Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the westernmost region of Europe, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity - the region lying in the Western part of Europe. Another definition was created during the Cold War and used to describe the non-Communist states of Europe that were allied with the United States to some degree. For this purpose the Western European Union, a defence agreement among Western European nations during the Cold War, was created in 1948. As a result, geographically central and eastern countries that steered clear of Soviet influence during the Cold War are usually included, while western members of the former Eastern Bloc (with the exception of Eastern Germany) are excluded.
Countries described as Western European are invariably high-income developed countries, characterized by democratic political systems, mixed economies combining the free market with aspects of the welfare state, and most are members of NATO and the European Union.
The United Nations (UN) Statistics Division considers Western Europe to consist of just nine countries.