The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Old Europe

Old Europe is a term used differently by politicians and historians depending on context.



In January 2003 the term "Old Europe" surfaced mockingly with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to refer to those European countries who were not in favour of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Rumsfeld answered to a comment, that more than 70% of the people in Europe were not in favour of the war in Iraq:

"You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe."

Rumsfeld's "Old Europe" is probably equivalent to the European Union, with the exception of the United Kingdom, Spain (where the government supported the U.S. in defiance of its people, which was later voted out and the new government pulled out its troops), Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Portugal and the newly joined Central European states.

The German translation altes Europa was the word of the year 2003 in Germany, because the Germans use it in a sarcastic way. The word went largely unnoticed in the English-language press.

In contrast to Rumsfeld's usage of "Old Europe", the term New Europe also appeared, another one that reveals the point-of-view of the speaker.

The phrase can be seen in the light of a divide and conquer policy practiced by the American government, where countries that support them receive benefits such as aid and trade preferences.

Antecedent uses

The Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx starts with the words:

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

When Marx used the term in 1848, the year of failed liberal revolutions across Europe, he was referring to the restoration of Ancien régime dynasties, following the defeat of Napoleon. Of his three sets of pairs, each pair links figures who might on the surface be considered adversaries, in alliances that he clearly sees as unholy, to set up one of history's most effective conspiracy theories. An "Old Europe" must find a mental contrast with a posited "New Europe".


Old Europe is also a term used by archaeologists and ethnographers to characterize autochthonous ("aboriginal") peoples who, according to one theory, were living in Neolithic Europe before the suspected immigration of Indo-European peoples. According to the theory these people arrived from the south-east, across the plains north of the Black Sea. The term was introduced by Marija Gimbutas, in The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974). Excavations in what was then Yugoslavia, in Macedonia, Greece and Italy made it possible for Gimbutas to focus on an investigation of the Neolithic period (which she termed "Old Europe") in order to understand cultural developments before the Indo-European influences.

Ancient Greek writers called the "Old European" pre-Hellenic dwellers in Greece "Pelasgians".

See also

See also

Freedom fries, Old World

Last updated: 02-07-2005 03:10:43
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55