The European Parliament is the parliamentary organ of the European communities. It is made up of 705 members who are directly elected by the population of the 27 member states for five years. Each member state is allocated a certain number of seats depending on the size of its population. Germany, the largest member state of the EU, has 96 MEPs. The Parliament has legislative, budgetary and monitoring powers, though no right of initiative in legislation. The Parliament sits in Strasbourg; plenary sessions and committee meetings also take place in Brussels and Luxembourg.
Statutory accident insurance is a liability insurance on the part of employers in favor of employees who are thereby protected from the consequences of an accident at work or an occupational disease.
Medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine and dental medicine are such popular courses of study that all universities throughout Germany have admission restrictions in place for these subjects: They are subject to a so-called numerus clausus. Applications for places of study in these subjects must be made to the University Admissions Foundation which also subsequently allocates places.
People in Baden-Wurttemberg are not keen to talk in superlatives, even though the state continually sets records. The region around Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Tübingen is one of those in the EU where the most research is conducted. Baden-Wurttemberg is the German leader for patent registrations in terms of population, and famed for its inventors, such as Gottlieb Daimler, Carl Benz and Robert Bosch. Not only companies such as Bosch, Daimler, Porsche and Boss, but also small and medium-sized businesses such as Fischer (dowels), Stihl (saws) and Würth (screws) export their goods worldwide. Yet here, there is more to life than just work: Nowhere else in the country do so many starred chefs ply their trade. And the local wines are so good as to be an inside tip.
Surface area: 35,751 km2
Bauhaus (1919–1933) is considered to be the most famous art, design and architecture college of Classic Modernism. Founded by Walter Gropius it was located in Weimar and later in Dessau. Bauhaus artists and architects created a new, clear, contemporary formal language, much of which still exerts an influence today. The most famous representatives of Bauhaus include Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Lyonel Feininger, Oskar Schlemmer and Sophie Taeuber-Arp.
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 than just a lively tradition. Its economy, which is stronger than that of Sweden, boasts global brands such as BMW, Audi, Siemens, MAN and Airbus Defence and Space. The state capital Munich commands top rankings in comparison with other German and international cities. And even outside Munich, Germany’s largest state is thriving: the annual Wagner Festival in Bayreuth is sold out every year, as is the Passion Play in Oberammergau, held once every ten years.
Surface area: 70,550 km2
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: the rule of the National Socialists and the East German regime, which built a wall right through the heart of the city. Since German unification in 1990, Berlin has once again been the undivided capital city. The Museum Island, the Berlin Philharmonic and more than 50 theaters ensure the city is unique in terms of cultural life. The “academic capital” boasts 39 universities and institutes of higher education, while also being home to businesses such as Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, while ITB, the worlds leading travel trade show, accentuates the slogan “Berlin is worth seeing”.
Surface area: 892 km2
Berliner Theatertreffen is organized by the Berlin Festival and is the single most important German theatre festival. Held each year since 1964 in May, it showcases the ten “most striking productions” of the season, selected by a jury of theatre critics from around 400 performances. In addition, the Theatertreffen provides a platform for young playwrights to present their new work at a “script shop”.
Books and the culture of reading continue to be held in high regard in Germany. In 2016 the German book market generated sales of about EUR 9.28 billion. Online book selling had a share of 18.2% of total sales that same year. In Germany there are about 6,000 book stores and more than 7,400 public libraries. The major publishing cities are Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt/Main, Stuttgart, Cologne and Hamburg.
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 Cultural Heritage List, the heart of the Kingdom of Prussia possesses jewels of courtly architecture. Indeed Potsdam is considered one of Germany’s most beautiful cities, featuring many architectural highlights. Today the citizens of Brandenburg boast Hollywood productions in the film-producing town of Babelsberg, the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt an der Oder and more than 300 foreign companies, including the German HQ of Ebay.
Surface area: 29,654 km2
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 Daimler; and the ports turn around 2.3 million vehicles annually. The state’s cultural life is also influenced by commerce: The Überseemuseum (Overseas Museum) and the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum (Maritime Museum) attract visitors from all over the country. The merchants’ wealth led to the birth of a truly beautiful architectural ensemble: the town hall market square with its Baroque and Renaissance buildings, a tribute to the city’s rich history, which began when it was awarded market rights back in 888.
Surface area: 419 km2
The Council (of Ministers) is the most important EU legislative committee. Each member country delegates one minister. The Council and the EU Parliament share legislative powers and responsibility for the EU budget. The Presidency of the Council) rotates every six months.
Ingenuity and creativity are an important economic factor for Germany as a business location. Art, film, music, fashion, media, books and lifestyle: The contribution of the creative industry to Germany’s overall economic output is comparable with that of the large industries, namely the automobile, mechanical engineering and chemicals sectors.
This is the name of the system used to finance statutory pension insurance: employees today pay proportional contributions toward the pensions of the generation of retirees in the expectation that the coming generation will then pay for their pensions. The first mandatory regulations on old-age security were made as long ago as 1889. Alongside contributions by the employers and employees, today the system is also funded by government subsidies. Since 2002, statutory pensions have been supplemented by state-supported, private capital-backed old-age provisions. In addition to the state pension for employees, other forms of pensions and insurances secure old age provisions for civil servants and the self-employed.
In Germany culture is the core area of the 16 states’ sovereignty. The Basic Law accords the Federal Government few powers on cultural questions, and thus most cultural institutions are maintained by the states and municipalities. This independent cultural life in the states has led to cultural centers arising all over the country. There are world-class cultural offerings to be found even in smaller cities.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is an organization run jointly by the German institutes of higher education. Its purpose is to promote relations between higher education institutes in Germany and abroad, especially through exchange schemes between students and academics. As a rule its programs cover all disciplines and countries and are open to German and foreign students in equal measure. The DAAD supports a worldwide network of offices, lecturers and alumni associations and provides information and advice on a local basis.
