometres, whic compares to the area of the US which is 9.8 million square kilometres ( including Alaska which accounts for 1.7 million square km.)

As an aside I once was invited to a dinner in Orenberg, where the Vodka flowed so freely, that I was obliged to take a nap in our bus, only to be rudely awakend twenty minutes later to be informed we were now in Asia.

The population density of geographic Europe is 70/sq km, which  compares to the US density of 31/sq km in  However, this again includes Alaska, which represents 17% of the land mass and 0.2% of the population. Taking Alaska out of the calculation brings US density to 37/ sq km. In addition the non coastal Western states have huge amounts of land, and very small populations. For example, Nebraska,  Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, the Dakotas and Idaho all have densities of less than 10 per sq km, with Kansas coming in at 11. Source infoplease Note densities in the table are people/sq mile, and need to be converted.

To be even handed, a significant part of Russia included in this definition is also sparsely populated.

What this means is that while the US overall has a much lower density than Europe, in the more populated areas, the coasts and around the lakes, there is a much less significant difference.

When it comes to travelling, it is often said that distances are shorter in Europe. To go from San Diego to Burlington Vermont is 3300 miles - a trip that many people take weekly. To go from Seville in Spain to Tromso in Norway is - 3300 miles. If you wanted to go from Lisbon to Orenburg, it would be around 5000 miles.

Political Europe

As opposed to the geographic definition, Europe is often considered to be defined by its political grouping - primarily the European Union. Starting out as 6 countries in 1957 (Belgium, France, Germany, Holland,Italy and Luxemburg), it was expanded over the years to include the UK,Ireland, Denmark (1973) Greece (1981)Portugal and Spain (1986), Austria Sweden and Finland 1995. Noticeably absent from this list are Norway, whose request to join was defeated by a referendum,  and Switzerland.  These countries formed the base on which the single currency ( Euro) was launched (excluding UK and Denmark)and the Schenghen agreement, which did away with internal border controls for 13 countries. It is now possible to drive from Sweden to Portugal without showing your passport or id card.

With the advent of the demise of the USSR and Eastern bloc, membership has now been expanded to 27 countries including Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Roumania and others (including the baltic states.

The total area of the current EU is 4.8 million sq km, with a population density of 114 per sq km. Adding back Switzerland and Norway brings the area to 5.2 million sq km.

How the EU works.

The EU does not function like the federal government in the US.

The EU, either through its commissions or parliament can make laws and regulations which must then be confirmed by the member countries through their own legislative processes. At this point they can modify the regulation to meet local requirements, as long as the law meets the minimum standard laid out in the EU legislation. In case of a conflict, the EU law prevails, and the issue can be taken through first local courts, and up to the European court on appeal.

The EU does not set taxes. In order to be a member of the EU, a country must have a value added tax, and a small part of that  revenue is used to finance the EU's activities. However due to historic politics (Thatcher's handbag), each country's contribution is not always based on a constant factor.

Each country sets its own VAT rate, or rates according to its budgetary requirements, but are generally in the 15-20% range, with some products (e.g food, children's clothing) either lower rated or zero rated.

There is  no EU income tax, corporation tax, inheritance tax, which could be compared to US federal taxes. Each country sets its own policies and rates, and retains control of the receipts. Similarly with Social security contributions, each country has a unique system.

This last point is very important as international US corporations systematically underestimate the complexity of fiscal issues in Europe, erroneously believing that they can just ship US programs and systems to Europe. To paraphrase one senior US manager.

"The French payroll system is very complicated, Can't we change it?"

Nope.

A lot of the advantages for Europeans of the EU are linked to reciprosity and standardisation. For example, driving licenses have been standardised, which means that when one moves from one country to another, there is no need to exchange your license. ( an exception to this is if you commit a traffic offense which includes penalty points, then you must exchange so that the points are applied).

The introduction of the Euro has made travel much easier, and also allows easy comparison of costs between the countries. As there is no restriction on buying goods on other EU countries, this has had over time the effect of driving down price differentials. With the exception of alcohol and tobacco products, there is no smuggling of legally available products (drugs/guns etc are a different issue). Due to the very significant differences in tobacco duties (UK around €8 per pack, Spain around €3 per pack) a certain amount of smuggling occurs, and Ryanair for example sells a very high number of its UK/Spain seats to tobacco tourists, as the savings on the  legally acceptable amount can cover the discount air ticket several times.

