Characteristic global climatic events are employed to interpret the regional, land-based European stratigraphy. The Chinese loess record shows well expressed, continuous and reliably dated climatic signals of worldwide significance, which are well correlated with the marine oxygen isotope stratigraphy. The sequence in the surroundings of Ferdinandow in Poland plays a key role in the correlation of the European stratigraphy with the loess record and the oxygen isotope record. In particular, the complex but well-expressed Ferdinandowian Interglacial is a key marker because it shows striking similarities with the most pronounced soil complex of the last 700 ka years of the Chinese loess sequence (S5) and, by correlation, Oxygen isotope stages (OIS) 13-15. It follows that the Holsteinian Interglacial corresponds with the S4-soil and OIS 11. This appears to be confirmed by sequences deposited in the craters of the Central Massif, France. Problems of regional stratigraphical correlation in Europe persist, but is suggested that a general framework is now established. © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.