Europe was the stage of scientific and cultural revolutions. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, it was the richest region in the world. It currently has a total population of over 822 million. The European continent is the ideal destination for various types of tourism, with its medieval castles, historic cities, winter sports, Mediterranean beaches and many other options.
Europe holds just under 10 percent of the world’s population, distributed on slightly more than 7 percent of the Earth’s land area. In 2015, the most populous countries were the Russian Federation, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Ukraine.
Natural population growth is low compared to other continents and was estimated at –0.1 in 2019. Virtually all countries have low birth rates. Death rates are low, too, but the low birth rates combined with improved living standards lead to an aging population and thus rising death rates. The result has been a slightly increasing or, for some states, declining population.
In 2019, Kosovo, Ireland and Iceland had the highest natural population growth in Europe. A total of 20 states had a natural population decline; Of these, only Greece, Germany, Italy, Monaco and Portugal were located in Western Europe. The largest decrease was in Serbia, Ukraine and Belarus.
On average, Europe has a population density of 70 residents per km2. Excluding the European parts of the Russian Federation and Turkey, the population density is 100 residents per km2. The largest contiguous areas with a population density exceeding 200 residents per km2 consist of a belt running from England across Flanders and further along the Rhine, an area comprising central Germany, northern Czech Republic and southern Poland as well as northern Italy. In the most intensive industrial areas in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England and Northern Italy, the population density exceeds 1,000 residents per km2. The most densely populated areas mainly originate in industrial activities linked to coal deposits such as the Midlands in England, the Ruhr region in Germany and Silesia in Central Europe. Outside the aforementioned areas, major cities with significant industry, administration and trade have also emerged larger populous regions, such as Paris, London, Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Budapest and Saint Petersburg. At national level, ministries are exempt, the Netherlands and Belgium are the most densely populated, followed by Britain and Germany. The most populous is Europe in the north – in the northern part of the European Russian Federation, Scandinavia and Iceland – and in the plain area north of the Caspian Sea.
For the post-World War II period, when birth and death rates have stabilized at relatively low levels, relocations to and within Europe have been a decisive factor for the population. A characteristic feature, apart from the population relocation in direct connection with the war, has been the extensive move into Northwest Europe’s industrial areas that lasted until the oil crisis in the early 1970s. The main areas of emigration have been agricultural settlements in southern Europe and Turkey, and former European colonies in mainly North Africa and South Asia. The labor movements from southern to northwestern Europe have been very extensive, but are difficult to estimate numerically. It is also characteristic that they have mostly been temporary. During the 2000s, war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan,
Another feature that has been characteristic of the population movements in Europe since the Second World War is the movement from rural to urban. The degree of urbanization in Europe varies between 30 and 97 percent of the residents of each nation. Countries with high urbanization are Belgium, Malta, Italy and the UK, Germany and Sweden. The lowest degree of urbanization is found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Moldova. However, the way of defining urban / sparsely populated areas varies between countries, so a comparison is not entirely accurate. Europe has more than 1/4 of the world’s million cities, and the largest are Moscow, London, Saint Petersburg, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Kiev and Paris.
Urbanization in Europe continues with the exception of England and Wales, where the post-war urbanites showed a declining population share. Looking only at urban areas with more than 10,000 residents, since about 1970, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Austria also have a declining urbanization rate.
Since the traditional industrial core areas lost after World War II in relative importance as economic and population growth regions, a number of new ones can be identified:
For the period 1950–70, they can mainly be divided into two broad categories. One consists of regions grouped along a north-south axis, including the Rhine (with rivers in Lorraine and around Munich), the Rhône-Saône valleys and a belt south to the French Riviera. What is remarkable is that very little of the growth here took place in the traditional industrial areas, which is partly overlapped by the new zone. The population grew in medium-sized rather than very large cities. An example is southeast Randstad (the urban area east and south of the major cities Amsterdam and The Hague). A similar growth zone was also found north and west of London. A deviant pattern was exhibited in the Paris region, the only extreme metropolitan region that was also a pronounced growth zone.
The second major category is the growth zones in large and growing urban areas in southern Europe such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Rome, Turin and Milan.
Developments in Eastern Europe have been partly different. In financial planning decisions, there was a striving for smoothed urbanization during the 1950s and 1960s with the aim of reducing regional differences. Attempts were made to reduce population concentrations around large cities, while at the same time lagging areas would increase their degree of urbanization. Despite this, the population of large cities such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg increased very sharply, and virtually all major cities in Eastern Europe have had relatively uncontrolled growth. Part of the programs was the construction of new cities, mainly in the Soviet Union but also elsewhere. However, the building of an infrastructure for this sprawling urbanization became expensive and has lagged considerably. This has, for example, led to a “suburbanisation” to such an extent that a significant part of the city’s labor force is unable to live there. This, in turn, has resulted in extensive commuting for the labor force remaining in the countryside.
The above-mentioned pattern is largely recognized for the period after 1970. A decentralization trend similar to that of London and Randstad has emerged as a characteristic feature in more and more of Northwest Europe’s metropolitan areas, and the surrounding country’s population share has increased at the expense of the core area. The trend is also becoming more pronounced for smaller urban areas. Towards the end of the 1970s, this trend was noticed in France and northern Italy and during the 1980s in southern Europe. Faster communications, which reduce the need for proximity between housing and work, result in population growth in rural areas near economically viable cities. A prominent example is a growing part of the southern English countryside with commuting to London. Elsewhere, corridors with similar growth emerge, for example in the Heidelberg – Stuttgart – Ulm – Munich areas of southern Germany, Geneva – Lyon – Grenoble in Switzerland / France, Toulouse – Montpellier – Nice in southern France and Barcelona – Valencia in eastern Spain. In Eastern Europe, growth since the 1970s has been re-located around the larger center, while striving for a regional balance. One example is Hungary, where Budapest’s dominance has decreased while some regional centers have doubled their population.
The question of how many languages are spoken in Europe has no clear answer. Usually a hundred languages are expected, but with another boundary between “language” and “dialect”, the number can at least double. Add to this an unknown number of languages spoken by various immigrant groups.
Geographically, Europe is not a separate entity – all of its language families are also represented in Asia. The dominant language family in Europe is the Indo-European, represented by a variety of branches, the largest of which are the Germanic languages (in the north and west), the Roman (in the west and south) and the Slavic (in the east). On the periphery of the area are the Celtic languages (in the British Isles and Brittany), the Baltic languages (Latvian, Lithuanian) and Greek, Albanian and Armenian, which form their own branches of the Indo-European language family. Another important family of languages is the Uralic, which is mainly represented by its Finnish-Ugric branch (Finnish, Sami, Estonian and Hungarian as well as a further ten languages in the Russian Federation). The Altaic languages are represented by Turkish and a number of other Turkish languages as well as Kalmuckian in the Russian Federation. In Malta, the only native Semitic language in Europe is spoken Maltese. In Europe, there is also a language with no known relationship, Basque. Among extinct non-Indo-European languages in Europe, Etruscan is the most well-known.
The area in Europe that has the largest fragmentation of language is the Caucasus. Here, in addition to Indo-European (Armenian) and Altai (Azerbaijani) languages, there are about 30 languages in the Caucasian language family, where the largest language is Georgian.
Many European languages, especially the old colonial languages, are widely used in other parts of the world. In particular, English and French are widely used as interpersonal languages throughout the world. In parts of Europe, such a role is also played by German and Russian, which are also the languages that have the largest number of speakers in the continent.