Tag Archives: small country

The newest country in the world will be a small European one

Gibraltar aerial view (source: http://www.flickr.com/people/14944226@N07, through Wikipedia)

Recently, Gibraltar has become the newest European country by passing the most rigid of all tests – acquisition of the UEFA membership. I didn’t see it coming, did you? Gibraltar is in fact, the smallest European country, smaller than San Marino in terms of both area and population (of course, Vatican and Monaco are even smaller, but they’re not members of UEFA, are they?). In the last decades, Europe has been the world’s primary supplier of new countries.  Even though Europe is called the “old” continent, of the 34 new countries formed since 1990 26 have been formed in Europe. Or is it 25? Read on to find out…

As the statistics clearly show, the odds are that the newest country in the world will be a European one. That it will be a small one, is even more likely. So what will be the newest small European country? There’s no shortage of candidates – the list of active separatist movements in Europe contains dozens of movements from some 30 countries. Some, like the ETA, are well-known, but who has ever heard of the Northern Epirus Liberation Front? In addition, there are 6 states with limited recognition in Europe, 5 of which have national football teams. Which one will become the newest UEFA member, thereby earning to be called a “country”? Here’s my shortlist of the most probable candidates.

  • Catalonia
    The Catalonia national football team has already played over 200 matches. That in addition to the unofficial Catalonian national team – FC Barcelona. The football basis of Catalonia is obviously as solid as they get. But do they have the guts to say “adios” to Spain? Talk of Catalonia’s independence has been going on for years, decades and centuries, gaining much autonomy for the region, but my guess is that Catalonia just doesn’t have what it takes to make the jump and will remain part of Spain for the time being.
  • Scotland
    Next year, Scotland will hold a referendum on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom. The announcement has fuelled speculations of Scotland becoming the newest European country. These speculations are, of course, nonsense. Scotland is already a member of UEFA and therefore is a country on its own, regardless the outcome of the referendum.
  • Wallonia/Flanders
    Two for the price of one? Ever since Belgium was created, its French-speaking and Dutch-speaking parts are not on speaking terms (good one, right? I came up with it myself). The country holds the curious – whether sad or happy is for you to judge – world record of spending 19 months without government. Belgium seems to split at every election campaign, but like an unhappily married couple, the Wallonians and the Flemish seem content with making each other miserable. I wouldn’t bet on the Belgian split just yet.
  • The Vatican, Monaco and the United Kingdom
    This unlikely trio are the only fully recognised sovereign European states that are not a member of UEFA. They should have little problems joining should they wish so, but the chances of any of the three making the step are rather slim. The Vatican doesn’t see the point, AS Monaco is satisfied with being part of the French league and the UK national football team is a mirage, forever showing all the Britons what could have been if they’d have the will to unite.
  • Kosovo
    While Kosovo is called a “country” by many, and is counted as the 26th new European country in the list mentioned above, its not a member of UEFA yet. Therefore, it doesn’t count as a country as far as this weblog is concerned. Kosovo is the most widely recognized non-UN member state in Europe, and its football federation has already applied for FIFA membership. However, approving de-jure the de-facto independence of Kosovo is a too bold step for the FIFA (and presumably, the UEFA as well). The formal approval of Kosovo’s independence might open Pandora’s box of breakaway-breakaway republics, such as Abkhazia, South and perhaps North Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnisria, Northern Cyprus, Republika Srpska and so on, some of which already possess the ultimate symbol of independence – a national football team. FIFA and UEFA do not want that responsibility.
  • The unexpected candidate
    As mentioned, there’s no shortage of candidates to become the newest small European country. Who knows, perhaps it will be Gagauzia, Samogitia, Chuvashia or Krakozhia that will surprise the world by becoming the newest small European country.
What do you think? Which entity will become the newest (small European) country? Or, alternatively, who would you like to become the newest addition to the list of European states?


