Germany is one of the most highly-industrialised and economically powerful countries in the world. The economic system is classed as a social, market economy within which competition has become very pronounced. Unemployment is a problem, not only in the new Federal States. The major sectors of the economy are manufacturing, service industries and trade, and transport. Great political importance is attached to environmental protection which is a major concern of most people here.
Major changes are in motion as part of agenda 2010, you can read more about this here.
One of the interesting things about living in Germany is figuring out what some of the cities and areas are really called.
Area: 357,000 sq. km. (137,821 sq. mi.)
Capital: - Berlin (population about 3.5 million)
States (Länder):- Baden-Württemberg (10 million - Capital Stuttgart), Bavaria (Bayern) (12 million - Capital Munich (München)), Berlin (3.5 million - Capital Berlin), Brandenburg (2.5 million - Capital Potsdam), Bremen (684,000 - Capital Bremen), Hamburg (1.7 million - Capital Hamburg), Hesse (Hessen) (5.9 million - Capital Wiesbaden), Mecklenburg-Westpommerania (Mecklenburg-Westpommern) (1.9 million - Capital Schwerin), Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) (7.5 million - Capital Hanover (Hannover)), North Rhine Westfalia (Nordrhein Westfalen) (18 million - Capital Düsseldorf), Rheinland Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) (4 million - Capital Mainz), Saarland (1.1 million - Capital Saarbrücken), Saxony (Sachsen) (5 million - Capital Dresden), Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt) (3 million - Capital Magdeburg), Schleswig-Holsten (2.6 million - Capital Kiel), Thuringia (Thüringen) (2.6 million - Capital Erfurt)
Other Large Cities: - Hamburg (1.7 million), Munich (München) (1.2 million), Cologne (Köln) (964,000), Frankfurt (647,000), Essen (612,000), Dortmund (597,000), Stuttgart (585,000), Dusseldorf (571,000), Bremen (549,000), Hannover (523,000)
The Federal Republic of Germany is situated in the heart of Europe, surrounded by a total of nine neighbouring states it has the highest number of border countries in West Europe. In terms of population it is the largest country in the European Union, in terms of area, the third largest. From North to South the distance is 876 km, from East to West more than 640 km. Due to its central position Germany functions within the EU and NATO as a bridge to the Central and Eastern European states and is an important location for European and global relations.
Germany has a temperate climate. In summer the temperature is about 18-40°C, while in winter the mean temperature is about 1.5°C and can go down to -10°C in the mountains. Rain falls all the year round, especially in autumn.
The German landscape is extremely varied. The North is characterised by lakes, heath and moorland; the coast by chains of islands, estuaries and dunes. In the South is the Swabian-Bavarian plateau with its hills and large lakes as well as the German part of the Alps. In the area in between there are deciduous and coniferous forests, slate hills and a green landscape of river valleys and plains.
Type: Federal republic.
Founded: 1949 Basic Law, i.e., Constitution, promulgated on May 23, 1949 (Grundgesetz)
Reunification: On October 3, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) and the German Democratic Republic unified in accordance with Article 23 of the FRG Basic Law. It is now known as the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland)
Branches: Executive--president (titular chief of state) (Bundespräsident), chancellor (Bundeskanzler) ; legislative--bicameral parliament (Bundesregierung); judicial--independent, Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) .
Administrative divisions: 16 states (Länder).
Major political parties: Social Democratic Party (SPD) - left of center; Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - conservative, right of center; Christian Social Union (CSU) - - conservative, right of center; Alliance 90/Greens - environmentalist; Free Democratic Party (FDP) - liberal; Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) - socialist.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
The government is parliamentary, and a democratic constitution emphasizes the protection of individual liberty and division of powers in a federal structure. The chancellor (prime minister) heads the executive branch of the federal government. The duties of the president are largely ceremonial; the chancellor exercises executive power. The lower, principal chamber of the parliament (Bundestag) elects the chancellor and cannot remove the chancellor from office during a 4-year term unless it has agreed on a successor. The president is elected every 5 years on May 23 by a special body comprising the entire Bundestag and an equal number of state delegates selected especially for this purpose.
The Bundestag, which serves a 4-year term, consists of at least twice the number of electoral districts in the country (299). When parties' directly elected seats exceed their proportional representation, they may receive more seats. The number of seats in the Bundestag will reduce to 598 for the 2002 elections. The Federal Council (Bundesrat) consists of 69 members who are delegates of the 16 states (Länder). The legislature has powers of exclusive jurisdiction and concurrent jurisdiction with the states in areas specified in the Basic Law. The Bundestag has primary legislative authority. The Bundesrat must concur on legislation concerning revenue shared by federal and state governments and those imposing responsibilities on the states.
The 16 states have state authority and pass their own state constitutions in accordance with the principles of a republican, democratic and social constitutional state. The entire educational system, for example, including higher education, falls within the political jurisdiction of the states.
Germany has an independent federal judiciary consisting of a constitutional court, a high court of justice, and courts with jurisdiction in administrative, financial, labor, and social matters. The highest court is the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), which ensures a uniform interpretation of constitutional provisions and protects the fundamental rights of the individual citizen as defined in the Basic Law.
The German Government has kindly provided a web site (in English) with more information.