Another advantage of the Euro is a very substantial reduction in the cost of making international transfers within the Eurozone, and the elimination of FX margins.

I hope some of you find this interesting/useful/informative and I'll stick around a while to be corrected for errors, and answer questions.

And to finish this first Royale Cheese, some more Vincent Vega

Apologies, I can't seem to embed youtube videos here. So here is a link.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srrsjDWCHTU  

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Interesting introduction to Europe. Could you also post the link to DKos - it would be fun to see the American responses.

You can find all kinds of help in the 'new user guide' and find that there is a macro for youtube: (*(youtube srrsjDWCHTU))

When you take out the asterix you get this

by Fran on Sat Aug 8th, 2009 at 03:51:44 PM EST
P.S. and I think sequels would be great. :-)
by Fran on Sat Aug 8th, 2009 at 03:53:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Fran, here is a link to the Dkos diary   http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/8/8/2242/45849

with the comments thread.

Coming shortly will be a diary on shopping habits ( thanks to a suggestion from an ET poster), and another on personal hygiene (following on a comment from this diary on DKos.

Lots of fun to be had.

by senilebiker on Sat Aug 8th, 2009 at 05:05:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean the one about the toilet? That one's funny.

Btw. though being a European I never been realised how big Europe really is. It always looks so much smaller on a map than the US, but your comparisons made me become aware otherwise.

by Fran on Sat Aug 8th, 2009 at 05:15:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why are American toilet doors stopping about two feet above the ground?

And when did you last see an ad in Europe with someone farting in a lift? Problems with gas? We would think that means you need to call your utility provider.

by senilebiker on Sat Aug 8th, 2009 at 05:42:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just curious; what have been the furthest you travelled on the ground (i.e. with train or car or bus)?

I have been to John O'Groats in Scotland; to Bergen in Norway, and to Mycenae in Greece. I haven't been to the Iberian Peninsula, not to mention the Urals, which would have been even further than the previous. From which I have a sense of Europe as big.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:05:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was a young student, 1973, I took a month's holiday by buying an interail ticket - 30 days unlimited train travel in Europe for around $100 at the time.

My trip started off in London, went up to Stockholm, with a boat trip to Aland - a Finnish island in the Baltic, and then down through Denmark, Germany, Switzerland Italy, boat over the adriatic to Greece, and boat to Mykonos. For the return we took the train from Athens through Albania, Yugoslavia, Austria Germany France and back to London.

In 2001, I did a motorcycle road trip from Florida to San Francisco over 3 months which was around 8500 miles.

by senilebiker on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:12:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That month's trip must have been awesome! ...though for me, it would have been a bit too much (not in travel distance but sights to absorb).

the train from Athens through Albania, Yugoslavia, Austria

Quibble: Albania, no. No rail connection to Greece to this day, and the one to Yugoslavia was not yet built and was freight-only. However, your train may have crossed Hungary before Austria (if it did not go via Zagreb).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
26 years is a long time, and I erroneously thought that Greece did not have a border with Yugoslavia.

On checking, this would have been the route.

We did not pass through  Hungary on the way back, but via Graz in Austria, although I have since visited Hungary on business.

by senilebiker on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So it was the Zagreb route.

The trains went through what is now Montenegro, which has a significant Albanian minority; and the Preševo Valley, which is again a region with significant Albanian population, and is just East of Kosovo. (Both areas had been subject to locally-grown ethnic militia conflict just like Kosovo.) I remember the part downriver from Preševo as something very beautiful to pass through.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 04:39:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The trains went through what is now Montenegro

MontenegroMacedonia. (I mess up these M...something names. As a small child, I was in then Yugoslavia for a few years, and knew Montenegro in the native-language version "Crna Gora".)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 04:54:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
was that it was a very slow train, taking about 48 hours from Athens to Salzburg.

Also, they didn't really bother with stations, as occasionally people would just flag it to a stop in the middle of nowhere and get on board.

by senilebiker on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 05:06:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finished at Sheffield University in 1976 and left the UK brown and parched at the tail end of the hottest summer and drought on record.

