Technically, Western Europe is supposed to be a group of countries situated in the western part of Europe, though the definition of Western Europe can be interpreted in many ways, both cultural and political. A definition of Western Europe is all those countries lying to Central Europe’s west. On the other hand, another definition for Western Europe is all the non communist European states and this was created during the Cold War. Hence, those countries lying to the east and in the center of Europe that did not have any Soviet influence are generally part of Western Europe whereas the members from the erstwhile Eastern Bloc are not included.
Moreover, it could have different geographic, cultural and economic meanings. Ever since World War II ended, Western Europe is regarded as all the countries that have high incomes and are developed and those that have democratic political systems, free market mixed economies, in good terms with the United States of America and is a member of the NATO. However, such a definition is slowly not being used because these characteristics do not apply to some countries now.
Based on the terms of the Marshall Plan, almost every country part of Western Europe received some form of economic assistance from America. A little later, majority of the countries joined the NATO and the European Community or their rival – European Free Trade Association.
Some of the countries that come under Western Europe are:
= The two winning countries of World War II – France and the UK.
= Those countries ruled by Nazi Germany and after the World War had been liberated like Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium etc.
= West Germany, which is the 3 important zones of Germany that had Allies control. Now, the entire country of Germany comes under Western Europe.
= Italy-which was an erstwhile Axis group and whom had surrendered after the war.
= The year 1922 was when Ireland became independent and during the war, it had remained neutral. It decided never to join NATO but in 1973, they became part of the European Union.
= There were certain special cases like the Nordic countries. Though controlled by the Nazi Germany during the war, Norway and Denmark, now part of Western Europe were not freed by the Allied powers. During World War II, Iceland, which was still a part of Denmark, had been used by the US and UK for operations without causing any casualties. Once the war was over, Iceland declared its independence.
= Another country that is now part of Western Europe and remained neutral while the war was going on was Sweden.
= The Soviet Union invaded Finland twice but could still not manage to overpower them. Once the Winter War came to a close, the two countries signed the Moscow Peace Treaty.
= Greece, Portugal and Spain that were erstwhile authoritarian regimes decided to become democracies during the mid 1970s. After that, they became part of the European Union.
= Small European Microstates like Vatican City, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Malta, San Marino and Andorra come under Western Europe.