German development policy as a constituent part of a global structural and peace policy endeavors to improve living conditions in partner countries. The Federal Government, in close collaboration with the international community, is committed to fighting poverty, to peace and democracy, to globalisation that is fair, and to preserving the environment and natural resources. The strengthening of good government, self-responsibility, and powers of self-help in the partner countries are basic elements. Furthermore, education, health, rural development, the protection of the climate, environment and resources, as well as economic cooperation are key sectors. The guidelines and concepts underlying German development policy are devised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
In line with the federal system, structuring and coordinating economic and financial policy is the joint task of central government, the federal states and municipalities. They cooperate in various committees. Furthermore, the Federal Government seeks the advice of independent economists. Every January the Federal Government presents to the Bundestag and the Bundesrat the Annual Economic Report, which among other things describes the government’s economic and financial goals for the year as well as the fundamentals of its planned economic and financial policy. One prerequisite for economic life in Germany being able to function is free competition, which is protected by the law against restrictions on competition. It prohibits anti-competitive practice on the part of both companies and the state. Likewise, company mergers, state subsidies and market barriers are assessed to establish whether they impair competition.
Every four years, the parties stand in the general elections to the Bundestag. Traditionally, the turn-out is high in Germany, and following a high in the 1970s, when the turn-out was over 90 percent, since reunification it has been around 80 percent.
The German electoral system is based on slightly modified, i.e., so-called personalized, proportional representation. Each voter has two votes, the first of which is for a candidate in his or her constituency, the second for a state list of candidates put up by a particular party. The number of seats a party holds in the Bundestag is determined by the number of valid second votes it receives.
The German electoral system makes it very difficult for any one party to form a government on its own. This has only happened once in 56 years. An alliance of parties is the general rule. So that the voters know which partner the party they voted for is considering governing with, the parties mostly issue coalition statements before embarking on the election campaign. By voting for a particular party citizens thus express on the one hand a preference for a specific party alliance, and on the other determine the balance of power between the desired future partners in government.
61,5 million Germans aged 18 or over are called on to cast a vote in the elections to the Bundestag. Women account for more than 31,7 million of them and thus constitute a majority of the electorate. At the 2017 elections to the Bundestag 3 million persons were enfranchised as first-time voters.
In Germany, equal rights are enshrined in the Basic Law, it is legally impermissible to discriminate by gender as regards working conditions and pay, and there are numerous laws guaranteeing the rights of women. Moreover, Germany is firmly committed to equal rights for both genders – relying on a wide- ranging network of state and private institutions in this regard. With the introduction of gender mainstreaming, women’s politics has been integrated as a cross- disciplinary function into all government and local departments and agencies. Thus, the state is proactively advancing the creation of equal conditions for men and women. These measures are being successful: Germany places 9th best world-wide in the UN’s GEM Index which measures women’s participation in business and politics.
The euro is the currency of the European Monetary Union and after the US dollar the second most important member of the international currency system. Together with the national central banks, the European Central Bank (ECB), headquartered in Frankfurt/Main, is responsible for monetary policy with regard to the euro. The euro is the official currency in 19 of the 27 EU member states. The euro was physically introduced in “Euroland”, including Germany, on January 1, 2002, having served as a currency of deposit since the beginning of 1999.
The European Commission is headquartered in Brussels and is a politically independent supra-national body that represents and safeguards the interests of the entire EU. The EU Commission has the right to table proposals (right of initiative) for all common legal acts; as “guardian of the treaties” it ensures that common law is adhered to and in addition enjoys executive powers, for example with regard to the budget and monopolies laws. Finally it publicly represents the interests of the community. The Commission is headed by the Commission President, since 1 December 2019, Ursula von der Leyen of Germany. Each member state is represented by a Commission member.
The European Council determines the political guidelines of the EU. Chaired by the President it assembles at least twice a year and is made up of the heads of state and government as well as the President of the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy.
The European unification process is one of the major keystones of German foreign policy. The participation of the Federal Republic in a united Europe is anchored in the Basic Law. With the accession of Croatia in 2013, the European Union has grown to 28 member states. On 1 February 2020, Great Britain was the first country to leave the European Union.
In 1957, the Federal Republic was one of the six founder members of the current European Union (EU). Since 2013, the EU has consisted of 28 member states and the euro is the official tender in 19 of them. Germany contributes about 20% to the EU budget. Günther Oettinger (CDU), the former Prime Minister of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, is the EU’s Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources.
Germany is one of the leading export nations. In 2017 it exported goods and services valued at some 1,279 billion Euros. The balance of foreign trade fort he year posted a surplus of 245 billion Euros. Germany has above all the strong performance of its industry to thank for its strength in exports. The manufacturing industry sells 50 percent of its goods abroad. In some sectors the volume of foreign trade is even higher still: The automobile industry netted an export share of 77.5 percent.
The Federal Chancellor is the only member of the Federal Government to be elected. The constitution empowers him to personally choose his ministers, who head the most important political authorities. Moreover it is the Chancellor who determines the number of ministries and their responsibilities. It is he who lays down the guidelines of government policy. These outline the Chancellor’s right to stipulate binding government activities. This authority gives the Federal Chancellor a whole array of instruments of leadership that easily stands up to a comparison with the power of the President in a presidential democracy.
The Parliamentary Council, which in 1949 resolved the Basic Law, took as its role model for the Federal Chancellor the position of the Prime Minister in Great Britain. The Prime Minister possesses exactly the same means of power as that of Chancellor, though the latter’s power is actually far less than that of the British premier. In the British parliamentary system only one party is ever in power, because the first-past-the-post system there favors the strongest party. As a rule, in the Bundestag no one party has a clear majority. For this reason a coalition is normally necessary to be able to elect a Chancellor.
The election of the Chancellor is preceded by extensive negotiations between those parties that plan to govern together. These address specific topics such as how the ministries are to be divided up between the parties, which ministries are to be maintained and which newly created. The strongest party in the alliance is accorded the right to propose the Federal Chancellor. In addition the parties agree on the policies they intend to tackle in the next few years. The results of these coalition negotiations are enshrined in the coalition treaty. Only when these steps have been completed is the Chancellor elected. Negotiations between the government parties prepare the decisions taken by the Federal Government and accompany them afterwards. Should there no longer be political consensus between the parties before general elections for a new Bundestag are due, removing the Chancellor from office becomes an alternative. Should a constructive vote of no confidence result in the current Chancellor indeed being removed from office, a new Chancellor must be elected at the same time. This repeal of parliamentary confidence forces the parties represented in the Bundestag to form a new, functioning government majority before they bring down the Chancellor. There have only been two previous attempts to bring down the Chancellor, only one of which succeeded, namely in 1982 when a vote of no confidence was passed against the Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD), who was replaced by Helmut Kohl (CDU).
