flag.gif (13829 bytes)         Introduction to Germany

Map

Geographical location (1)

Located in Central Europe, Germany has common borders with Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland

Area
total:  356,854 sq km
land:  349,520 sq km
water:  7,390 sq km
Geographic coordinates:   51 00 N, 9 00 E

 

Population

Germany has a population of approximately 81.8 million (including 7.2 million foreigners) and is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe (229 people per square kilometer). Only Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Northern Ireland have a higher population density. 

The population is distributed very unevenly. The Berlin region, which has been growing rapidly since Germany's unification and has more than 4.5 million inhabitants, will probably have a population of 5.5 million by the end of the millennium. More than eleven million people (about 1,200 per square kilometer) live in the Rhine-Ruhr industrial agglomeration where towns and cities are so close together that there are no distinct boundaries between them.

Other concentrations are to be found in the Rhine-Main area around Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Mainz, the Rhine-Neckar industrial region around Mannheim and Ludwigshafen, the industrial area around Stuttgart, and the catchment areas of Bremen, Cologne, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Nuremberg/Fuerth.

These densely populated regions contrast with very thinly populated areas such as the heathlands and moorlands of the North German Plain, parts of the Eifel Mountains, the Bavarian Forest, the Upper Palatinate, the March of Brandenburg, and large parts of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. 

The western part of Germany is much more densely populated than the eastern part, where less than one fifth of the population (15.5 million) live on roughly 30 percent of the national territory. Of the 19 cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants, three are in the eastern part of Germany. 

Nearly one third of the population (about 26 million people) live in the 84 large cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. But the majority of people in the Federal Republic live in small towns and villages: nearly 7.3 million in municipalities with a population of less than 2,000 and 40.7 million in towns with between 2,000 and 100,000 inhabitants.

The population in both the old and new federal states began to decline in the 1970s because the birthrate was falling. Since 1990, however, there has once again been a slight upward trend in the west. With 10.5 births per 1,000 inhabitants per year (in the western part of the country) Germany nevertheless has one of the lowest birthrates in the world.

Age structure:
0-14 years: 16% (male 6,652,245; female 6,315,479)
15-64 years: 68% (male 28,649,361; female 27,498,980)
65 years and over: 16% (male 4,772,547; female 8,183,153) (July 1997 est.)
Population growth rate: 0% (1997 est.)

 

Infrastructure

11,143 km of motorways
41,770 km of trunk roads maintained by the Federal government
45,942 km of rail network
          more than 6,800 km of inland waterways
 
Major airports (in alphabetical order):
Berlin-Schnefeld
Berlin-Tegel
Bremen
Cologne-Bonn
Dresden
Duesseldorf
Frankfurt am Main
Hamburg
Hanover
Leipzig
Muenster/Osnabrueck
Munich
Nuremberg
Stuttgart
Largest inland port:            Duisburg
Major seaports:                    Hamburg and Bremen/Bremerhaven on the North Sea                                                 Kiel, Luebeck and Rostock on the Baltic Sea.

 

Constitution / Type of State

Consitution      Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany of 23 May 1949

Federal state with 16 constituent Lnder. After the first free elections in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) on 18 March 1990, the members of the Volkskammer (the GDR parliament) voted to establish five new staes. On 3 October 1990, the GDR - and thus the states Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia - acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany. The eleven boroughs in the eastern part of Berlin were united with the Land of Berlin.

 

Political System

Parliament

German Bundestag. The deputies are elected in general, direct, free, equal and secret elections. The Bundestag is elected for a four-year term. Plenary sessions are chaired by one of the five members of the Bundestag Presidium. Parliamentary work is largely carried out by the committees of the Bundestag, each of which is responsible for a specific field of activities.

Head of state

The Federal President is elected by the Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung) for a term of five years. The Federal Convention consists of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of members elected by the parliaments of the Laender. The Federal President represents the Federal Republic of Germany in its international relations. His powers include the appointment of the Federal Chancellor, who is elected by the members of the Bundestag, and the appointment of the Federal Ministers, who are proposed by the Federal Chancellor. The present Federal President is Professor Dr. Roman Herzog, who assumed office in July 1994.

Federal Government

The Federal Government (Bundesregierung) consists of the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. The Federal Chancellor determines the general policy guidelines. Within the limits set by these guidelines, the Federal Ministers conduct the affairs of their departments on their own responsibility. The present Federal Chancellor, Dr. Helmut Kohl (CDU), has been in office since 1982. He was confirmed in office for a fourth term after the victory of the coalition made up of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), CSU (Christian Social Union) and F.D.P. (Free Democratic Party) in the general election of 16 October 1994. The present Federal Government comprises 16 Federal Ministers from the coalition parties.

