With 28 member countries and growing, the EU is an amazing family of nations that has a larger economy than the United States and in many countries, better living standards. There are the odd exceptions - newer states such as Romania and Bulgaria are far poorer than most European countries, but mortgage interest rates in places like Poland and Latvia are almost as low as they are in France and the UK. So what about the countries in Europe that aren't in....Europe? There are ten countries that are wholly inside Europe that aren't member states of the EU, and several don't have any intention of joining. Take a look:
With one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, you'd think that the Kingdom of Norway, with a mere five million people or so, would be a likely EU candidate. However, unlike the rest of Scandinavia, the world's fourth richest country (in terms of GDP) has elected to remain outside the Union, despite being a member of the Schengen common visa area. The reason has to do with the country's fishing and drilling rights - as an EU member country, it would have to share access to its offshore resources. Oil money has left Norway with over a trillion dollars in savings, which is probably why less than 20% of the population wants membership, according to an August poll.
The Swiss have always prided themselves in being neutral. Orson Welles once said disparagingly of the world's 9th richest country, "In Switzerland, they had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!" He couldn't have been further from the truth - the Swiss have given us the world-wide web (British scientist Berners-Lee and Belgian computer scientist Robert Cailliau developed the concept between 1990 and 1993 at Swiss research company, CERN), LSD (which Swiss scientist Albert Hoffmann first synthesized in 1938) and Albert Einstein. Not bad for a mountainous country with only 8 million people. As a confederacy of 20 regions called cantons, the Swiss like keeping government local. They rely heavily on immigrant labor but few of these immigrants have any chance of becoming citizens. The country is surrounded on all sides by the EU, but according to an EU website, "opponents of Switzerland's accession to the European Union have always believed that such a move would undermine some of the fundamental principles on which the Swiss political system is based, namely its neutrality and its system of direct democracy, and that it would carry with it the risk of a massive influx of foreign nationals."
Montenegro intends to join the European Union and is one of five candidates; the others are Iceland, Serbia, Macedonia and Turkey. It has a population of just over 600,000 which already uses the euro. Montenegro applied to become a member of the union in 2008, two years after dissolving a union with Serbia, and is in negotians. Its northern neighbor, Croatia, became a member this July. Unlike Serbia, it isn't considered a mortal enemy of Croatia.
Montenegro's population is overwhelmingly pro-EU, with 76.2% being in favour according to polling and only 9.8% against, in October 2009. In order to qualify, Montenegro had to pass a number of laws, including one that prohibited people from discriminating against homosexuals, which makes you wonder just how many Montenegran homosexuals there are. They probably get the ones that flee Albania - Albanian migrants predominate in the southern part of the country. Albania is sort of 'macho' Muslim and still has blood feuds.
Serbia would like to become a member of the European Union next year. Like Macedonia, it is an official candidate. Economically it was doing as well as Bulgaria until the crisis, but its candidacy might be negatively affected by its legacy of war crimes. In 2000, Milosevic, considered the 'bad guy' behind the war crimes committed in Bosnia, was kicked out by a student movement called 'Otpor', meaning 'disgust'. Otpor had a lot in common with Ukraine's Orange revolutionaries, but it didn't fail - Serbia actually became far more democratic and open. Despite it all, there are hangups over Kosovo, which Serbia still claims as its own. Opinions on Kosovo independence among Slavs in general tend to be against it.
Like Serbia, Macedonia is an official candidate. Most people don't really have anything against Macedonia except the Greeks, which don't really like the name "Macedonia" - the Greeks believe that the homeland of Alexander the Great was part of Greece, and part of Greece is already called Macedonia. However, the area was indeed in Macedonia, which was larger. Macedonia is officially called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and economically they're doing slightly worse than the Serbs and slightly better than the Albanians. In October 2012, the European Commission recommended for the fourth consecutive year that membership negotiations with Macedonia be launched. On each previous occasion the opening of negotiations were vetoed by Greece. In 2012 Bulgaria also utilized their veto. Of the two million inhabitants of the country, 25% are Albanian and 25% live in Skopje. It has been an EU candidate since 2005.
6. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is actually two republics in one; you would think that they would be Bosnia and Herzegovina, but actually no, they are the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. The latter is ethnically Serbian, and most people blame them for being the instigators in the Bosnian War. Most people want to see Bosnia join the EU because it would be a way of putting the memory of the conflict behind everyone. However, the Serbians don't really like the idea, so Bosnia hasn't officially applied for candidacy.
Albanians are not well-loved in Europe. While Bosnia is home to the Bosniaks, which are extremely good-looking Slavic Muslims, Albanians are known for being more like the Italian Mafia. Gallup Global Reports 2010 revealed that religion plays a role in the lives of only 39% of Albanians, and ranks Albania the thirteenth least religious country in the world. In Italy and France, Albanians are typically associated with organized crime. Albanians have moved out of Albania proper and constitute the majority in parts of Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The majority of the people in Kosovo are ethnic Albanians (92%) although they call themselves "Kosovars" because, face it, nobody wants to associate him or herself with Albania. In P. J. O'Roarke's "All the Trouble in the World", he was surprised to see while flying in a plane over Albania that most of the communities were at the tops of hills for defensive reasons rather than being in valleys in order to facilitate trade and agriculture. According to Robert Young Pelton, the Albanians were so happy to see the United Nations sending expensive SUVs to help their fellow ethnic Albanians in Kosovo that they promptly carjacked them. Albania is only home to 2.8 million people. Albania is interested in being a member of the European Union but it has further to go than neighboring Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia.
Moldova is part of Romania that was taken over by the Soviets and never relinquished. There was talk of reuniting Romania and Moldova in the 90's, which prompted Transdnistria to secede and become an unrecognized state. Such countries seldom make it into the EU, but Serbia and Cyprus have breakaway regions and the European Commission doesn't seem to discriminate against them as much as it could have. Cyprus made it in and Serbia is an official candidate despite Kosovo. With barely more than half of Ukraine's GDP per capita and less than 1/3rd of Romania's, Moldova is by all measure the poorest country in Europe; most people struggle by on less than $200 per month. You know you're doing something wrong when your citizens aspire to move to Romania or Odessa. Like the former Yugoslav republics that aren't in the EU, Moldova is a member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement with the EU.
Ukraine has a split personality. In Russian and Ukrainian, the name of the country means 'fronteir', and it is at the border between traditional Russian and Polish spheres of influence. This is a predicament which dates back 360 years to the Khmelnytsky Rebellion, when Ukrainian Cossacks rebelled against their Polish masters and established a relationship with Russia, which Ukraine had originally colonized in the early 12th century before being defeated by the Mongols. Although the Ukrainians have their own language (which is admittedly close to Russian), the country wasn't united under one flag until the aftermath of World War II when ethnically Ukrainian regions of Poland and Czechoslovakia were united with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, under Stalin's forced collectivization, millions had died from hunger or were shipped to Siberia, so Ukrainians often have the same attitude towards Russians that the Irish have towards the English (due to the 1840's potato famine). Ukraine is poorer and more corrupt than most of Europe; it is even poorer and more corrupt than Russia. However, the EU is more upset about the fact that the democratic Orange Revolution which had favored Western Ukrainian political interests over Eastern European ones ultimately failed; the government is currently dominated by politicians from the East. Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are predominantly Russian-speaking as many ethnic Russians live there. Russia desperately wants Ukraine to join its Customs Union; the current members are Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. However, Ukraine longs to be part of Europe and has made overtures reflecting the matter to the European Commission. Unfortunately, the EU is upset about the fact that the President of Ukraine jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. She was a crook, but he did it for political reasons.
Belarus won't be joining the European Union. The home of the "last dictator in Europe" has opted instead to join Russia's customs union. Belarus originally had plans to join Russia directly but Lukashenko decided that it was good to be the king, and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan probably had the same idea. However, trade unions are useful so both managed to hook up with Russia. Belarus is far more Soviet in style than Russia. Businessmen are regularly thrown in jail and the country still has a KGB, which it actually calls the KGB. The money, called "bunnies", is pretty much useless - it takes thousands of bunnies to buy a single US dollar. Pro-democracy protests in Minsk were banned, alongside Twitter and Facebook; when protesters decided to express disaproval by clapping, that was banned too. Despite it all, many claim that Belarus is better run by its leader, who the people call Batko ('Papa'), than neighboring Ukraine, which is poorer and more corrupt, with more unemployment and more meagre pensions.