Filed under Europe, Small European things

A bite of classical Europe – the former Austria-Hungarian Empire

Europe is littered with broken empires. Whole of Scandinavia was once the Swedish Empire, the French Empire at the peak of Napoleon’s power controlled most of Western Europe, the Balkan used to belong to the Ottoman Empire, Russian (and later Soviet) rule has left its mark on Eastern Europe and traces of the Roman Empire are all over the place. Like Atlantis, the ruins of these empires are mostly under the surface, with bits of wreckage sticking out here and there. Sometimes they are in full view, like the Colosseum, at other times the old empires are visible only to those who know where to look, like that mosque in Thessaloniki that now disguises itself as a cinema. Of all the lost empires of Europe, I think that the most imperial is the Austria-Hungarian Empire, who’s leftovers are distributed among no less than 13 countries.

  • Why go there?
    The legacy of the Austria-Hungarian Empire is the best preserved one. Part of it has to do with the timing – it “lived” quite recently, in the late 19th to early 20th century. This was, of course, the Victorian era, the golden age of Empires, the time of the great balls and fluffy dresses. Another reason for the state of conservation of the Austrian-Hungarian heritage is the relatively peaceful disappearance of the empire. Unlike the Russian Empire, which pretty much exploded, or the British Empire, that imploded, the Austria-Hungarian Empire sort of dissolved, leaving the balls, castles and fluffy dresses intact.
  • What’s it best for?
    THE destination for classic Europe seekers. Mozart, Kafka, Freud, castles, balls, more castles, operas, carriages, its all here. The image of Austria-Hungarian Empire as the most classical of Empires is confirmed by the Sissi trilogy, movies that came to be synonimous with stiff court life in the capital of a grand Empire.
  • When is the best time to go?
    Probably during the shoulder season of September-October. The continental climate can make the summer months unbearably hot here. Christmas season is also quite special in these traditional parts.
  • How to get around?
    Easiest by train. The connections are excellent, distances are mild and the views are spectacular.
  • Why is it best to avoid?
    If you can’t handle diversity – steer clear. This is a region not united by a single language, religion or cuisine, and I can imagine some people being less enthusiast about a change in language and food in every new town.
  • Where to go if you just have one week?
    Its a bit hard to choose, but I’d still go for Vienna. In a region famous for its classics, the old imperial capital has the most class. Plus its only a couple of hours away from the other capitals – Budapest, Prague and Bratislava are all within reach for a day tour.

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Filed under Europe, Europe by region, Travel

Is Turkey just another small European country?

Is Turkey a part of Europe? While this question seems a recent, EU-related issue, it has actually been hotly debated across the continent for ages. Some count the Kemalist reforms of the 1920’s as the birth of the Turkey-Europe issue, others – the siege of Vienna of 1523 or go back as far as the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Some even trace the origins of this issue to the split of the Roman Empire to East and West in the 4th to 6th centuries. The exact answer is that of course Turkey is part of Europe – the UEFA says so as Turkey is a member state. There is of course the question whether Turkey can be counted as a “small country”, but I’ve addressed that in a previous post. And whether Turkey is a part of Europe – I for my part am an engineer and I choose the pragmatic approach. My answer is – who cares, as long as Turkish food continues to be a part of the European menu.

Here’s one of my favourite Turkish recipes – Yumurtali Ispanak (spinach with eggs).

Ingredients (for 2 persons):

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 kg of fresh spinach
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • Black pepper

Fry the chopped onion in olive oil until it softens. Add the garlic and fry lightly. Mix the tomato paste in and fry for a couple of minutes while stirring (it removes the sourness). Add the spinach and mix it in a bit. The spinach wilts a lot, so don’t hesitate when you buy a big green bunch of it. When the spinach has wilted a bit, make 4 “pits” in the spinach and break the eggs into them. Cover and simmer until the eggs are cooked. Add black pepper and serve with bulghur or couscous. Afiyet olsun!

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Filed under Europe, Just another small European country, Recipes