Where exactly does Europe end? I have never spoken to anyone who could really give me a concrete answer on this, even though everyone seems to have at least an opinion or at the very least a guess. The question came up a while ago when I was discussing with some friends of my mother in law's back in Ploërmel. For them, Italy was the Eastern limit of Europe. Russia was definitely not part of Europe, and certainly not Turkey. Although Russia will probably never join the EU, Turkey has already applied.
I guess before I go any further, I should explain a little bit of what full membership in the EU offers. Once you are a full EU citizen, you can stay in any country as long as you want. There is no real restriction for time you can stay, as long as you enter legally. You can drive in any of the EU nations with no problems either. You also have no worries for health care since all EU countries have universal healthcare. It's just a card that you carry that's recognized throughout the EU. In fact, there's an ad I absolutely have to post about it, as it was perfect.
So there are a lot of benefits to being a full EU citizen and in an EU participating country.
Originally, the European Union was started as a way to encourage business and cooperation between countries back in 1955. It was originally called the European Coal and Steel Community, and comprised of six countries: Belgium, France, (West) Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. Later, other co-operational treaties were created and currently there are 27 member countries.
The difficulty is in how many treaties came together, and what still lies as an exception. For example, the UK and Ireland are outside of what's known as the Schengen Zone. Being inside the Schengen Zone means free travel within the Zone. Those countries outside of the zone can travel, but there are usually more checks, and it becomes more difficult to travel between an non Schengen country. Although I do have to say I have never had a problem with my American Passport. By far, coming into England is the only time I ever really felt stressed coming into the EU. I had to fill out what the called a Landing Card. They wanted all kinds of information on me. It was insane.
So now is where things get tricky. What is the real judge of an EU country? Should it be judged by who uses the Euro and who doesn't? Remember, the UK still uses Pounds Sterling. There are still countries that are technically part of the EU, but haven't officially switched currency. Norway is a member for some things, but not all. Then there are countries known as the PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) that are generally economically weak. People can live in these countries, coming from stronger members of the EU for a very low cost of living.
Really though, there's no way to get everyone together as to what are the actual borders, and there are even some countries that talk about pulling out. Marine Le Pen, a far right candidate for President, wants to remove France from the Euro Zone and put it back on the Franc. The problem would be whether or not the prices go back to the original price, where one pays 1 franc 20 for a loaf of bread, or should they stay with the inflated Euro prices (one euro makes about 6 francs 60.) French people would never stand for paying 10 francs for a loaf of bread, so they would have to lower the price. In doing so, the French market becomes destabilized.
Now, if they actually lowered the prices, for someone like me here in France, that would be wonderful. Right now, it takes about $1.38 to make a euro. So if I were to buy something for 20 euros in France, I'm actually spending about $30. If it were to change, we're looking at about 5 francs to make a dollar, meaning that every time I buy something for 30 francs here, I'm paying about 6 bucks. Awesome for me, not so much for the French. That would be the point to pull money over. So it would depend on what they do, and how they would do it.
But that's enough money talk for now. I'm going to reheat the Kouign Amann. Talk Later!