Germany’s population in 2015 was estimated to be around 81.8 million, making it the most populous country in the European Union. The majority of German citizens identify as Christian, with a sizeable minority of Muslims also present. The German economy is heavily reliant on the export of manufactured goods and services, with cars and machinery accounting for over a quarter of the country’s exports. Other exports include chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Germany has strong trade ties with its European neighbours, particularly France, as well as other countries worldwide. In terms of politics, Germany is a federal parliamentary republic with a multi-party system. In 2015 Angela Merkel was the Chancellor after winning reelection in 2013. In foreign relations, Germany is a member of both the United Nations and European Union and is actively involved in international affairs such as peacekeeping operations. Relations with Russia have been strained since 2014 due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine but Germany has maintained close ties through diplomatic channels. See ehealthfacts for Germany in the year of 2005.
Germany. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in January, the newly formed German Islamic host organization Pegida held major demonstrations, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to warn of intolerance and racism. Pegida’s leader Lutz Bachman resigned shortly after he posed as Hitler and made a gross disdain for refugees.
Increased migrant flows were noted at the beginning of the year and the forecast for how many asylum seekers Germany would receive was gradually revised upwards. Towards the end of the year it was about one million, compared to 200,000 the year before, which in itself was a substantial increase. It paved the way for domestic political turmoil with several trips, plays and course changes in a short time.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Berlin is the capital of Germany which is located in Western Europe. The crisis gave Merkel hero status in many camps but eventually also caused sharp criticism. She was described by many as the world’s most powerful woman and had played a prominent role during the year, often with France’s President François Hollande, in dealing with the EU’s relationship with the Russian Federation in connection with the Ukraine crisis and the eurozone turbulence caused by Greece’s debt crisis.
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When the scope of the refugee stream was completed at the end of the summer, Merkel clearly made a stand for a generous reception. In a famous statement, the Chancellor said that Germany was strong: “If we could manage the banks we could handle the refugees”, her message was aimed at government efforts to rescue crisis banks during the financial crisis a few years earlier. Regulations were adopted for housing construction, and municipalities and states were promised money to handle newly incurred costs. But initiatives also soon came to stop the flow, among other things by increasing the rate of rejections of those who lacked asylum reasons. During most of the year, around 40% of asylum seekers came from countries in the Balkan Peninsula – the second most Syrians were Albanians.
In October, Merkel traveled to Turkey to ask for help in stopping migrants on their way to Europe. Many accused her of sending out wrong signals and attracting migrants to apply to Germany. At the same time, she had failed to get the other EU to set up and share the responsibility for the refugee crisis. Merkel was named “Person of the Year” by Time magazine but was increasingly contentious in his own party. The leader of the Christian Democratic sister party CSU in Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, was one of her sharpest critics.
A passenger plane on its way from Barcelona to Düsseldorf crashed in March in the French Alps. Of the 150 people on board, all of whom perished, 72 were Germans. The accident was found to have been caused by the second pilot who locked himself in the cab and steered the plane straight into a rock wall. According to a medical opinion, the man was mentally ill. Afterwards, Lufthansa, which owned the Germanwings accident, paid EUR 50,000 per passenger to relatives, but additional claims were made against the airline.
The birth rate in Germany was reported to have dropped to the lowest in the world in May, bringing to life a debate about the coming shortage of labor as a threat to the economy.
A lawsuit against Oskar Gröning, “Auschwitz bookkeeper,” who was charged with contributing to the murder of 300,000 people in gas chambers, ended with a sentence in July of four years in prison. Unlike many others who were brought to justice for crimes during World War II, the now 94-year-old Gröning recognized himself as morally guilty.
Two state elections were held during the year. In Hamburg, the Social Democratic SPD maintained its strong dominance but lost its own majority. The Christian Democratic CDU lost a lot and made a record-breaking choice, while the EU-skeptical and increasingly immigration-critical Alternative for Germany (AfD) took place in a state parliament in western Germany for the first time. In Bremen, both the Social Democrats and the environmentalist Party backed the Greens sharply but still retained power.
Right radical advance
From 1991, the extreme right wing was able to register significant progress. In Bremen, it got 7% of the vote. The development was a consequence of the rising racism and xenophobia, particularly aimed at immigrants from the Third World and from the former Eastern bloc, who in large numbers searched the country. More than 100,000 alone in 1991. Through 1992, the right wing carried out 2,280 attacks against immigrants and Jewish memorials. 17 were killed during these attacks. After an attack that killed a woman and two Turkish children, the government banned 3 neo-Nazi organizations.
Demonstrations against racist and anti-Semitic violence were conducted throughout Germany. In Solingen, people from the extreme right wing set fire to a house, which cost 3 girls and 2 Turkish women their lives.
In May 1993, the Supreme Court overturned the right to free abortion – the only law that New Germany had inherited from the GDR. The Supreme Court considered the law unconstitutional. In 1995, the Bundestag passed a new abortion law legalizing abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Still, it is more restrictive than the law the Supreme Court annulled, as it requires women to be “counseled” before the intervention can be made.