However, at any time the Federal Chancellor himself can also propose a vote of no confidence in the Bundestag to test whether he still enjoys the unlimited support of the governing parties. Should the Chancellor lose the vote this indicates that parts of the government majority are drifting away from the Chancellor, leaving the Federal President to decide whether the Bundestag should be dissolved and a general election held. The Federal President can also request the parties represented in the Bundestag to try and form a new government.
In the history of the Federal Republic there has never been a genuine defeat in a vote of no confidence. There have on three occasions been previously arranged defeats: The elected representatives of the government parties or the ministers abstained in order to bring down the government in 1972, 1982, and 2005. This course of action was taken in order to prematurely dissolve the Bundestag, which according to the constitution is otherwise not possible. It can only be taken with the approval of the Federal President and is legally not uncontroversial.
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. Moreover, the cabinet abides by the collegial principle, in disputes the Federal Government decides by majority. The affairs of state are managed by the Chancellor.
The Federal President is the head of state of the Federal Republic of Germany. He represents the country in its dealings with other countries and appoints government members, judges and high-ranking civil servants. With his signature, acts become legally binding. He can dismiss the government and, in exceptional cases, dissolve parliament before its term of office is completed. The Basic Law does not accord the Federal President a right of veto such as is held by the President of the United States and other state presidents. Though the Federal President confirms parliamentary decisions and government proposals with regard to ministers, he only checks whether they have come about by the due procedure in accordance with the Basic Law.
The Federal President remains in office for a period of five years; he can be re-elected only once. He is elected by the Federal Convention, which is made up of members of the Bundestag, on the one hand, and by an equal number of members selected by parliaments of the 16 federal states, on the other.
Germany is a federal state. Both the central federal government and the 16 federal states have independent areas of jurisdiction. The government in Berlin is responsible for foreign policy, European policy, defense, justice, employment, social affairs, tax and health. The federal states are responsible for internal security, schooling, tertiary education, administration and local government. Central government’s area of responsibility is mainly limited to legislation, in which the federal states are involved through their presence in the Bundesrat. It is the duty of the federal administration systems, on the other hand, to enforce not only the laws that apply in their own particular state, but those of central government as well.
The reasons for this task sharing lie in the past: The German nation state emerged in 1871 through the union of several independent states. This made the establishment of a larger central administration system superfluous. The three city states are a peculiarity among the 16 federal states. Their territory is limited in each case to the major cities of Berlin, Bremen/Bremerhaven and Hamburg, whereas the other larger states comprise a number of city and rural municipalities.
Only those parties are taken into account when allocating seats in the Bundestag as have overcome the following hurdle: they must have polled at least five percent of the vote or won at least three constituencies outright.
The International Frankfurt Book Fair has taken place every autumn since 1949 and is the outstanding annual international book trade get-together. The highpoint of every book fair is the award-giving ceremony for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, which has been won by the likes of Margaret Atwood, Carolin Emcke, Navid Kermani and Susan Sontag. Since 2005, to mark the beginning of the Book Fair, the German Book Prize is presented for the best novel written in German.
Fraunhofer is engaged in applied research. Its projects are commissioned by industry and service providers as well as state-run institutions. More than 25,000 members of staff together book an annual research volume of EUR 2.3 billion. Fraunhofer runs 72 Fraunhofer institutes and research facilities in Germany and has subsidiaries in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.
In Germany, freedom of communication also means that public agencies are obliged to provide journalists with information. The rights of the press are encoded in the press laws of the federal states. These include the duty to publish an imprint, journalists’ duty to take due care in their research and their right to refuse to stand witness or disclose sources. The German Press Council is the voluntary journalism and publishing watchdog: it monitors violations of the duty to take due care in research and of the ethical sides to stories.
There is no such thing as standard “German cuisine“, rather several regional specialties ranging from smoked sprats from Kiel to white sausage with sweet mustard from Munich. Regional cuisine is also very important for Germany’s top chefs. In 2018 Michelin Guide awarded 300 German restaurants one or more of its coveted stars. After France Germany boasts the most three-star restaurants. Hamburg and Berlin are among the leading gourmet cities. Germany’s top chefs include Harald Wohlfahrt and Dieter Müller. In 2009 Juliane Caspar, a German, became the first female and first foreign editor-in-chief of the French Guide Michelin.
The German Federal Cultural Foundation was established in 2002 and acts nationally and internationally. By supporting relevant projects, it focuses primarily on the challenges of art and culture in the 21st century. The German Federal Cultural Foundation is based in Halle an der Saale.
The German National Tourist Board is headquartered in Frankfurt/Main. Its six regional offices and 30 foreign representative bureaus and sales agencies, plan, coordinate and realize its international marketing and sales activities.
The German Research Foundation (DFG – Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) is science’s central self- governing organization. It supports research projects, whereby funds are channeled primarily into institutes of higher education. It also promotes collaboration between researchers and advises parliaments and authorities.
They are the flagships of the economy and global players with an international footing – the major German corporations. The top brands include Daimler, BMW, SAP, Siemens, Volkswagen and Adidas. Shares in the major German companies are listed in the German share index (DAX) at the Frankfurt stock exchange. The largest German bank is Deutsche Bank, which has operations in more than 70 countries and has payroll of some 100,000 employees. It is headquartered in Frankfurt/Main, the leading banking centre in continental Europe, where over 100 of the Top 500 banks are located. Volkswagen, whose headquarters are in Wolfsburg, is in terms of sales the largest German company and in 2017 was the world’s largest carmaker in terms of unit sales (ahead of Toyota). Volkswagen is one of several marques under which Volkswagen AG vehicles are built. Audi, Škoda, Seat, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Ducati, Scania, MAN, and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles are also part of the Volkswagen Group. Siemens AG is the largest German employer in industry, with some 372,000 employees worldwide. Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Post are the service providers with the highest sales, with Deutsche Bahn in third place. The tour company TUI and Deutsche Lufthansa are likewise topflight companies in the service sector.
Roughly two thirds of global warming caused by humans (anthropogenic) can be attributed to carbon dioxide emissions. The gas is produced when the fossil fuels gas, oil and coal are burned. They all contain carbon which combines with atmospheric oxygen to form carbon dioxide. In addition to carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases include nitrous oxide, methane, as well halogenated fluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.
