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Southern Europe

Related subjects: European Geography

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The term southern Europe, at different times, has had different meanings, providing additional political, linguistic and cultural context to the definition in addition to the typical geographical, phytogeographic or climatic approach. Most coastal countries in the United Nations-designated southern Europe border the Mediterranean Sea. Exceptions are Portugal which has only Atlantic coastline, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia, which are landlocked, and Bulgaria, which borders the Black Sea.

Geographical definition

Southern Europe

Geographically, southern Europe is the southern half of the landmass of Europe. This definition is relative, with no clear limits.

Countries geographically considered part of southern Europe include:

Iberian Peninsula (SW Europe)

  •  Andorra
  •  Gibraltar (UK - British overseas territory)
  •  Portugal (including: Madeira and Azores. Madeira is sometimes considered to be northern Africa)
  •  Spain (including: Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla, and plazas de soberanía. The Canaries, Ceuta, Melilla and the so-called plazas de soberanía are sometimes considered to be northern Africa)

Italian Peninsula

Balkan Peninsula (SE Europe)

Countries whose borders lie entirely within the Balkans
Countries that are mostly located inside the Balkans
Countries that are mostly located outside the Balkans
  •  Italy ( Trieste and partially Gorizia)
  •  Romania ( Northern Dobruja)
  •  Slovenia ( Primorska region)
  •  Turkey ( East Thrace region is part of the Balkans and Europe but majority of country is part of Asia)

Island countries

  •  Cyprus (geographically part of Asia but considered European for historic and cultural reasons)
  •  Malta (including: Gozo)

United Nations geoscheme

Southern Europe as defined by the United Nations (marked green):
   Northern Europe
   Western Europe
  Southern Europe

For its official works and publications, the United Nations Organization groups countries under a classification of regions. Southern Europe, as defined by the United Nations ( the sub-regions according to the UN), comprises the following countries and territories:

As of 2009, there were 163,865,210 people living in southern Europe with an average population density of 74 inhabitants per square kilometer:

Southern Europe:
Country Area
(2010 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Albania Albania 28,748 2,821,977 111.1 Tirana
Andorra Andorra 467.63 84,082 179.8 Andorra la Vella
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 51,129 4,613,414 90.2 Sarajevo
Croatia Croatia 56,594 4,489,409 81 Zagreb
Gibraltar Gibraltar (United Kingdom) 6.8 29,431 4,328 Gibraltar
Greece Greece 131,990 11,295,002 85.3 Athens
Italy Italy 301,338 60,418,711 200.5 Rome
Republic of Macedonia Republic of Macedonia 25,713 2,114,550 82.2 Skopje
Malta Malta 316 412,966 1,306.8 Valletta
Montenegro Montenegro 13,812 672,181 50 Podgorica
Portugal Portugal 92,090 11,317,192 114 Lisbon
San Marino San Marino 61.2 31,716 501 City of San Marino
Serbia Serbia 88,361 7,120,666 102.46 Belgrade
Slovenia Slovenia 20,273 2,054,199 99.6 Ljubljana
Spain Spain 504,030 46,030,109 93 Madrid
Vatican City Vatican City 0.44 826 1877 Vatican City
Total 1,338,694 163,865,210 74.05

Climatical definition

Climates in Europe according to the Köppen climate classification:

Southern Europe's most emblematic climate is that of the Mediterranean climate, which has become a typically known characteristic of the area.

Those areas of Mediterranean climate present similar vegetations and landscapes throughout, including dry hills, small plains, pine forests and olive trees.

The area which is considered climatically southern Europe is:

Phytogeographical definition

The European floristic regions

Southern Europe's flora is that of the Mediterranean Region, one of the phytochoria recognized by Armen Takhtajan. The Mediterranean and Submediterranean climate regions in Europe comprise the following countries and territories:

Linguistic southern Europe

Romance languages and modern Greek are the heirs of Latin and ancient Greek as the main historical languages of the Mediterranean area.

Romance languages

Romance languages have spread from the Italian peninsula, and are emblematic of southern-western Europe: the " Latin Arch" (Romania and Moldova are an exception on that point). Note that, Romance-speaking countries like Belgium (Wallonia), France, Monaco, Moldova, Romania, and Switzerland (French, Italian and Romansh speaking areas) do not belong to Southern Europe:

Small communities in
  •  Albania: Aromanian (officially, Albanian, see below)
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ladino (officially, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, see below)
  •  Bulgaria: Aromanian, Ladino (officially, Bulgarian, see below)
  •  Gibraltar: Llanito, Spanish (officially, English, see below)
  •  Greece: Aromanian, Ladino (officially, Greek, see below)
  •  Macedonia: Aromanian, Ladino (officially, Macedonian, see below)
  •  Malta: Sicilian, Italian (officially, English and Maltese, see below)
  •  Serbia: Aromanian, Ladino (officially, Serbian, see below)

Greek language

  •  Greece: Cappadocian, Cretan, Maniot, Pontic, Tsakonian, Romano-Greek, Yevanic
  •  Cyprus: Cypriot Greek
Small communities in

Albanian language

Albanian is also a language rooted in southern Europe, spoken in the Balkan peninsula.


  • Albania Northern Albania
  • Republic of Kosovo* Kosovo
  • Republic of Macedonia West Macedonia
  • Montenegro South-east Montenegro
  • Serbia Preshev Valley, Serbia


  • Albania Southern Albania
  • Republic of Macedonia West Macedonia
  • Greece Chameria, Greece
  •  Italy: Arbëresh (spoken by small communities in Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Sicily)

South Slavic languages

Slavic languages that are now spoken in southern Europe are not rooted in the Mediterranean area nor spoken mainly in those areas: In that sense those languages are not part of the linguistic definition of southern Europe, since they are logically associated with their "core". That said, southern Slavic languages form a quite homogenous area, geographically separated from north Slavic languages by Hungary and Romania.

Small communities in
  •  Italy: Slovene (in Eastern Friuli-Venezia Giulia)

Germanic languages

Due to the English colonisation in Malta and Gibraltar, Germanic languages have a little presence in southern Europe, far from the core of Germanic languages in northwestern Europe. Malta uses English as a second language in some cases (after Maltese, which still is the original and main native language). In Gibraltar, English is the official language but Spanish and Llanito (mix of Andalusian Spanish with some English) are also spoken.

Small communities in
  •  Italy: German (in South Tyrol and some small areas in the northern part of the country)

Maltese language

Basque language

The Basque language is a linguistic isolate spoken by the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France.

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