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Germany [Deutschland]

Germany
Head of State:
 President Johannes Rau
Head of Government: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Foreign Minister: Joschka Fischer
Area: 357,000 km2
Population: 82.1 million
Language: German
Capital: Berlin
Currency: Euro
GDP per capita: 25,155 € (2001)
GDP growth: 0.6% (2001)

Constitution - Domestic politics

Germany is a federal republic. The 16 states or Lander all have their own constitutions, governments and independent courts, while the federal parliament is responsible for major legislation and policy matters of general internal and external importance. The federal parliament comprises a directly elected lower house (Bundestag) and an upper house (Bundesrat), consisting of members nominated by the 16 state governments.

The head of state is the federal president, elected for a maximum of two five-year terms by a specially constituted body consisting of members of the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The federal government is led by the chancellor, who is elected by the Bundestag. The federal government's task is to debate and decide all important matters of general domestic and foreign policy, as well as economic, social and financial matters, and particularly all government Bills.

After a very close race, the most recent elections to the Bundestag (September 2002) resulted in the re-election of the Social Democrat (SPD) and Green Party coalition led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The new government faces has a number of major tasks, including the implementation of reforms in the labour market and health system.

Economy

Germany is the third largest economy in the world after the United States and Japan. It is also the world’s second-largest exporter. Major exports include motor vehicles, machines and chemicals.

However, the global economic slowdown, high oil prices in the first half of 2001 and the downturn following the events of September 11 have slowed the previously strong German growth rate.

Following unification with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1990, the government's annual deficit surged. The objective now is to reduce expenditure and taxation in relation to GDP and eliminate the deficit. Unemployment varies widely between regions and has become a major issue for the government.

Foreign policy

German foreign policy, which is described as peace-oriented, revolves around three main axes: European integration, the transatlantic relationship and German foreign cultural policy.

Among the main objectives of this policy are the further development of the EU, the safeguarding of peace, democracy and prosperity in the whole of Europe (to be achieved inter alia through enlargement of the European Union), the strengthening of cooperation within the OSCE, the further development of the Atlantic Alliance and transatlantic cooperation, and the strengthening of international organisations, in particular the United Nations.

Germany desires better co-operation within the Common European Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and believes the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) should be further developed into a European Security and Defence Union. A major contributor to the UN budget, Germany has in recent years upgraded its role within the United Nations through participation in peacekeeping efforts (Kosovo, Afghanistan).Lin

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