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Western Europe

Western Europe is distinguished from Central and Eastern Europe by geography and also by differences of history and culture, although these boundaries are subject to considerable overlap and fluctuation, and sometimes differentiation is difficult. The concept of Western Europe is also associated with liberal democracy; and its countries are generally deemed to be well within the cultural hegemony of the United States of America.

Before the Cold War "Western Europe" was used to describe France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg.

During the Cold War, when Western Europe designated the countries part of the NATO treaty and under American influence, the term was often used as opposed to Eastern Europe, which was under Soviet influence. The borders between Western and Eastern countries were, especially on the Eastern side, securely defended. These borders were also called the Iron Curtain.

Until recently Western Europe could safely be said to comprise the countries of the European Union plus Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Norway, San Marino, and Monaco. However many countries in what are (or were) regarded as Eastern or Central Europe such as Poland and the Czech Republic are now seeking accession to the European Union. It is likely that increased economic and cultural ties with Western European countries will lead to a westward migration as accession occurs, and that the definition of Western Europe will again have to be redrawn at some point in the future.

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