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 pleasure-seekers, there is the entertainment district of St. Pauli. Yet Hamburg’s reputation as a media and science center is of greater importance to its inhabitants. The need for culture is satisfied by renowned institutes such as the Kunsthalle and more than 30 theaters – including the state opera company with world ballet star John Neumeier. On a national basis Hamburg leads the way when it comes to musicals, which every month bring thousands of visitors thronging to the city.
Surface area: 755 km2
Almost all citizens in Germany have health insurance, whether as a compulsory member of the statutory health insurance scheme (90 percent) or a private health insurance scheme (10 percent). The health insurance companies cover the cost of medical treatment, medication, hospitalization and preventive health care. Contributions to the health insurance scheme are made by employees and employers. Non-employed family members of those in a compulsory health insurance scheme do not pay any contributions.
With 18 research centres, an annual budget of EUR 4.5 billion and more than 39,000 members of staff the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organization. It conducts research into energy, the earth and the environment, health, aerospace, transport, materials and key technologies.
Frankfurt am Main is really the only city in Germany that has an international feel to it: The tallest buildings in Germany, the largest airport (alongside Paris Charles de Gaulle) and the most banks in continental Europe (including the European Central Bank). And the list of superlatives does not stop there; for example, there is the railroad station and the interstate intersection, both of which boast the highest volume of traffic in Germany. All this, despite the fact that the city has a mere 750,000 inhabitants and is not even the capital of Hesse. The elegant city of Wiesbaden has claim to that title. Otherwise the state of Hesse is rather unassuming, with a densely forested upland range of mountains, blessed with Riesling in the Rheingau region, and industry throughout. Opel in Rüsselsheim and VW near Kassel are the major industries, whereas ESA in Darmstadt is responsible for much of the European space program.
Surface area: 21,115 km2
The respect and strengthening of human rights worldwide are a cornerstone of German Federal Government policy. Together with its EU partners it is committed to protecting and continually advancing human rights standards throughout the world. This occurs in close collaboration with the institutions of the United Nations, in particular the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. German human rights policy adheres to a concrete commitment: Protecting people from the violation of their rights and basic freedoms and creating viable conditions for suppression, arbitrariness, and exploitation no longer have a chance. A claim that is derived from the Basic Law: Article 1 names human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation was founded in 1860 and today promotes academic collaboration between excellent foreign and German researchers. Every year it enables 2,000 international researchers to spend time working in Germany and maintains a worldwide network of some 28,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in over 140 countries – including 55 Nobel Prize winners.
The key task of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, D.C., is to promote the macroeconomic stability of its 189 member states. Germany’s capital quota is around 5.6 percent, making it one of the key International Monetary Fund members; through a German executive director it also plays a major role in IMF decision-making.
As early as the 19th century Germany attracted a large number of immigrants and since the 1950s has emerged as the European country with the largest immigrant population. In 1950, there were about 500,000 foreigners in Germany, accounting for a mere one percent or so of the population. This has changed emphatically: Today, some 10 million foreigners live in Germany, or 12 percent of the population.
In 2016, company spending on research and development rose to 62.8 billion Euros. The automotive industry accounts for a large share of these investements.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) was one of the last all-round scholars. The scientific range covered by the 93 research institutes is correspondingly broad, extending from the humanities and economics through to mathematics. The focus is on applied basic research. The Leibniz institutes employ around 19,000 staff and have a total budget of over EUR 1.9 billion.
While the average life expectancy in the early 20th century was about 46, a boy in Germany born today can expect to reach the age of 78 and a girl as much as 83.
In December 2007 in Lisbon, the EU heads of state and governments signed the EU Reform Treaty which, following ratification in all Member States, came into power in December 2009. The Treaty puts the EU on a new contractual footing and is meant to make it more democratic, transparent and efficient. To this end a full-time President of the European Council is responsible for continuity in the Union’s actions. A High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is responsible for the community’s foreign relations. EU resolutions have been simplified as many instances where an unanimous vote has hitherto been required have been abolished. From 1 November 2014 a new procedure for qualified majority voting applies in the Council. Under this procedure, when the Council votes on a proposal by the Commission or the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a qualified majority is reached if two conditions are met: 55% of member states vote in favour - in practice this means 16 out of 28 and the proposal is supported by member states representing at least 65% of the total EU population. This new procedure is also known as the “double majority” rule. The rotating chair of the Council of Ministers will be retained in the form of an 18-month team presidency made up of three Member States. Today, the number of MEPs in the EU Parliament is limited to 751. Each Member State has at least six and at most 96 MEPs. The Reform Treaty also strengthened democracy and protection by basic rights by expanding the role of the Parliament, the inclusion of the national parliaments in the European legislative process, and by making the Charter of Fundamental Rights mandatory (exemptions have been granted to Great Britain and Poland).
Long-term care insurance was introduced in 1995 as the “fifth pillar” of the social insurance system. The compulsory insurance is financed by equal contributions by employers and employees.
The state of Lower Saxony has the shipbuilders in Papenburg to thank for its regular global TV appearances – every time the Meyer shipyard pilots a new luxury liner down the narrow River Ems. Yet the major industry in this state, which stretches from the holiday islands on the North Sea coast to the Harz Mountains, is the auto industry, including such names as Volkswagen in Wolfsburg and Continental in Hanover, which is likewise the hub for the vast operations of TUI Deutschland, one of Europe’s largest tourism corporation. The state capital also attracts global interest through its hosting of the Hanover Trade Fair. Indeed, Hanover has been an international city for a long time now, after all between 1714 and 1837 the rulers of Hanover were also the kings of England.
Surface area: 47,615 km2
The Max Planck Society was founded on 26 February 1948 – as the successor to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften, established in 1911. The 83 Max Planck institutes conduct basic research in the natural, biological and social sciences and in the humanities. The Max Planck Society founded along with partner universities the Max Planck Research Schools with their international focus. The Max Planck Society employs a total of 22,000 staff (2015), around 60 percent of them work in scientific disciplines.
