Germany – An Overview
The Federal Republic of Germany (“Bundesrepublik Deutschland”) is located centrally in Western Europe, bordering Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands.
Germany has a population of about 83 million people and an area of about 357,000 km². It is the most populous country in Europe and its population density is 230/km², which makes it one of the most densely populated countries in Europe as well.
Since the reunification of Eastern and Western Germany in 1990, the capital of Germany has been Berlin, which is the largest city in Germany with a population of about 3.4 million people.
Germany is subdivided into 16 federal states (“Länder”) that can take political decisions on a local level, in particular in the field of education, cultural development, and law enforcement. However, the influence of the federal government on the “Länder” is steadily increasing.
Germany’s current head of governemt is Chancellor Angela Merkel from the conservative political party CDU (Christian Democratic Union), who was elected in 2005 and is the first woman to hold this office.
Germany’s head of state is President Horst Köhler, also from the CDU. The role of the German President is, however, largely ceremonial and representative.
Germany is a founding member of the European Union, a member of the G8 and G4 nations, NATO, United Nations and signed the Kyoto protocol.
Its economy is the third powerful in the world and Germany is the world’s leading exporting nation.
After the collapse of the first democratic republic (“Weimarer Rebublik”) in 1933 and the National Socialist dictatorship, which came to an end in 1945, democracy based on the Basic Law (“Grundgesetz”) was established in Western Germany. In 1990, when Eastern and Western Germany were reunited, the Basic Law became the constitution of reunified Germany.
The cornerstones of the German democracy are the respect of the basic rights; democratic and social principles as well as the establishment of a constitutional court that monitors compliance with the constitution.
Social System and Health Care
Germany sees itself as a welfare state. Its primary task is to provide security for its citizens.
Germany has a higly developed network of social security systems such as an old age pension scheme, national health insurance, nursing care insurance, and public unemployment insurance. This social system is financed proportionally by the working population and taxpayers. Nearly everybody in Germany is medically insured, most people are part of the national health insurance while a smaller proportion is part of a private insurance.