Europe’s main economic power, Germany is the major point of contact between the developed West and the countries of Eastern Europe. Its territory is on fertile and arable land and has a heavily industrialized economy – with emphasis on the pharmaceutical, chemical and engine areas.
It is the cradle of political and philosophical schools, of great musicians, writers and artists. Since its national unity, at the end of the 19th century, it has been a key country on the international stage. Defeated in two world wars, the nation was divided for 40 years in West and East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought the country together and broke the post-war geopolitical balance. It faces economic difficulties that weigh on the entire European Union, which is part of
The German language and the feeling of belonging to the German nation has existed for over a thousand years, but the country now known as Germany was only unified in 1871 at Versailles, when the German empire, led by Russia, was formed. Germany remained an empire with people of different national origins for another 50 years. This was the second German “reich”. “Reich” is usually translated “empire” but it can also mean “kingdom”.
Germany is a federal state in central Europe belonging to the European Union. Germany is bordered to the north by the North Sea, Denmark and the Baltic Sea, to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland and to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Germany’s capital is Berlin. The national language is German.
Germany has a surface area of 357,000 km2, which stretches from high mountains to medium mountain ranges and lowlands.
The main rivers are the Rhine, the Danube, the Elbe, the Veser and the Moselle and the highest peak is the Zugspitze (2963 m) in the Alps.
The capital is Berlin (3.4 million inhabitants), but the seat of the government is in Bonn.
The Federal Republic of Germany is located in the heart of Europe. The nine neighboring countries are Denmark to the north, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France to the west, Switzerland and Austria to the south, and the Czech Republic and Poland to the east. This central situation was reinforced with the German unification that took place in 1990
According to Cancermatters.net, Germany has 81.2 million inhabitants; the average population density is 225 inhabitants per km2 (1992).
Protestants represent 43% of the population and Roman Catholics 43.4%.
Greater Berlin, whose growth rate has been increasing rapidly since German unification, currently has 3 400 000 inhabitants and is expected to reach 8 million by the end of the millennium.
The number of foreign residents amounts to 6 900 000. The Turks, whose number rises to 1 850 000, have long constituted the largest community of foreign residents, followed by residents from the states that were part of the former Yugoslavia, whose number – one million – is only possible to calculate in an approximate way due to the numerous war refugees. Then there are the Italians, the Greeks, the Poles, the Austrians, the Romanians and the Spanish. Germany owes a lot to foreign workers and entrepreneurs, who make a broad contribution to economic growth, adding about 100 billion marks to the country’s gross national product each year.
The official language is German, although there are numerous dialects. The differences between the latter can be so marked that if a German from Friesland, another from Mecklenburg and another from Bavaria decided to talk to each other in their respective dialects, they would have great difficulty in understanding each other.
Germany is the third world economy in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) (after the USA and Japan). The German economy is a market economy. Social security has a very heavy weight on the economy and the Germans have very extensive social rights. Currently, the Social Democratic government is trying to reform social security in order to reduce its burden on the economy. Reunification had a significant impact on the growth of western Germany.
Germany is currently undergoing a period of adjustment to eliminate the huge economic disparities between the eastern and western parts of its territory, especially disparities in wages and living standards. Germany has a social market economy. The automotive industry is one of the most important, alongside the mechanical and electrical engineering industries, as well as the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The metallurgical and steel industries also play an important role in the economy.
The Federal Republic of Germany consists of 16 Länder (states). Each Land has its own constitution, legislative body and government. The country has a parliamentary regime with two chambers.
The Upper Chamber or Bundesrat has 68 seats. Depending on the population, the number of representatives from each Land varies between three and six. The term of office depends on the dates of the elections in the different Länder.
The main legislative body is the Lower House, called the Bundestag (Federal Assembly), which has 672 deputies elected for a period of four years, by direct universal suffrage, according to a proportional system.
Executive power is exercised by the federal government, headed by the federal chancellor, who is elected by an absolute majority in the Bundestag and who then appoints the other ministers.
The Federal President is elected by the Bundesversammlung (a federal Convention) convened exclusively for this purpose and composed of members of the Bundestag and an equal number of deputies elected by the parliaments of the Länder. The President is, in constitutional terms, the Head of State, but has little influence at government level.
Each Land has its legislative assembly with the competence to pass legislation in all areas, except defense, foreign affairs and finance, which are the exclusive competence of the Federal Government.
The day of commemoration of German unity, celebrated on 17 June until 1990, was replaced by the day of German Unification, celebrated on 3 October.