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France, the largest country in the European Union, is located in western Europe. It is bordered by Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain. France is one the founding members of the United Nations and the European Union. It is the 2nd largest European country by population, with around 65 million people.
France has had a big influence culturally, economically and politically in Europe and all over the globe during the last 500 years. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the country colonized land in North-America and Southeast Asia and in the 19th and 20th centuries, France ruled the second largest colonial empire after the British empire.
Paris is the capital and the biggest city of France. Population in the city is about 2,2 million or about 12 million including the metropolitan area. Today, Paris is one of the leading business and cultural centers in the world. It is the host city for many important international organizations such as OECD, ESA and UNESCO. The Paris region produces more than 25% of the GDP of France.
France has the fifth largest economy in world and is the 2nd largest economy in Europe. As well, France is the wealthiest nation in Europe and fourth wealthiest in terms of household wealth. The standards of living and the public education level are both very high. In addition, France is the most visited country in the world, receiving around 82 million tourists a year!
Spain – or España – is located on the Iberian peninsula and borders Portugal in the west and France in the north. The population of Spain is about 46 million and is the second largest country in Western Europe after France with an area of 504,000 km2. Spain was united into one country in the 15th century, but it still has 4 official languages: Castellano (Spanish), Catalan, Basque, and Galician.
Throughout history, Spain has had a global empire around the world, although the majority of its colonies were in South America. 500 million people speak Spanish as a native language due to this global occupation, making Spanish the world’s second most spoken first language. Nowadays, Spain is a highly developed country with high living standards as well as the twelfth largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in the European Union.
The economy of Spain has been called the most dynamic within the EU, a title which has attracted large amounts of foreign investment into the Spanish economy. A survey on quality of life ranked Spain amongst the top 10 countries in the world, ahead of advanced countries such as France, Germany, and the UK. The pleasant Southern European climate might have had something to do with this.
Belgium is a relatively small European country located in Western Europe, between France and the Netherlands. It is densely populated with around 11 million people. Belgium is the heir of several former medieval powers, and you will see traces of these everywhere while visiting this country.
In 1830, Belgium won its independence from the Dutch as a result of an uprising by the people. A constitutional monarchy was established in 1831, with a monarch invited in from the House of Saxe-Coburg Gotha in Germany. Belgium is a hereditary constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is King Filip, who took the oath of office on July 21, 2013.
Belgium is a founding member of the European Union and is also home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO (among many other major international organizations). Belgium has three official languages, with around 60% of the people speaking Dutch, 40% French and a small minority speak German. The country is also very well known for its beers and there are actually 178 breweries in Belgium.
Portugal is located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is bordered by Spain in the east and north and by the Atlantic Ocean in the west and south. The population of the country is about 10.5 million and the capital of the country is Lisbon. Portugal claims to be the oldest nation-state in Europe as it was already established by the 12th century.
Portugal was a major power in the 15th and 16th centuries as they expanded their power to oversea colonies, becoming the first global empire in history and also the longest lasting European colonial empire. The empire existed for nearly 600 years until the last colony was lost in 1999.
Nowadays, Portugal is one of the most globalized and peaceful nations in the world. It is a member of all the important international associations as well as a part of the Eurozone. The biggest cities in Portugal are Lisbon and Porto, where most of the business, finance and industry are. Even though the country is suffering from the global economic crisis at the moment, it is still ranked as having a better quality of life than for example France, the UK or Germany.