Germany profile

Map of Germany

Germany is Europe'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 One and Two 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, the two parts of the country were once again united, although the economy of the former east continues to lag behind that of the former west.



Chancellor: Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel, Germany's first female chancellor, won a third term in September 2013, leading her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) to victory and only narrowly failing to secure an outright majority.

The CDU's election campaign focused on Mrs Merkel's image as a safe pair of hands amid financial turmoil in Europe.

Her coalition partner since 2009, the small pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), failed to win any seats in the election, so the chancellor formed a pact with her Christian Social Union allies and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) - in a re-run of the "grand coalition" she had formed on first becoming chancellor in 2005.

Angela Merkel became leader of the CDU in 2000 after the then party head, Wolfgang Schaeuble, resigned in connection with the party funding scandal that also tainted her long-time mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

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

President: Joachim Gauck

German President Joachim Gauck

Joachim Gauck, a human-rights campaigner and former East German dissident, was elected to the largely ceremonial presidency in March 2012.

The opposition Social Democrats and Greens nominated him after the resignation of President Christian Wulff in February over a housing loan scandal, and the governing centre-right coalition parties agreed to support him in the Federal Assembly - the electoral body tasked with choosing the president.

Born in Rostock in 1940, Mr Gauck, like the Christian Democrat chancellor, Angela Merkel, has a background in the Lutheran Church in East Germany - he was a pastor there, as was Mrs Merkel's father.

Mr Gauck describes himself as a "liberal left conservative", and has expressed support for the policies of both centre-right and centre-left governments.


Selection of German newspapers

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.


Some key dates in German history:

1871 - Otto von Bismarck achieves unification of Germany.

The Reichstag in Berlin Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, is housed in the Reichstag in the capital Berlin

1914-1918 - World War I. Germany defeated, Kaiser Wilhem II abdicates, Germany goes on to become a republic.

1933 - Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party, becomes chancellor.

1939-45 - World War II sees defeat of Germany and its allies.

1949 - Germany is divided. The US, French and British zones in the west become the Federal Republic of Germany; the Soviet zone in the east becomes the communist 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.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked a pivotal moment in Germany's modern history

1961 - Construction of the Berlin Wall.

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

Oktoberfest - Germany's traditional beer festival is held annually Oktoberfest - Germany's traditional beer festival is held annually

1990 - Helmut Kohl leads a reunified Germany.

2005 - Angela Merkel becomes chancellor.

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