Europe

Germany country profile

Map of Germany

Germany is Europe's most industrialised and populous country. Famed for its technological achievements, it has also produced some of Europe's most celebrated composers, philosophers and poets.

Achieving national unity later than other European nations, Germany quickly caught up economically and militarily, before defeats in World War One and Two left the country shattered, facing the difficult legacy of Nazism, and divided between Europe's Cold War blocs.

Germany rebounded to become the continent's economic giant, and a prime mover of European cooperation. With the end of the Cold War, the two parts of the country were once again united, although the economy of the former east continues to lag behind that of the former west.

FACTS

Federal Republic of Germany

Capital: Berlin

  • Population 82 million

  • Area 357,027 sq km (137,849 sq miles)

  • Major language German

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 78 years (men), 83 years (women)

  • Currency euro

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LEADERS

Chancellor: Angela Merkel

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Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, won a third term in September 2013, leading her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) to victory and only narrowly failing to secure an outright majority.

She faced a serious challenge to her leadership in the autumn of 2015, after offering temporary asylum to refugees fleeing turmoil in Syria.

Angela Merkel became leader of the CDU in 2000 after the then party head, Wolfgang Schaeuble, resigned in connection with the party funding scandal that also tainted her long-time mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

She was born in Hamburg in 1954 but grew up in East Germany, where her father was a Protestant clergyman. She has a doctorate in physics.

President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier

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Former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected federal president in February 2017, succeeding Joachim Gauck.

A Social Democrat, Mr Steinmeier has the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" of centre-right and centre-left parties.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Steinmeier pledged to stand up to the rising trend of populism and promote dialogue and democracy.

MEDIA

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Germany's competitive television market is the largest in Europe, with some 34 million TV households.

The many regional and national public broadcasters - organised in line with the federal political structure - vie for audiences with powerful commercial operators. Each of the 16 regions regulates its own private and public broadcasting.

Around 90% of German households have cable or satellite TV, and viewers enjoy a comprehensive mix of free-to-view public and commercial channels. This has acted as a brake on the development of pay-TV.

Germany is home to some of the world's largest media conglomerates, including Bertelsmann and the publisher Axel Springer. Some of Germany's top free-to-air commercial TV networks are owned by ProSiebenSat1.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Germany history:

1871 - Otto von Bismarck achieves unification of Germany.

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Image caption Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, is housed in the Reichstag in the capital Berlin

1914-1918 - World War I. Germany defeated, Kaiser Wilhem II abdicates, Germany goes on to become a republic.

1933 - Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party, becomes chancellor.

1939-45 - World War II sees defeat of Germany and its allies.

1949 - Germany is divided. The US, French and British zones in the west become the Federal Republic of Germany; the Soviet zone in the east becomes the communist German Democratic Republic.

1955 - West Germany joins Nato; East Germany joins the Warsaw Pact.

1957 - West Germany is a founding member of the European Economic Community.

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Image caption The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked a pivotal moment in Germany's modern history

1961 - Construction of the Berlin Wall.

1989 - Mass exodus of East Germans as Soviet bloc countries relax travel restrictions. Berlin Wall is torn down.

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Image caption Oktoberfest - Germany's traditional beer festival is held annually

1990 - Helmut Kohl leads a reunified Germany.

2005 - Angela Merkel becomes chancellor.

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