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 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.

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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The Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, has governed since 2005 in coalition with either the liberal Free Democrats or centre-left Social Democrats, but suffered a setback at the 2017 elections as the populist anti-immigrant Alliance for Germany (AfD) surged into third place.

The AfD exploited social tensions over the arrival of more than a million people from the Middle East, West Asia and Africa after Mrs Merkel offered asylum to refugees fleeing turmoil in Syria in the autumn of 2015.

After attempts to build a government with the Free Democrats and left-leaning Greens failed, Mrs Merkel reassembled a "Grand Coalition" with the much-weakened Social Democrats.

Angela Merkel became leader of the Christian Democratic Union in 2000 after a party funding scandal that tainted her long-time mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

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

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 enjoyed the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" of centre-right and centre-left parties.

In his acceptance speech, he pledged to stand up to the rising trend of xenophobic populism, and promote inter-communal dialogue and democracy.

This became all the more topical in September, when the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany broke through to become the first hard-right party to win seats in parliament since the Second World War.

MEDIA

Image copyright 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 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 unifies Germany.

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

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

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

1939-45 - Second World War sees defeat of Germany and its partition into the pro-western Federal Republic and the Soviet-controlled 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.

Image copyright Getty Images
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 to prevent 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 copyright Getty Images
Image caption Oktoberfest - Germany's traditional beer festival is held annually

1990 - Chancellor Helmut Kohl reunites Germany as a single state.

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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