Western Europe refers to the countries in Western Europe, where the distinction is different depending on the context.
The borders of Western Europe were once determined by the ratios powers during the Cold War. Europe was then separated by the Iron Curtain in half. A precise distinction between Western and Eastern Europe today is difficult to make and is increasingly avoided.
In terms of the history of modern times, the term Western Europe comprises those countries that comparatively early made experiences with democracy or constitutional monarchies, legal and national law, ie especially France and the United Kingdom / England, and the Netherlands ( with the 1830 incurred Belgium ). Then the term is used in contrast to countries such as Germany, Italy or Spain, where the (political) characteristics of modernity were much later more powerful and even well into the 20th century occurred autocratic and dictatorial forms of government.
During the Cold War were the market-economy countries of Europe, in contrast to the plane- oriented economic countries of Eastern Europe, the Eastern Bloc as referred Western Europe.
Before enlargement of the EU and NATO, the term was then used for the countries of Europe, a member of the EU and / or NATO were, however, including Switzerland, the two organizations are not consulted. This coincides approximately with the political Western Europe.
In the broadest political meaning Western Europe now includes all European countries except CIS members Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia. This Western Europe (except for the smaller states, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Austria, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland ) military connected in NATO with the United States and economically entirely on the European Economic Union ( EEC) aligned (see Western European Union).
In the statistical division of the United Nations and thus world politics among Western Europe: Belgium, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland.