Germany country profile

  • Published
Map of Germany

Germany is Europe's largest economy and the most populous country in the European Union. 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 the two world wars left it 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 the rest of the country.

Since reunification, Germany has taken a more active role in the European Union, signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 and co-founding the Eurozone.

FACTS

  • Capital: Berlin
  • Area: 357,022 sq km
  • Population: 83.6 million
  • Language: German
  • Life expectancy: 78 years (men) 83 years (women)

LEADERS

Chancellor: Olaf Scholz

Image source, Getty Images

The 63-year-old former finance minister defied earlier expectations by winning the September 2021 election.

He formed a coalition with the Greens and business-friendly Free Democrats in December, becoming the first Social Democrat chancellor since 2005.

He took over from the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, who governed for 16 years in coalition with either the Free Democrats or the Social Democrats.

Mr Scholz was her vice-chancellor as well as finance minister in 2018-2021.

Despite having a much more restrained and cautious response than that of other Western countries to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Scholz oversaw an increase in Germany's defence budget, weapons shipments to Ukraine and a discontinuance of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Scholz set out the principles of a new German defence policy in his "Zeitenwende" speech to parliament immediately after the invasion.

Scholz described the attack as a "historic turning point" and announced that in response his government would use a €100bn fund to significantly increase military spending, reversing Germany's previously cautious defence policy.

President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Image source, Getty Images

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

He was reelected in February 2022 for a second five-year term as Germany's president. Although largely ceremonial post, he has been seen as a symbol of consensus and continuity.

His lenient policies toward countries such as Russia and China have earned him criticism both in Germany and internationally.

MEDIA

Image source, Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Image caption,
Germany has a lively newspaper scene, based on regional centres but read nationwide

Germany's competitive television market is the largest in Europe, with more than 38 million TV households.

Regional and national public broadcasters vie for audiences with powerful commercial operators.

Germans are avid newspaper readers and the non-tabloid press is a trusted news source.

Internet use is near-universal. Facebook is the most popular social network,

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Germany history:

1871 - Otto von Bismarck unifies Germany.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Germany's parliament is housed in the historic Reichstag building in the capital Berlin

1914-1918 - World War One. Germany is defeated and becomes a republic.

1933 - Adolf Hitler, head of the far-right Nazi Party, becomes chancellor.

1939-45 - World War Two sees defeat of Germany and its partition into the pro-western Federal Republic (BRD) in the west and the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic (DDR) in the east.

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

1957 - West Germany is a founding member of the European Economic Community, along with France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

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

1961 - The DDR builds the Berlin Wall to stop the flight of East Germans to the increasingly prosperous West.

1970 - West German Chancellor Willy Brandt establishes relations with East Germany in an effort to ease tensions across the Iron Curtain.

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

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Oktoberfest - Germany's traditional beer festival is held annually

1990 - Chancellor Helmut Kohl reunites Germany as a single state. East and West Berlin are united into a single city and eventually became the capital of a reunited Germany.

2005 - Christian Democrat Angela Merkel becomes chancellor.

2015-2016 - Government allows more than a million asylum seekers from the Middle East and beyond to stay, raising public concerns about crime and public services that far-right groups exploit.

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