Travelled with a mate to Copenhagen, then down to Salzburg. We planned a few days in Belgrade but it was such a dump then we got the first train out to Athens. Mice under the seats, three card trick scammers coming up and down the train closely pursued by the guard...

Had a great time there, including half an hour chatting to Yehudi Menuhin and his wife - the only other people in a cafe on Mount Lycabettus - lovely people.

Then the ferry to Bari, and cattle class to Rome. Then Florence and Venice - both after the tourists had gone and the mists has begun in the lagoon...

We then split, and I went home via Copenhagen (and my girlfriend) again to green England, where it had been pissing it down since we left....

...ahhh...nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Biggest disappointment was finding out that the Orient Express was just one coach tacked on the back of a succession of trains....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 12:07:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure personal hygiene is something that happens in Europe.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Aug 8th, 2009 at 05:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL!
by Fran on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 02:34:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree. Very nicely done. A tweak here and there and it could become a basic lesson for everyone to know and read.

Looking forward to more...

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:10:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what Fran said...

Great diary, barely a trace of senility to it!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 06:49:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then what happens to Obelix?  You can't have Obelix without Asterix!

In fact, Europe would not exist without Asterix and Obelix!

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 01:28:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe includes Scandinavia, a big chunk of Europe the majority of which is on par with Alaska in terms of livability and suitability for agriculture.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 07:37:19 AM EST
Sure. Norway, Sweden and Finland collectively have around 1.2 mm sq Km, or around 23% of "political Europe" with population densities of between 12 and 20 per sq km.

Alaska however has 1.7 mm sq km and a density of 0.4 per sq km.

A more valid comparison is Scandinavia with the Western plains - Dakotas, Kansas etc.

by senilebiker on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 08:09:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... a lot of Scandinavians settled in the northern Plains, from Minnesota on west.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 03:52:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This of course includes a large chunk of Russia, and a part of Kazahkstan - from which the name Cossack is derived - hat tip to Borat.

Cossack is derived from the same Turkic word as Kazakh, but the etymology does not seem to originate in the founding predecessor state to Kazachstan.
The name entered the English language via French Cosaque. It is originally a Turkic word, qazaq, which means "adventurer" or "free man". Cossacks (Qazaqlar) were also border keepers in the Khanate of Kazan.

The Khatanate of Kazan is distinct from the Kazakh Khatanate. They both descend from the golden horde.

Central Asian history is so cool...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 05:59:19 PM EST
The first comment on DKos for this diary made a similar point.

I have learnt something from this.

by senilebiker on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 06:04:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All you need is a hunch (like: I thought these cossacks were Russian soldiers but now I hear they're Kazakh) and wikipedia. OK, and it's useful to cross-check wikipedia with some independent sources via google. No knowledge or expertise involved - in this case.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 06:29:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used Wiki and the CIA fact book for a lot of the stats in the diary, but I threw in the Cossack (remember the original was posted on DKos) just to lighten it up a little.

It's like building a house with your partner, it takes 5 minutes to agree on the room layout, and three weeks to agree on the paint colours. The little things excite the biggest reactions.

by senilebiker on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:19:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You want criticism, well most of these are quibbles:

  1. the map you chose to illustrate Geographic Europe cuts off most of European Russia (and is not a physical map)

  2. The Euro was launched only in 12 of the EU-15 countries

  3. Since then, the Eurozone expanded not only to Greece, but EU-25 countries Slovenia (2007) and Slovakia (2009), too

  4. The Eurozone also includes as full members four of the five non-EU-member mini-states (Vatican, San Marino, Monaco, Andorra)

  5. Schengen was launched by only 7 of the EU-12 countries

  6. since then, Schengen expanded not only to the rest of the EU-15 minus Ireland and the UK, but all of the next accession round minus Cyprus, too (2007)

  7. Schengen also includes extra-EU countries Norway, Iceland (2001) and Switzerland (2008/9)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:29:18 AM EST
My intended audience was the US, so I wanted to get the underlying facts across, and where as I did a large amount of fact checking on the areas, densities, I skipped Schengen in detail.

I did in fact mention the increase to 27, with a hotlink to a complete list.

As I said, I expected the ET readers to be able to correct me on some of the deatils

by senilebiker on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 03:54:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a cool graphic, ctsy of Kosmopolito:

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 04:08:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 04:19:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
may I use it in a future royale with cheese?