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 enthusiasts in the whole of Central Europe. Small wonder, then, that tourism is so important in this federal state. To make certain this remains the case, large parts of the state has been declared a nature conservation area. Away from the tourist centers, wind farms on the Baltic coast and small and medium-sized companies in the nutrition industry are the growth sectors in this, the country’s most thinly populated state. Northern Europe’s two oldest universities and several innovative R&D facilities make the state one of the dynamic regions for high-tech, bio-tech and medi-tech.
Surface area: 23,214 km2
To a large extent the 16 national parks in Germany are located in the north of the country. They are all noteworthy for their unique nature and landscape and serve to preserve the natural diversity of rare plants and animals. The largest is the Schleswig-Holstein Mud Flats National Park Wattenmeer, with a surface area of 441,000 hectares. The smallest, Jasmund National Park on the Isle of Rügen, with its famous white cliffs, is only 3,070 hectares large.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded in 1949. This defense alliance now has 29 member states; Germany joined in 1955. The German Armed Forces are part of NATO’s mission in Kosovo and of the NATO-led Resolute Support operation in Afghanistan. NATO’s HQ is in the Belgian capital Brussels.
There are around 48,000 native animal species and over 24,000 native species of land plants, mosses, fungi, lichens and algae in Germany. Nature conservation is a state goal in the Federal Republic and is entrenched in Article 20a of the Basic Law. There are thousands of designated nature conservation areas in Germany, as well as 16 national parks and 16 UNESCO biosphere reserves. In addition, Germany is a signatory state to the most important international nature conservation agreements and party to almost 30 international agreements which strive to conserve the environment. The percentage of organically managed areas is increasing and in 2016 came to 7.5 percent. In the medium term it is projected to rise to 20 percent.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) is the largest German news agency. Alongside AFP, Reuters and AP it is one of the leading international agencies.
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 the capital of Europe, Duisburg with Europe’s largest inland port, the silk town of Krefeld, the linen town of Bielefeld, not to mention Essen and Dortmund, two major cities in the Ruhr region. They bear witness to the changes Germany’s largest industrial area has seen: coal mining and steel production are more and more replaced by bio-chemicals and high-tech. Yet “NRW”, as the state is referred to, not only has one of Europe’s most highly concentrated research networks, its five UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites make it one of the most important cultural regions.
Surface area: 34,110 km2
There are around 130 German professional orchestras, first and foremost among them the Berlin- Philharmonic, the Berlin Staatskapelle, the Gewandhausorchester, the Bamberg Symphonic and the Munich Philharmonic
With its 57 member states, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) is a comprehensive forum for cooperation at the pan-European level. OSCE missions are active above all in conflict prevention and management. Germany makes a substantial contribution to finance and man-power. The Secretary General of the OSCE is based in the Austrian capital Vienna.
The statutory pension insurance is the most important pillar of old-age provisions. Its financing is split: The monthly contributions paid by employees and employers pay the pensions of those currently in retirement. Through their contributions, those insured acquire some rights when they themselves become pensioners. In turn, coming generations provide for these future rents with their contributions (cross-generational contract). In addition, company and private pensions are the second and third pillars of provisions for old age. Under certain conditions these also enjoy government support.
According to the Basic Law it is the task of the political parties to participate in political will formation by the people. As such, putting forward candidates for political office and the organization of election campaigns both have the status of constitutional tasks. For this reason the parties are reimbursed the costs they incur in their respective election campaign. The reimbursement of election campaign costs, a feature Germany was the first country to introduce, is now commonplace in most democracies. According to the Basic Law, a political party’s internal organization must conform to democratic principles (member democracy). And all parties are expected to acknowledge the values and structure of the democratic state.
Parties whose commitment to democracy is in doubt can, at the request of the Federal Government, be banned from participation in the country’s political life. However, such a ban is not automatically forthcoming in any sense. Should the Federal Government consider a ban to be appropriate because such parties pose a threat to the democratic system, it can only petition for such a ban. Any such ban may only be enacted by the Federal Constitutional Court after duly considering the individual case. The idea is to prevent the ruling parties simply banning those parties who might prove awkward in the fight for votes. In the history of the Federal Republic there have been few banning processes, and even fewer parties have actually been banned. Though the Basic Law accords political parties some privileges, these are, basically, means for society to express itself. They take full responsibility for failing at elections, a loss of members, or strife in conjunction with personnel and factual issues.
The German party system is quite transparent. Through the establishment of the Greens in the 1980s and, following unification in 1990 the Left Party, a long-standing tri-party system evolved into a five-party system. With the exception of Bavaria, throughout Germany the Union parties, and they are both members of the European Christian Democrat group of parties, stand as the Christian Democratic Union. The CDU itself declines to stand in Bavaria, preferring to leave the region to the Christian Social Union, the sister party with which it is closely allied. In the Bundestag the members of parliament of both parties have joined forces to create a permanent parliamentary party.
The Social Democratic Party of Germany belongs to the European group of Social Democratic and democratic socialist parties. CDU/CSU and SPD support a welfare state. Whereas the CDU/CSU tends to attract the self-employed, businessmen and entrepreneurs, the SPD has close links to the unions.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) was founded in 2013. It is considered a right-wing populist, anti-European party; members and officials who are in office have repeatedly drawn attention to themselves with extreme right-wing statements. The AfD entered the Bundestag for the first time in 2017, and as the third largest party in terms of seats it is the largest opposition party. It is represented in the European Parliament and in all of Germany’s 16 state parliaments.
The Free Democratic Party (FDP) belongs to the European group of Liberal parties. At the 2013 general election, the party did not gain enough votes to cross the five-percent threshold and thus was not represented in the 18th Bundestag. In the 19th legislative period, the FDP is back in parliament with a total of 80 seats and is thus the second largest opposition party.
The Greens belong to the European group of green and ecological parties. The characteristic feature of their program is the combination of market economy and decrees pertaining to nature and environment protection that must be monitored by the state. They too represent higher-income voters with an above-average standard of education.
The Left Party is particularly strongly represented in the five federal states that acceded to the Federal Republic on unification. In the State of Thuringia since the end of 2014 the Minister President has been a member of the Left Party. it is represented in the state parliaments in many other states as well. As a party that advocates social justice it competes above all with the SPD.
Alongside non-state, confessional universities since the 1970s a number of state-recognised universities have also been founded in Germany. There are now 117 mostly small privately-owned universities as well as 39 theological colleges.
