As a continent, the economy of Europe is currently the largest on Earth and is the richest region as measured by assets under management with over $32.7 trillion compared to North America's $27.1 trillion in 2008. Europe's largest national economy is that of Germany, which ranks fourth globally in nominal GDP, and fifth in purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP; followed by the United Kingdom, ranking fifth globally in nominal GDP, followed by France, ranking sixth globally in nominal GDP, followed by Italy, which ranks seventh globally in nominal GDP, followed by Russia ranking tenth globally in nominal GDP then by Spain ranking thirteenth globally in nominal GDP. These 6 countries all rank in the world's top 15, therefore European economies account for half of the 10 wealthiest ones.
Agriculture and fishing
Europe's agricultural sector is in general highly developed. The process of improving Central Europe's agriculture is ongoing and is helped by the accession of Central European states to the EU. The agricultural sector in Europe is helped by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which provides farmers with a minimal price for their products and subsidizes their exports, which increases competitiveness for their products.
The Common Fisheries Policy is surrounded by an extensive system of rules (mainly consisting of quotas) to protect the environment from overfishing. Price guarantees and subsidizations of fishermen are implemented in the same way as agricultural subsidies are.
Europe has a thriving manufacturing sector, with a large part of the world's industrial production taking place in Europe. Most of the continent's industries are concentrated in the 'Blue Banana' (covering Southern England, the Benelux, western Germany, eastern France, Switzerland, and northern Italy). However, because of the higher wage level and hence production costs, Europe is suffering from deindustrialization and offshoring in the labour-intensive manufacturing sectors. This means that manufacturing has become less important and that jobs are moved to regions with cheaper labour costs (mainly China and Central and Eastern Europe).
According to Fortune Global 500, 195 of the top 500 companies are headquartered in Europe. The main products in European industry are bicycles, rail, machinery, marine, aerospace equipment, food, chemical and pharmaceutical goods, software and electronics.
Investing and banking
Europe has a well-developed financial sector. Many European cities are financial centres with the City of London being the largest. The European financial sector is helped by the introduction of the euro as common currency. This has made it easier for European households and firms to invest in companies and deposit money on banks in other European countries. Exchange rate fluctuations are now non-existent in the Eurozone. The financial sector in Central and Eastern Europe is helped by economic growth in the region, European Regional Development Fund and the commitment of Central and Eastern European governments to achieve high standards.
European banks are amongst the largest and most profitable in the world (Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank, UBS, National Trust, HSBC, Grupo Santander, BBVA, HBOS, Unicredit)
Transport in Europe provides for the movement needs of over 700 million people and associated freight. The political geography of Europe divides the continent into over 50 sovereign states and territories. This fragmentation, along with increased movement of people since the industrial revolution, has led to a high level of cooperation between European countries in developing and maintaining transport networks. Supranational and intergovernmental organisations such as the European Union (EU), Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have led to the development of international standards and agreements that allow people and freight to cross the borders of Europe, largely with unique levels of freedom and ease.
Rail networks in Western and Central Europe are often well maintained and well developed, whilst Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe often have less coverage and/or infrastructure problems. Electrified railway networks operate at a plethora of different voltages AC and DC varying from 750 to 25,000 volts, and signalling systems vary from country to country, hindering cross-border traffic. EU rail subsidies amounted to €73 billion in 2005
Despite an extensive road and rail network, most long distance travel within Europe is by air. A large tourism industry also attracts many visitors to Europe, most of whom arrive into one of Europe's many large international airports. Frankfurt, London is the busiest airport in the world by number of international passengers (third busiest overall). The advent of low cost carriers in recent years has led to a large increase in air travel within Europe. Air transportation is now often the cheapest way of travelling between cities. This increase in air travel has led to problems of airspace overcrowding and environmental concerns. The Single European Sky is one initiative aimed at solving these problems.