The United Kingdom is made up of four regions—England, Scotland, Wales,
and Northern Ireland—and is a major industrial and trading country. It is a
parliamentary democracy as well as a constitutional monarchy, and about 90 percent
of its people live in cities and towns. Known as the Emerald Isle because of
its green meadows and trees, Ireland is a country with a growing economy.
France is the largest country in western Europe. Agriculture and manufacturing
are the major economic activities. In fact, France produces more food than any
other nation in Europe. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are known as
the Benelux countries. Belgium's location has made it an international center
for trade. The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in
the world. High technology makes its small farms very productive. Luxembourg,
one of the smallest countries in Europe, is home to many multinational companies.
Germany is a global economic power and a leader in the European Union. Although
the two parts of Germany were reunited in 1990, the eastern region still lags
behind the western region economically. The Alps form most of the landscape
in Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Although it has few natural resources,
Switzerland is a thriving industrial nation. Austria's economy is strong and
Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland make up the region of Scandinavia.
North Sea oil and gas have made Norway a wealthy nation, and Sweden also is
a wealthy industrial country. With its thick forests, Finland is a major producer
of wood and paper products. Denmark lies on a peninsula known as Jutland and
the 500 islands that surround it. With some of the richest farmland in Scandinavia,
Denmark exports many agricultural products. Because of its location on top of
a fault in the North Atlantic, Iceland is a land of hot springs and geysers.
The country's economy depends heavily on fishing.
Spain and Portugal occupy the Iberian Peninsula. Although agriculture is still
important to Spain and Portugal, most people now work in manufacturing and service
industries. The boot-shaped Italian peninsula extends out from Europe into the
center of the Mediterranean Sea. The Po River valley, in the north, is Italy's
main agricultural region and its principal industrial center. The capital city
of Rome was once the heart of the Roman Empire. Greece lies on the southern
tip of the Balkan Peninsula and the 2,000 islands surrounding the mainland.
Shipping and tourism are vital to Greece's economy.