In Germany, there are in principle two different forms of TV and radio as well as of financing for them. The private stations exist almost only from ad billings – the public stations are financed by license fees and advertising; they are duty-bound to uphold a programming agenda set out in law. There are nine public stations: They are structured by state and all come under the aegis of the ARD, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Rundfunkanstalten in Deutschland. Together, they are responsible for programming by Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen (Das Erste), but also broadcast their own TV and radio programs. Other public stations are ZDF, which has neither regional programming nor a radio service, and Deutschlandradio.
The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) regulates the preferential feed-in of electricity from renewable energy into the national gird and guarantees producers compensation at fixed rates. It has proved very successful in promoting the expansion of renewable energies and many other states worldwide have adopted the basic features of the German EEG.
The Rhine valley between Bingen and Koblenz, a gem that is for the most part located in Rhineland-Palatinate, is a key item on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. A center of wine and sparkling wine production, the state is also referred to as “Wineland-Palatinate”. Yet from an early date it has been committed to advanced technology, a prime example being chemicals giant BASF. The state has always been innovative, be it on a very longterm basis thanks to Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the first printing press with moveable type in Mainz, or on a more temporary basis with the work of Karl Marx from Trier. Culture and joie-de-vivre are celebrated in all the larger German cities that have Roman history. The festivals staged each year, far more than 50 in total, attest to this.
Surface area: 19,854 km2
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 longer the key industry, with steel and car-making competing with IT for the number one slot. The steel industry bequeathed a fascinating attraction: Völklingen Ironworks, which is included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. The state’s most famous name, however, has to be that of Villeroy & Boch, a global player in the porcelain market.
Surface area: 2,569 km2
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 new gearing, symbolized by the restored Frauenkirche in Dresden’s Baroque center. As in the past, Saxony’s culture is highly influential in the world of music, represented by the Semper opera house in Dresden and the 800-year old Thomaner Choir in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach was once a cantor. Is he the greatest Saxon ever? Bach at least has a serious rival – in the person of Richard Wagner.
Surface area: 18,420 km2
In honor of its most famous former inhabitant, Georg Friedrich Handel, every year Halle stages a major festival. However, the composer plays second fiddle to Martin Luther, the reformer from Eisleben who transformed the Christian world. As such the town of Wittenberg is one of the most popular tourist spots in a state that boasts a wealth of castles but is also renowned for its chemicals industry. Alongside Magdeburg, Halle is one of the areas in former East Germany that has attracted the most foreign investors since unification. Today, Total maintains a refinery in Leuna, Dow Chemical has a production facility in Schkopau, as does Bayer in Bitterfeld. While nature enthusiasts are drawn to the 1141-meter high Brocken mountain, with its myth-shrouded peak: on the eve of every May 1st witches congregate here to dance.
Surface area: 20,451 km2
The most feared mythical figure in Schleswig-Holstein is “Blanker Hans”, who stands for the destructive forces of the sea. After all, the most northern of the federal states is bordered by two seas, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Since time immemorial, ship-building and fishing have been correspondingly important. Nowadays, however, the main source of income is the service industry, though tourism is also an important economic factor. The North Sea island of Sylt is a fashionable holiday destination. Kiel, the state capital and the Hanseatic city of Lübeck, now immortal thanks to Thomas Mann, vie for the status of most important city. Alongside Puttgarden they are the state’s most important ferry ports for the Scandinavia routes. Parallel to developments in Eastern Europe the state also benefits from the Baltic Sea economic region.
Surface area: 15,802 km2
Senior citizens are not only growing older, but are healthier, fitter and more active than in the past. They are also economically better off: the over-60s hold almost a third of total purchasing power. The life style of the 50+ generation: almost one in two cares increasingly about fitness, health, and well-being. As such, physical activities and sport are becoming more and more important: Every third person over 60 does sport almost every day.
The German economy is characterized first and foremost by small and medium-sized enterprises as well as the self-employed and the independent professions. Some 99.6 percent of all companies are small and medium-sized enterprises. These are firms with annual sales of below EUR 50 million and a payroll of less than 500. Around 60 percent of all those in employment work in this type of company. Most SMEs are managed by the owners themselves, meaning that the majority shareholder and management of the company are frequently one and the same. Companies are often handed down from one generation to the next. The strengths of SMEs include the swift realization of marketable products, an international focus, a high degree of specialization and the ability to successfully claim niche positions in the market. Precisely these qualities make many German SMEs world market leaders in their field.
Another feature of the social lifeline is social assistance, which is financed through taxes. It comes into effect when people are unable to escape their plight on their own and by their own means or by those of relatives. As such, there is basic protection in old age or in the case of long-term unemployment as well as state help towards living or to assist persons in certain predicaments
The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany does not call for any particular economic order. Yet it is firmly anchored in the principle of the welfare state and therefore excludes a purely free market economy. Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 the country’s economic policy has been hinged on the notion of the social market economy. This concept is an attempt to find a happy medium between a pure market economy and socialism. The social market economy was developed and implemented by Ludwig Erhard, the first Minister of Economics and later German Chancellor. The fundamental idea is based on the principle of freedom of a market economy, supplemented by socio-political methods for keeping a due balance in society. On the one hand, the system is designed to enable market forces in principle to develop freely. On the other, the state guarantees a welfare network that protects its citizens from risks.
Germany is one of the countries with the highest standard of living in the world. According to the UN’s HDI Index, Germany is one of the most developed countries in the world in terms of life expectancy, degree of literacy and per-capita income. The healthcare system enables comprehensive medical care, whereby the social security systems of the statutory health insurances, care and accident insurance and unemployment support protect people against existential risks.
Since in Germany culture comes under the ambit of the states, there is no federal ministry of culture. A State Minister for Culture coordinates activities in the field of cultural policy.
Universities with an especially strong technical focus operate as Technical Universities (TU) or Technical Colleges (TH). They attach greater importance to basic research than do universities of applied science. The nine leading TUs have joined ranks to form the TU9 Initiative. They have an especially strong international focus and coordinate their numerous courses on offer outside Germany.
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 inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” Among other things, the other basic rights guarantee the freedom to act within the law, equality before the law, freedom of the press and media, freedom of association and protection of the family.
