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At a glance

Federal Republic

Germany is defined by federalism. Through the Bundesrat, the upper House, the Länder (states) participate in the legislative process.
© dpa

Germany is a federal democracy. The Fed­eral Government and the 16 Länder (states) each have their own areas of responsibility. Responsibility for internal security, schools, universities, culture, and municipal administration lies with the states. At the same time, state administrations implement both their own laws and also those of the Federal Government Federal Government The Federal Government and cabinet is made up of the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Ministers. While the Chancellor holds the power to issue directives, the ministers have departmental powers, meaning that they independently run their respective ministries in the framework of those directives… Read more › . State governments are directly involved in the federal legislative process through their representatives on the Bundesrat The Bundesrat The Bundesrat represents the federal states and alongside the Bundestag is a form of Second Chamber. It is obliged to deliberate on each federal law. As the chamber of the federal states, the Bundesrat has the same function as those Second Chambers in other federal states that are mostly referred… Read more › .


Strong role of the Länder

Federalism in Germany is more than just a system of government. It represents the country’s decentralised cultural and economic structure and is deeply rooted in tradition. Over and above their political function, the states also reflect their distinct regional identities. This strong position was set out in the Basic Law The Basic Law The Basic Law determines that Germany is a constitutional state: All state authorities are subject to judicial control. Section 1 of the Basic Law is of particular relevance. It stipulates that respect for human dignity is the most important aspect of the constitution: “Human dignity shall be… Read more › in 1949.

The reunification of Germany in 1990 brought with it the creation of five new states: Brandenburg Brandenburg Brandenburg surrounds the capital city of Berlin and benefits from the latter’s “gin and martini belt”. However, with its numerous lakes and forests it also has several trump cards of its own. With the Hohenzollern castles, and in particular Sanssouci Castle, which is included in the UNESCO World… Read more › , Mecklenburg-West Pomerania Mecklenburg-West Pomerania It need not be from outer space, even from a plane Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, with more than 2,000 lakes, numerous waterways and lush green inbetween looks particularly attractive. Together with its 350-kilometer-long Baltic coastline, this Northeastern state is the major venue for water sports… Read more › , Saxony Saxony Meissen may well be a small town but, thanks to its porcelain, is as well known as the state capital Dresden and Leipzig, the trade-fair city. The Free State is one of the most dynamic economic regions in East Germany, in particular in IT; precision watch-making and car-making are typical of this… Read more › , Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia Thuringia The mountains in the Thuringian Forest provide a backdrop for one of Germany’s most beautiful trails, the 168-kilometer long Rennsteig. It is just as much a trademark of the state as its long thin sausages, the historic Wartburg and the Weimar poets Goethe and Schiller. However, Thuringia not only… Read more › . With 17.9 million inhabitants, North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia No state in Germany has more inhabitants than North Rhine-Westphalia, and there is a correspondingly large number of cities: Cologne, with its Gothic cathedral, Bonn, the Federal Republic’s first capital city, Düsseldorf, the fashion-conscious state capital, Aachen, under the rule of Charlemagne… Read more › is the most populous state, while Bavaria Bavaria The “beer state” of Bavaria also produces fine wine in the Franconia region. The Oktoberfest, Neuschwanstein Castle and the magnificent Alpine scenery attract more foreign tourists than does any other federal state. Yet the slogan “Laptop and Lederhose” demonstrates that there is more to Bavaria… Read more › is the largest in terms of size, at 70,540 square kilometres. The greatest population density is in the capital, Berlin Berlin Once a year, during the Berlinale film festival, the world of the silver screen focuses its attention on Berlin. And the city’s inhabitants are used to global interest. After all, the people of Berlin have lived in a capital city since 1458. However, there is also a shady side to the city’s history… Read more › , with around 4,100 inhabitants per square kilometre. The three city states of Berlin, Bremen Bremen The Hanseatic city of Bremen arose through classic maritime trading, in particular with coffee. In the smallest of the federal states (divided into the city of Bremen, and Bremerhaven, some 60 kilometers to the north) the port accounts for every fifth job. The largest private employer, however, is… Read more › /Bremerhaven and Hamburg Hamburg In the city and state of Hamburg it is the port that is the power-house of the economy, though with Airbus, Otto Versand and Beiersdorf also located here, this is not immediately apparent. The tanker terminals, mean that almost all the major oil-refining companies are represented in the port. For… Read more › are exceptional in that their territories are limited to their metropolitan areas. Bremen is the smallest state, with 680,000 inhabitants in an area of 420 square kilometres. Saarland Saarland Saarbrücken’s film festival for German-speaking up-and-coming talent has been the launching pad for many a career, as Franka Potente and Til Schweiger have proved. The state has over the last 200 years changed nationality eight times and the French influence is highly evident. Mining is now no… Read more › was a partly sovereign state and a French protectorate after the Second World War. It was only integrated into the territory of what was then the Federal Republic as the tenth state on 
1 January 1957.