Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Germany country profile – BBC News

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Germany is Europe’s largest economy and the most populous country in the European Union.

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

After 1949, West Germany rebounded to become the continent’s economic giant and a prime mover of European cooperation. Franco-German cooperation was central to European economic integration in the 1980s and 1990s.

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.


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


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

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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.

Image source, 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,


Some key dates in Germany history:

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Image caption, Germany’s parliament is housed in the historic Reichstag building in the capital Berlin

800 – Emperor Charlemagne, Frankish ruler of France and Germany is crowned Roman emperor by Pope Leo III.

843 – Break-up of the Frankish empire; Germany emerges as separate realm.

962 – German King Otto I is crowned Roman emperor after gaining control of northern Italy; beginning of what becomes known as Holy Roman Empire centred on Germany.

1250 – Death of Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen marks the virtual end of central authority and the acceleration of empire’s collapse into independent princely territories.

1438 – Election of Albert I marks beginning of Habsburg dynasty based in Austria.

1517 – Martin Luther proclaims Ninety-Five Theses against traditional church practices; start of Protestant split from the Catholic Church.

1618-1648 Thirty-Years’ War: The failure of Habsburg emperors’ attempt to restore Catholic dominance and imperial authority against the opposition of Protestant princes.

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Image caption, 1648: The Treaty of Osnabruck, along with the Treaty of Munster, ends the Thirty Years War

1648 – Peace of Westphalia – the collective name for two peace treaties signed in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück and Münster – ends the war. The Peace of Westphalia has traditionally being seen as the origin of principles crucial to modern international relations.

1806 – Napoleon’s armies impose French rule over much of Germany; Francis II declares abolition of Holy Roman Empire and adopts title of emperor of Austria.

1813 – Defeat of Napoleon at Battle of Leipzig.

1848 – Year of Revolutions: Liberals fail in an attempt to unite Germany under democratic constitution; start of period of rapid industrialisation.

1866 – Austro-Prussian War: Prussia defeats Austria in seven-week war. Part of wider rivalry between Austria and Prussia and results in Prussian dominance over other German states.

1870-71 – Franco-Prussian War: Prussia and its allies decisively defeat Napoleon III’s France.

1871 – Otto von Bismarck achieves unification of Germany under leadership of Prussia. The new German Empire’s authoritarian constitution creates an elected national parliament but gives emperor extensive powers.

1888 – William II becomes emperor: start of colonial expansion and build-up of German navy to compete with Britain’s Royal Navy.

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Image caption, Ships of the Imperial German Navy: Germany’s bid to challenge Britain’s Royal Navy was one of the contributory factors to increasing diplomatic tensions prior to the outbreak of war in 1914

1914-1918 – World War One. Germany is defeated and becomes a republic. Emperor William II abdicates and goes into exile.

1919 – Treaty of Versailles: Germany loses colonies and land to neighbours, pays large-scale reparations.

Beginning of the Weimar Republic, based on a new constitution. Its early years are marked by high unemployment and rampant inflation.

1923 – Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party, leads an abortive coup in a Munich beer hall.

France, Belgium occupy the Ruhr over failed reparation payments. Hyperinflation leads to economic collapse.

1929 – Global depression, mass unemployment.

1933 – Hitler becomes chancellor. Weimar Republic gives way to a one-party state. Systematic persecution of Germany’s Jews escalates. Hitler proclaims the Third Reich in 1934.

1935 – Germany begins to re-arm. Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship.

1938 – Annexation of Austria and Sudetenland.

Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) sees orchestrated attacks on Jews and their property as well as synagogues.

1939-1945 – Invasion of Poland triggers World War Two. Millions of people of all ages, mostly Jews but also large numbers of Gypsies, Slavs and other races, the disabled, homosexuals and religious dissenters, die as the Nazis implement an extermination policy in the death camps of eastern Europe.

1945 – Germany defeated, Hitler commits suicide. Allies divide Germany into occupation zones. Berlin – in the Soviet zone – is itself divided into US, UK, Soviet and French zones.

1945-1946 – Nuremberg war crimes trials see major Nazi figures executed or imprisoned.

1947 – US and UK merge their two zones into one economy, the Bizone. It is a recognition of the breakdown of cooperation between the four occupying powers and the first indication the division of Europe into two Cold-War blocs.

1948 – The Bizone is extended to include the French zone.

1948-49 – Berlin Blockade: Amid worsening East-West relations and the introduction of the new Deutschmark currency in western zones, Soviet authorities block road and rail access from western Germany to West Berlin. The Western allies respond with the Berlin Airlift – a massive air operation to keep West Berlin supplied – until the Soviets abandon the blockade.

1949 – The US, French and British zones in the west become the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD); the Soviet zone in the east becomes the communist German Democratic Republic (DDR).

Konrad Adenauer, of the Christian Democrats is West Germany’s first chancellor. East Germany is led by Walter Ulbricht.

1955 – West Germany joins Nato. USSR responds by forming its own military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, comprising Soviet bloc countries including East Germany.

1957 – West Germany is a founding member of the European Economic Community, along with France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The French protectorate of Saarland joins West Germany after voters reject the idea of establishing it as an independent state.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, August 1961: East German border guards at the Brandenburg Gate as the DDR builds the Berlin Wall

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

1969 – Social Democrat Willy Brandt becomes chancellor and seeks better ties with the Soviet Union and East Germany under Ostpolitik (eastern policy).

1971 – Walter Ulbricht is succeeded in East by Erich Honecker.

1973 – East and West Germany join the UN.

1974 – Brandt resigns after spy revelations surrounding one of his aides.

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

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

1994 – Russian and Allied troops finally leave Berlin.

2002 – Euro replaces Deutsche Mark.

2005 – Christian Democrat Angela Merkel becomes Germany’s first female 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.

2021 – Devastating floods hit parts of western Europe. Over 100 die in Germany and 22 in Belgium.

Image source, Getty Images

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

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