In determining that it is the people who exercise power through special bodies, the Basic Law lays down representative democracy as the form of rulership. Furthermore, it determines that Germany is a constitutional state: All state authorities are subject to judicial control. Another principle of the constitution is that Germany is a federal state, in other words the ruling authorities are divided up into a number of member states and the central state. In conclusion, the Basic Law defines Germany as a welfare state. The welfare state requires the political system to take precautions such that people are guaranteed a decent standard of material well-being in case of unemployment, disability, illness and in old age. One particular feature of the Basic Law is the so-called “eternal character” of these governing constitutional principles. Subsequent alterations to the Basic Law or a completely new constitution cannot encroach on the basic rights, the democratization of sovereignty, the federal state and the welfare state.
In determining that it is the people who exercise power through special bodies, the Basic Law lays down representative democracy as the form of rulership. Furthermore, the constitutions of the German federal states stipulate instruments of direct democracy. With a popular initiative a minimum required number of citizens can call on a state parliament to draw up a law. In the same way a petition for referendum demands that the parliament pass a bill that has been presented. Should the parliament not heed the petition a referendum is held, through which the majority can determine the law.
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 to as the Senate. The Bundesrat is made up exclusively of representatives of the federal state governments. The number of votes each state holds is aligned in a sense to the size of its population: Each state has at least three, and those with the highest populations up to six.
The Bundesrat plays a part in the passing of federal legislation. Here, it differs from the Second Chamber of other federal states. The Basic Law envisages two forms of participation. Central laws that cause the federal states additional administrative costs or replace existing central laws require the approval of the Bundesrat: The latter is required to endorse laws passed by the Bundestag for these to become legally binding. In this regard, the Bundesrat enjoys the same rights as the Bundestag in terms of being a legislative organ. Currently almost 50 percent of all laws passed require the approval of the Bundesrat. Since federal laws are in principle enforced by the administrative bodies of the federal states, the most important and most costly laws involve the administrative sovereignty of the federal states. A difference should be made between these approval laws and the appeal laws. Though the Bundesrat can reject the latter, the Bundestag can overrule the objection with the same majority as in the Bundesrat, with a simple or two-thirds majority, in the event of the latter with at least the majority of the members of the Bundestag (absolute majority).
Since September 2006, the reform of the federal system has recalibrated the respective scope of central government and of the individual federal states. The goal of the reform: to improve the decision-making abilities and scope for action of both central government and the federal state governments, and to more clearly assign political responsibilities.
The Bundestag is the elected representation of the German people. Technically speaking half the 598 seats in the Bundestag are allocated by means of the parties’ state lists (the second vote) and the other half by the direct election of candidates in the 299 constituencies (the first vote). This division changes nothing with regard to the key role of the parties in the electoral system. Only those candidates who belong to a party have any chance of success. The party to whom members of the Bundestag belong is meant to reflect the distribution of votes. In order to prevent complications in the formation of majorities by the presence of small and very small parties a five-percent threshold is designed to stop their being represented in the Bundestag.
The Bundestag is the German parliament. Its elected representatives are organized in parliamentary parties and select a President from among them. It is the function of the Bundestag to elect the Federal Chancellor and keep him in office through support for his policies. The members of parliament can relieve the Chancellor of his duties by denying him their confidence, as do other parliaments. Nor does it make any great difference that in Germany the Chancellor is elected, whereas in Great Britain and other parliamentary democracies he is appointed by the head of state. In other parliamentary democracies, a party leader who can rely on a parliamentary majority is always appointed head of government.
The second major function of the elected representatives in the Bundestag is to pass legislation. Here, again, the Bundestag is similar to parliaments in other parliamentary democracies in that it for the most part enacts bills proposed by the Federal Government. The Bundestag however, which resides in the Reichstag building in Berlin, is less like the debating parliament typified by British parliamentary culture and corresponds far more closely to the US type of so-called working parliament. The Bundestag’s expert parliamentary committees discuss the bills introduced to Parliament in detail.
The Bundestag’s expert Parliamentary Committees discuss the bills introduced to Parliament in great detail. Here, the activities of the Bundestag resemble to some extent Congress in the USA, the prototype of a working parliament. The third major function of the Bundestag is to keep a check on the government’s work. It is the opposition that fulfills the function of monitoring the work of government in a manner visible to the general public. A less evident, but no less effective form of control is carried out by the members of parliament of the governing parties, who behind closed doors ask the government representatives critical questions.
The Federal Constitutional Court is a characteristic institution of post-war German democracy. The Basic Law accorded it the right to repeal legislation passed as part of the legitimate democratic process should it come to the conclusion that such legislation contravenes the Basic Law. The Constitutional Court acts only when appealed to. Those entitled to lodge a complaint include the federal bodies Federal President, Bundestag, Bundesrat, Federal Government and their constituent parts – elected representatives or parliamentary parties – as well as federal state governments. In “constitution-related” disputes, the Constitutional Court acts to protect the division of powers guaranteed in the Basic Law and the federal state. In order to enable parliamentary minorities to be able to appeal to the Constitutional Court, one third of the elected representatives of the Bundestag is sufficient to submit a complaint against a valid law (“abstract judicial review”).
Furthermore, the Basic Law empowers individual citizens to launch a “constitutional complaint” should they feel that the state has infringed their basic rights. Year after year thousands of citizens register a complaint against the constitution. However, the Court reserves the right to select from the mass of petitions submitted only those that can be expected to result in verdicts that point the way ahead in terms of the validity of basic rights. Ultimately every German court is obliged to submit a petition for actual assessment of the normative basis to the Constitutional Court should it consider a law to be un-constitutional. The Federal Constitutional Court holds a monopoly on interpretation of the constitution with regard to all jurisdiction.
The German federal state is a complex entity. It consists of a central Federal Government and 16 federal states. The Basic Law lays out which issues fall within the ambit of the Federal Government and which devolve to the federal states. As such the federal system in Germany is similar to that of other federal countries. Public life in Germany is predominantly based on central laws. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity citizens, on the other hand, deal almost exclusively with state and local authorities acting on behalf of the federal states. The reason for this is the aim of the Basic Law to combine the advantages of a unified state with those of a federal state. In everyday life the citizens of other federal states have far more frequent dealings with representatives of central government.