In the former GDR, much of the industry had been closed. This, coupled with the crisis – the worst since 1945 – and rising productivity led to a steady rise in unemployment. In March 1994, it reached 4 million unemployed. On May 23, the conservative Roman Herzog supported by Kohl was appointed Germany’s new president. In the second half of the year, some economic growth took place, bringing growth for the whole year to 2.8%, and by the end of the year unemployment had risen to 3½ million.
Kohl again won the Federal Election in October, though the majority was reduced to 10 seats out of Parliament’s 672. CDU / CSU gained 41.5% of the vote and FDP 6.9%. In addition, the SPD stood at 36.4%, the Greens by 7.3% and PDS by 4.4% – mainly due to a good choice in several states in the former GDR. In 1995, the steady decline of the FDP in several local elections led to the resignation of FDP Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.
Dissatisfaction among many immigrants led to the creation of Germany’s Democratic Party, which requires easier access for children of immigrants to be included in the electoral rolls and to gain German citizenship. In many cases, citizenship is limited to persons of German descent.
Economic growth continued to reach 3% in 1995, prompting the trade union movement to make wage demands. Five years after the reunification and three years after opening borders for workers from other EU countries, unemployment in 1996 reached 10.6%. In several states of the former, it reached 16%. 5 million were unemployed.
On September 13, 1996, the Bundesdag decided to raise the retirement age for women from 60 to 65 years from 2000. But the change that caused the most debate and led to widespread protests was the decision to reduce sickness benefit to 80% of normal pay. After a 16-week strike, the German workers in 1957 had been fighting for 6 weeks of full-time sick leave.
Racism and anti-Semitism continued to be important issues for the Kohl government, because it is not only the young neo-Nazis who express their racist nostalgia. In October 1997, German TV was able to show footage of a German military battalion making the Nazi salute and shouting anti-Semitic as well as anti-North American slogans. At the same time, in its 1997 annual report, Amnesty International indicates that the systematic use of police attacks against foreigners and immigrants means that they can no longer be considered isolated cases.
At the beginning of 1998, Deutsche Bank paid out the money that was supposed to come in from the Nazis’ sale of gold stolen from the Jews during World War II. At the same time, a Swiss organization began to pay albeit “symbolic” compensation to Gypsies resident in Germany who had survived the Nazi Holocaust.
The September 1998 elections gave an overwhelming victory to the Social Democrats, who went into governmental co-operation with the Greens / Bündniss 90. 16 years of conservative rule had broken and Gerhard Schöeder was named chancellor. SPD party leader, Oskar Lafontaine was appointed finance minister. As early as March 1999, however, Lafontaine withdrew from the posts both as party leader and minister. This was due to disagreement with the head of government about government policy. Lafontaine was on the left wing, while Schöeder was on the right.
In the second half of 1999, the SPD suffered a series of serious electoral defeats that seemed to indicate that voters’ favor was once again swinging toward the Christian Democrats. But this trend reversed when the November 1999 CDU itself was hit by a severe corruption scandal. Former Chancellor Kohl was initially accused of having approved the sale of military equipment to countries at war without Federal Day approval, and then it turned out he had accepted illegal financial contributions to his party. After fierce opposition, Kohl was forced to resign as CDU’s Honorary President, and was pleaded guilty to unlawful dealing with financial means. He consistently refused to disclose the list of illegal contributors to the CDU for the purpose of protecting them.
Government cooperation with the social democracy has also seriously shaken the Greens. Since its establishment, the party has had the decommissioning of nuclear power in Germany as one of its most important brand cases, but this requirement had to be abandoned just weeks after the government’s deployment in 1998. In the spring of 1999, the party’s foreign minister Joschka Fischer helped send German soldiers to war for the first time time since World War II – as part of NATO’s intervention force in Yugoslavia. And in January 2001, Fischer himself was struck by a scandal, and faced intense pressure from the German right wing when it emerged that in his youth he had beaten a policeman during demonstrations.
The country’s severe economic crisis continued, and in November 2001, the number of unemployed reached 3,789,000, representing 9.2% of the economically active population.
In March 2002, the Bundestag agreed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to reduce CO2 emissions.
Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping ruled out German participation in a North American attack on Iraq as part of the fight against terrorism. The decision was a restriction on the unlimited support Germany had given the United States in the wake of September 11.
The distance between the two NATO partners was further strengthened during the campaign run up to the German Bundestag election in September 2002. Gerhard Schröder made further distance to the United States, and his Secretary of Commerce went so far as to compare the United States with Nazi Germany. Schröder was thus trying to gather the dissatisfaction that was evident in the German population with the US warfare internationally. They succeeded, and together with swift action by the central government following the summer’s dramatic floods in Dresden and an astonishingly good election result for the Greens, they succeeded on a hanging hair to regain government power.
Despite massive pressure from the United States, Germany and France resisted in the autumn of 2002 and winter of 2002/03 the superpower’s attempt to gain back cover at the UN for its invasion of Iraq. Germany had a seat on the Security Council at this time, but did not want to give the United States green light for invasion. Opinion polls showed that 80% of Germans were against the US attack war.