Representation of the Laender (states)

The Bundesrat (Federal Council) is composed of members of the governments of the Laender. Each Land has at least three but not more than six votes. The total number of votes is 68. Through the Bundesrat, the Laender participate in the legislation and administration of the Federation. Where the Federal President is prevented from acting, or where his office falls prematurely vacant, his powers are exercised by the President of the Bundesrat. The heads of government of the Laender serve as President of the Bundesrat in rotation for terms of one year.

 

Jurisdiction

The Basic Law guarantees all citizens complete and comprehensive protection of their rights. The structure of the court system is in keeping with the federal character of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is divided into a number of levels. The overwhelming majority of cases are tried by the courts of the Laender. The primary duty of the five federal courts (the Federal Court of Justice, the Federal Administrative Court, the Federal Finance Court, the Federal Labour Court and the Federal Social Court) is to ensure uniform administration of justice. The Federal Constitutional Court differs from all other bodies of the judiciary insofar as it is an autonomous court of the Federation that is independent of all other constitutional bodies and is in itself a constitutional body with supreme authority. Acting as "guardian of the constitution", it reviews the acts of government bodies as to their compatibility with the Basic Law.

 

Economic system

Currency      Deutsche Mark (DM 1 = 100 Pfennigs).

The Deutsche Bundesbank (based in Frankfurt am Main), which acts autonomously of instructions by the Federal Government, is the country’s central reserve bank with the exclusive right to issue banknotes. Its primary responsibility is to ensure the stability of the national currency. 

Social Market Economy

The economic cycle is controlled by the market without central intervention. The government authorities ensure conditions that make competition viable. A market economy includes the freedom of consumption, freedom of trade, free choice of occupation and place of work, and the right to private ownership. The right to free collective bargaining, i.e. agreement on employment conditions - especially the scale of wages and salaries - by the trade unions and the employers’ associations, is guaranteed under the Basic Law. Both sides of industry act on their own responsibility without being subject to government intervention, abiding by the Basic Law and the laws. In the public service sector, the Federation, the Laender and the local authorities act jointly as bargaining partners of the trade unions. The welfare element of the social market economy is reflected in an extensive welfare system encompassing a statutory pension scheme, health insurance, unemployment insurance, child allowances and other significant benefits. Progressive taxation takes account of the economic situation of the individual. The economy is regulated by framework conditions that influence factors of relevance to the economy as a whole, such as the volume of investments, money supply, consumption and national income. The goal is to ensure price stability, high employment levels and a stable trade balance while maintaining steady and adequate economic growth.

Major Industries

Automotive industry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, iron and steel industry.

 

Economic development (2)

Germany, the world's third-most powerful economy, is gearing up for the European Economic and Monetary Union in 1999. One key economic priority is meeting the Maastricht criteria for entry into EMU, a goal complicated by record unemployment and stagnating growth. The government has implemented an austerity budget in its attempt to get the deficit down to 3% of GDP as required by Maastricht, but further cuts probably will be necessary and there is little consensus among the parties or elate about next steps toward that end. In recent years business and political leaders have become increasingly concerned about Germany's apparent decline in attractiveness as a business location. They cite the increasing preference of German companies to locate new manufacturing facilities - long the strength of the postwar economy - in foreign countries, including the US, rather than in Germany, so they can be closer to their markets and avoid Germany's high taxes and labor costs. At the same time, Germany faces its own unique problem of bringing its eastern area up to scratch after 45 years of communist rule. Despite substantial progress toward economic integration, the eastern states will continue to rely on the annual subsidy of approximately $100 billion from the western part into the next century. Assistance from the west helped the east to average nearly 8% annual economic growth in 1992-95, even though the overall German economy had averaged less than 2% growth; growth in the east, however, tumbled to 2% in 1996, with unemployment a particularly severe problem.

GDP   
purchasing power parity - DM 3.6 trillion ($2 trillion) (1997)
real growth rate: 2.2% (1997)
per capita: purchasing power parity - DM 26,800 ($15.000) (1997)
 
International organization participation

AfDB, AG (observer), AsDB, Australia Group, BDEAC, BIS, CBSS, CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE, CERN, EBRD, ECE, EIB, ESA, EU, FAO, G- 5, G- 7, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MTCR, NACC, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UNOMIG, UPU, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC

Smmap.gif (1351 bytes)  Home               Smmap.gif (1351 bytes)  Next Page