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Country profile: Germany

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by BAK, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. BAK

    BAK JF-Expert Member

    Jun 22, 2009
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    23 May 2009 14:46 UK

    Country profile: Germany

    Located in the heart of Western Europe, Germany is the continent's most industrialized 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 I and II 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, it once again celebrated reunification, but at an economic price that is still being felt.

    Overview Facts Leaders Media
    People in the previously affluent west have had to pay a higher price than many originally expected while those in what was once the German Democratic Republic, the former Soviet-dominated east, saw jobs vanish and the cost of living spiral. The population is declining there too as young people vote with their feet.

    Dome of the Reichstag rises over Germany's resurgent capital, Berlin
    The pain of Germany's Nazi-era history remains a sensitive element in the country's collective modern-day psyche. Out of the devastation of World War II grew European awareness of the need to guard against any such catastrophe recurring on the continent.

    In the 1950s Germany was one of the six founding nations in the original European Economic Community from which the European Union was eventually to develop and in which Germany is a key player. Franco-German cooperation was central to European economic integration in the 1980s and 90s.

    Germany's international profile has been growing in other areas too. The country sent peacekeepers to the Balkans and its forces have been involved in operations in Afghanistan. The former chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, was a vociferous critic of the launch of US-led operations in Iraq.

    The country has famous beer brewing traditions. Beer purity laws dating back to 1516 limit the fermentation ingredients to malted grain, hops, yeast and water.

    As the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms, among others, Germany's gift to European classical music is colossal while Goethe, Nietzsche, Kant and Brecht are giants in the world of letters and philosophy.

    Overview Facts Leaders Media

    Full name: Federal Republic of Germany
    Population: 82.5 million (UN, 2008)
    Capital: Berlin
    Area: 357,027 sq km (137,849 sq miles)
    Major language: German
    Major religion: Christianity
    Life expectancy: 77 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)
    Monetary unit: 1 euro = 100 cents
    Main exports: Motor vehicles, electrical machinery, metals
    GNI per capita: US $38,860 (World Bank, 2007)
    Internet domain: .de
    International dialling code: +49

    Overview Facts Leaders Media
    President: Horst Koehler

    The president has a mainly ceremonial role. Horst Koehler, a former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was elected in May 2004, and re-elected for another five-year term in May 2009.

    Chancellor: Angela Merkel

    Angela Merkel, leader of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), was sworn in as Germany's first female chancellor in late November 2005, taking over from Gerhard Schroeder who had held the post since 1998.

    Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor

    Profile: Angela Merkel
    Germany's political parties
    General elections two months earlier produced a very close result. After lengthy talks, agreement was reached that Mrs Merkel would be chancellor in a "grand coalition" involving the CDU, its CSU allies and the SPD.

    Mrs Merkel's key task is to revive the economy. Her plans to cut taxes for high earners and to liberalise employment law were shelved during coalition talks.

    The policy deal agreed included some tax increases, a rise in the retirement age, spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit and an investment programme to tackle unemployment.

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

    She became leader of the CDU in 2000 after Helmut Kohl was brought down by a party funding scandal.

    In 2007 Mrs Merkel topped Forbes magazine's list of the world's 100 most powerful women for the second year in a row.

    Forbes said she "continued to impress the world with her cool leadership at two back-to-back summits." The magazine cited her work getting leaders at the Group of Eight summit to agree to goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and persuading European Union leaders to get moving on a treaty to replace their failed constitution.

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

    The press in Germany
    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 country's 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 services.

    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, a consortium led by a US billionnaire.

    Major TV networks use cable and satellite to reach viewers
    Germany is rolling out digital radio and TV and aims to switch off its analogue TV transmitters by 2010. Public TV broadcasters ZDF and ARD offer a range of digital-only channels.

    While the press and broadcasters are free and independent, the display of swastikas and statements endorsing Nazism are illegal.

    There are several national newspapers, but the press market is strongest at a regional level, with more than 300 titles.

    The press

    Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - prestigious daily
    Sueddeutsche Zeitung - Munich-based daily
    Die Welt - Berlin-based daily
    Frankfurter Rundschau - Frankfurt am Main-based daily
    Handelsblatt - Duesseldorf-based financial daily
    Financial Times Deutschland - Hamburg-based financial daily
    Focus - weekly news magazine
    Der Spiegel - news weekly, English-language site
    Die Zeit - weekly
    Bild - mass-circulation daily
    The Local - Berlin-based, English-language

    ARD - organisation of regional public broadcasters; operates Das Erste, the main national public TV channel
    ZDF - operates second national public TV channel
    n-tv - commercial, rolling-news
    N24 - commercial, rolling news
    RTL - major commercial broadcaster, operates entertainment channels
    Deutsche Welle TV - Germany's international TV service, in German, English, Spanish
    Premiere - pay-TV operator

    ARD - umbrella organisation of public radio services, including those of individual regions
    Deutschlandradio - operates national public stations Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandradio Kultur, both offering current affairs and cultural programmes
    Deutsche Welle - international radio broadcaster, services in many languages
    News agency

    Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)