Thanks either way.

by senilebiker on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 04:54:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you're welcome
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 05:29:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot that Switzerland was not in the EEA... and Liechtenstein is in?... That's quite interesting.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 03:33:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nanne:
cool graphic, ctsy of Kosmopolito
According to whom
source: wikipedia


The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 04:06:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, it's a creative commons - licensed picture, which technically should have attribution (but then, generally, we don't bother about any copyright terms here, especially in comment threads). I could also have added that Kosmopolito got it via Gulf Stream Blues, but that seemed similarly superfluous.

(JCTFL)

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 07:56:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nanne:
then, generally, we don't bother about any copyright terms here, especially in comment threads
We always link to source (in this case, Kosmopolito) and that should be enough "attribution".

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 08:54:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, pretty much everything we do is fair use (or its EU equivalent) anyway because we're nonprofit and we usually discuss the images
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 09:51:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
4b. The Euro was also unilaterally adopted in Montenegro and Kosovo.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 10th, 2009 at 04:41:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Royale with Cheese - First of a series.
The EU, either through its commissions or parliament can make laws and regulations which must then be confirmed by the member countries through their own legislative processes.
Nitpick: legislation (directives) is initiated by the Commission and approved (possibly with amendments) by the Council and Parliament joinyly in a process called Codecision.
There are also Commission and Council regulations which are adopted by a separate method, I believe.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 04:12:21 AM EST
I was pretty sure that there would be a very complicated process behind what I said, but I wanted just to make a point for the US readers that the system was very different from The US federal process.

Thanks for the detail.

by senilebiker on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 07:06:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, if you diagrammed the US legislative process, from sponsorship in both houses to committees, to conciliation, with cloture votes and filibusters, all the way to Persidential signing, would it be any less complicated?

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 07:10:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by senilebiker on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 07:46:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hate to be technical, but I was not sure if you are saying it is theirs by extension that they created it or they merely described the proposals?
Republican Chart Outlines House Democrats' Government Takeover of Health Care

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sun Aug 16th, 2009 at 10:19:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Governing House, but rather one of two Houses of Review. The governing chamber is the Commission.

Rather as if, in the 19th Century US government, all legislation had to originate in the state-government-selected Senate, and the directly elected House of Representatives was strictly a House of Review.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Aug 14th, 2009 at 09:36:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Royale with Cheese - First of a series.
In order to be a member of the EU, a country must have a value added tax, and a small part of that  revenue is used to finance the EU's activities.
Also, to put the size and expense of the EU apparatus in perspective, the EU's budget is about 1% of the EU's GDP, and this 1% includes all the money that is dispersed back to the member states in the form of research grants and "structural funds" for the poorer regions.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 04:14:33 AM EST
European Tribune - Royale with Cheese - First of a series.
Apologies, I can't seem to embed youtube videos here. So here is a link.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srrsjDWCHTU  
((*youtube srrsjDWCHTU)) without the asterisk...



The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 11th, 2009 at 04:17:36 AM EST
"how we Europeans differ from Americans?"

That's it: CHEESE. We actually have an American Cheese. It is a staple of the poor. Think of it as poor man's cheese, priced down as low as possible. American cheese is not aged, and so it has no distinctiveness or taste. Then again, America is only two hundred years old, while Europe has roots extending thousands of years BC. Apart from Cheese, we lack the full complements of socialism, hence our arguments about capitalist medical care and socialist medical care, a debate made by the capitalists. How else are we different? Got me.

by shergald on Thu Aug 13th, 2009 at 11:13:27 AM EST
shergald:
How else are we different? Got me.
Utility vehicles are noticeably bulkier in the US than in Europe. This is the first thing that hits me, as soon as my plane lands, when travelling across the Atlantic.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 13th, 2009 at 11:16:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so are a good many of the people:

Utility vehicles are noticeably bulkier in the US than in Europe

The first thing that struck me upon return after a recent trip was the number of grossly overweight people, including children. Some of them could barely waddle through the airport.

by Mnemosyne on Thu Aug 13th, 2009 at 12:52:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fantastic essay, especially with all the input of info from participants.

The difference between theists and atheists is that the atheists don't set the theists on fire for refusing to agree with them.
by Knucklehead on Tue Aug 18th, 2009 at 02:59:21 PM EST


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