Where size doesn’t matter

June 2, 2009

145 words
27 August 2008
The Times
Times2 9
English
(c) 2008 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved

What do Tibet, Mongolia, East Greenland, a fifth of Kazakhstan, Timbuktu’s 15th-century empire and the area held by Colombia’s Farc rebels at the height of their power have in common? They are all the same size, according to recent press reports. That is, they cover the same area as Western Europe. Such is the ubiquity of the region as comparator that some countries, such as the Congo, are rarely mentioned without the “same size as Western Europe” label. Cliches are fine. But what is Western Europe? Is it the UK, France and Spain? Or is it everything west of the old Iron Curtain? There is no definition: this ambiguity is its virtue. Useful for journalists, less so for readers.

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