The Basic Law stipulates that it be possible to compare living conditions throughout Germany. Essentially these are determined by economic and social policy. With regard to financial policy the German constitution accords the federal states considerable leeway in the financing of their duties. All high-revenue taxes are decreed by law, though this needs the approval of the Bundesrat, which represents the states at federal level. Part of these taxes goes to central government alone or to the federal states and another part, including the particularly lucrative taxes, is divided up between central government and the federal states. To this extent the German federal state resembles a centralized state. Nonetheless it is the federal states that control the major part of pan-state administration. This means that federalist elements dominate the state administrative systems. First, its own administrative system enforces the laws that apply in that particular state. In addition they also execute most central laws. Given the large number of duties passed down from central government to the federal states several of them have, in the past, had to take on enormous debts. In 2009 an amendment was made to the constitution forbidding them to raise further loans as of 2020 and limiting the amount of new debts central government can take on from 2016 – with a proviso for economic crisis situations – to a maximum of 0.35 percent of the gross domestic product (the debt ceiling).
There are three pan-state functions the individual federal states exercise on their own: schooling and tertiary education, internal security, including policing, as well as the organization of local self-government. Thanks to the wide-ranging rights pertaining to guaranteed participation they enjoy in the Bundesrat, the federal states receive a form of compensation for the fact that central government is the primary body determining legislation.
With 140 public theaters and some 220 private theaters, Germany is a theater giant. The best-known venues include Thalia Theater in Hamburg, the Berlin Ensemble and Munich‘s Kammerspiele
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 has a culinary and literary tradition, it was always a state of researchers. Zeiss and Schott founded the modern optics industry in Jena; Jenoptik is nowadays one of the most important companies there. Erfurt, the state capital, is proud of the flourishing biotechnology and microelectronics solar technology there, in addition to the excellent educational opportunities offered by four institutes of higher education.
Surface area: 16,202 km2
With 150 international sector trade fairs Germany is an important international market for goods. Of the leading trade fairs for individual sectors worldwide some two thirds are held in Germany. The major trade fairs include the annual Hannover Messe, which is regarded as a showpiece of industry, and the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt/Main, which takes place every two years. In the field of information technology the CeBIT in Hanover and the Internationale Funkausstellung, the consumer electronics and home appliances fair (IFA), in Berlin, are two of the leading fairs. The tourism sector also meets every year in Berlin at the International Travel Trade Show (ITB). At the International Green Week, a unique exhibition devoted to food and agriculture, the focus is on culinary delights. Every October the Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest of its kind worldwide. In Cologne, photokina is all about images, imaging technology and image media. The Institute of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA) is the industry’s umbrella organization. Its main task is to strengthen German fairs at home and abroad. AUMA coordinates the trade fair activities abroad of German business, among other things the some 225 export platforms supported annually by the Federal Government. The trade fair organizers affiliated to AUMA stage over 200 fairs of their own a year in important foreign growth regions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international group of hundreds of experts and representatives of over 100 states, who analyze climate change on Earth for the United Nations and propose measures to counter it. The fifth report was published in 2014. Leading German institutes which focus on climate change include the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, the Wuppertal Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
In Germany those with no work can claim support. Anyone who is unemployed and over the past two years has paid contributions to the state unemployment insurance system for at least 12 months is entitled to unemployment benefit (60 to 67 percent of their last net income). This unemployment benefit is financed through the contributions of which employers and employees each pay half. The longest period for which unemployment benefit can be drawn is between six and 24 months. After that period those looking for work can apply for basic support (known as “unemployment benefit II”), which is assessed according to the applicant’s needs. In the economic crisis the system of short-time work payment financed from tax revenue proved its worth. It enabled companies to avoid redundancies in a difficult economic situation.
The United Nations (UN) are the foundations and cornerstone of the international system. So as to adapt it to the political realities of the present day, Germany is in favour of a reform of the UN. Since 1996 Germany, which is the fourth largest contributor to the UN budget, has been one of the UN seats; 19 of the total of 30 UN institutions based in Germany are located on the UN Campus in Bonn. Germany successfully bid to take one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council for the year 2019-20.
Germany’s two-track vocational training system is quite special internationally speaking. On completing school, approximately half of young people in Germany move on to learn one of the some 330 officially recognized vocations included in the Two-Track System. This entry into professional life differs from vocational training based only in colleges such as is customary in many other countries. The practical part of the course takes part on 3 or 4 days of the week in a company; the other 1 or 2 days are spent with specialist theoretical instruction in a vocational school. The courses take 2-3.5 years. In-company training is supported by courses and additional qualification facilities outside the companies. Training is financed by the companies, which pay the trainees/apprentices wages, while the government bears the costs of the vocational schools. Some 500,000 young people conclude new vocational training agreements under the two-track vocational training system each year Thanks to the Two-Track System, in Germany the number of young people without a profession or traineeship is comparatively low. This combination of theory and practical work guarantees that the craftsmen and skilled workers have prime qualifications. Vocational training is also a launchpad for a career that can, via advanced training, lead to participants becoming master craftsmen and women. Today, a qualification track is possible that via advanced training alongside the job can lead even as far as a university Master’s degree.
There is great international interest in the German vocational training system. One focus of the international vocational training cooperation activities by Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB) is to foster cooperation with partner institutes.
The principle of the welfare state is enshrined in Article 20 of the Basic Law and cannot be rescinded, even if the Basic Law is changed. In this way the Basic Law commits the state to protect, in addition to their freedom, the natural bases of life of its citizens. Each individual, however, also has to assume responsibility for his own social welfare.
German wines are produced in13 wine-growing areas in which, over an area of more than 100,000 hectares, a wide variety of typical regional wines are made. Apart from Saxony and Saale-Unstrut in the East, the German wine-growing areas are primarily in the southwest and south of the country. Although almost 140 types of vine are planted, only two dozen, primarily the white wines Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, have any real market significance. Of the wine produced in Germany two thirds is white and one third red. About 1 million of the more than 8 million hectolitres produced annually are exported, in particular to the USA, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) was founded in 1995 and serves to implement the existing treaties on international trade. It is likewise a forum for negotiation on liberalizing global trade. In the present Doha round Germany has been expressly championing better integration of the developing countries into world trade. The WTO is based in Geneva (Switzerland).