Europe is comprised of 47 countries, with approximately 742.5 million people (2013). Of these countries, 28 are members of the European Union, a politico-economic union formed in 1993 that operates through a system of supranational institutions and intergovernmental-negotiated decisions by its member states. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, enact legislation in justice affairs, and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, and regional development. The EU recognizes 24 official languages. As of 2013, German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (about 18% of EU population) and English is the most widely spoken foreign language (about 38%).
Wealth varies across Europe and is visible along the former Cold War divide, although the poorest are well above the poorest states of other continents in terms of GDP and living standards. Germany is Europe’s largest national economy, which ranks fourth globally in nominal GDP and fifth in purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP. Highly developed countries with long histories of trade and free market systems are generally located in the north and west of the continent. These countries tend to be wealthier and more stable than countries in the east and south, even though the gap is shrinking, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, due to higher growth rates. The poorest states are those that have emerged from communism, fascist dictatorships and civil wars, namely those of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Despite the overall wealth of the EU, poverty is still at a relatively high level. In 2010, 16.4% of the population (80 million people) lived below the poverty threshold in the EU. The Czech Republic (9% of the population), the Netherlands (10%), Austria and Hungary (12%) are the countries where poverty is lowest. The highest rates of poverty occur in Eastern Europe, in Romania and Bulgaria. Spain and Greece have similar poverty levels of about 20%; both were seriously affected by the recent economic crisis and have seen their unemployment rates rise considerably. As of 2014, the unemployment rate in the EU is 11.9%.
Europeans were pioneers of the motion picture industry beginning in the late 19th century. In 1888, the Frenchman Louis Le Prince created the first known celluloid film. In 1895, the Skladanowsky brothers of Germany presented the first film show ever using their “Bioscop” projector. Also in 1895, the French Lumière brothers patented the Cinematograph, a motion film camera and projector, which initiated the silent film era. Notable early European film movements include: German Expressionism (1920s), French Impressionist Cinema (1920s), Poetic realism (1930s), and Italian neorealism (1940s). Post-WWII movements include: Free Cinema (1950s), French New Wave (1950s–60s), Polish Film School (1950s–60s), Czechoslovak New Wave (1960s), New German Cinema (1960s–80s), British New Wave (1950s–60s), Spaghetti Western (1960s), and Novo Cinema (1960s–70s). Notable 21st century movements include: Dogme 95, New French Extremity, Romanian New Wave, and Berlin School. There are over twenty European film festivals, most notably: Berlin, Cannes, and Venice. The most prestigious film awards are the European Film Awards and the BAFTA Awards.