From the standpoint of plate tectonics, the ongoing northward drive of the African plate into the Eurasian plate in the Mediterranean basin is the most prominent aspect of the European scene today. The pressure exerted by the African plate is the overall cause of the rise of the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Carpathian mountains. Limestones and other sediments, the ancient floor of the Tethys Sea, are pushed high and now make up much of these ranges. A submarine back-arc basin develops south of Italy, which is one of several Mediterranean mini-continental fragments caught between the two plates. This buckling of the Earth's crust forces up Italy's mountains and stimulates active earthquake faults and volcanoes such as Vesuvius. Iberia, another separate terrain unit, has been rotated and emplaced against the rest of Europe by the plate collision.
Moving north from the Alps and other ranges, tectonic activity largely fades away in the stable Baltic craton. One exception to this trend is a hot spot, rising from the mantle underneath central Germany, which has been responsible in geologic time for volcanoes such as the Vogelsberg Mountains in Hesse and currently provides heat to hot springs and lakes in the region.
Laurasia split off from Gondwana by the widening of the Atlantic Ocean, and very soon afterwards split into Laurentia (North America) and a Eurasian continent.
50 Ma — present
As the continents approached their present configuration, Europe experienced periods of land connection to North America via Greenland, resulting in colonization by North American animals. During these times, higher than present sea levels sometimes fragmented Europe into island subcontinents. As time passed, sea levels fell, with seas retreating from the plains of western Russia, establishing the modern connection to Asia. Asian animal species then colonized Europe in large numbers.