Background Notes: Germany 3/98

U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Germany, March 1998 

Released by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs.

Official Name: Federal Republic of Germany



Area: 357,000 sq. km. (137,821 sq. mi.); about the size of Montana.

Cities: Capital--Berlin (population about 3.5 million). 
Seat of government--Bonn (pop. 298,000). The permanent seat of
government for a unified Germany will be moved from Bonn to Berlin,
in 1999 or the year 2000. Other cities--Hamburg (1.7 million),
Munich (1.3 million), Cologne (1 million), Frankfurt (664,000),
Dusseldorf (578,000), Leipzig (497,000). 
Terrain: Low plain in the north; high plains, hills, and basins
in the center and east; mountainous alpine region in the south.

Climate: Temperate; cooler and rainier than much of the U.S.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--German(s). 
Population (1994 est.): 81 million. 
Ethnic groups: Primarily German; Danish minority in the north,
Sorbian (Slavic) minority in the east, 7 million foreigners. 

Religions: Protestants slightly outnumber Roman Catholics. 
German. Education: Years compulsory--10. Attendance--100%. 

Health: Infant mortality rate (1990, original 11 states)--6/1,000.
Life expectancy (1996, Germany-wide)--women 79 yrs., men 73 yrs.

Work force: 39 million (1994). 


Type: Federal republic. Founded: 1949 (Basic Law, i.e., 
constitution, promulgated on May 23, 1949). On October 3, 1990, the 
Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic unified
in accordance with Article 23 of the F.R.G. Basic Law. Branches:
Executive--president (titular chief of state), chancellor 
(executive head of government). 
Legislative--bicameral parliament. 
Judicial--independent, Federal Constitutional Court. Administrative
divisions: 16 Laender (states). 
Major political parties: Christian Democratic Union (CDU); 
Christian Social Union (CSU); Social Democratic Party (SPD); Free 
Democratic Party (FDP); Alliance 90/Greens; Party of Democratic 
Socialism (PDS). Suffrage: Universal at 18.


GDP (1996): $2.4 trillion. 
Annual growth rate (1996): 1.4%. 
Per capita income: $25,000. 
Inflation rate (Jan 1997): 1.8%. 
Natural resources: Iron, hard coal, lignite, potash, natural gas.

Agriculture: Accounts for 1% of GDP. Products--corn, wheat, 
potatoes, sugar beets, barley, hops, viticulture, forestry, fisheries. 

Industry (35% of GDP): Types--iron and steel, coal, chemicals,
electrical products, ships, vehicles, construction. 
Trade (1995): Exports--$498 billion: chemicals, motor vehicles,
iron and steel products, manufactured goods, electrical products.
Major markets--France, U.K., U.S. Imports--$441 billion: food, petroleum 
products, manufacturedgoods, electrical products, automobiles, apparel. 
Major suppliers--France, Italy, Netherlands.


The population of unified Germany is primarily German. There are
almost 7 million foreign residents, including those granted asylum,
guest workers, and their dependents. Despite tightening of asylum
laws, Germany remains a prime destination for political and 
economic refugees from much of the Third World. An ethnic Danish 
minority lives in the north, and a small Slavic minority known as the 
Sorbs lives in eastern Germany. 

Germany has one of the world's highest levels of education, 
technological development, and economic productivity. Since the end of 
World War II, the number of youths entering universities has more than
tripled, and the trade and technical schools in the original 11
states of the Federal Republic of Germany (F.R.G.) are among the
world's best. With a per capita income level of more than $25,000,
postwar Germany has become a broadly middle class society. A 
generous social welfare system provides for universal medical care, 
unemployment compensation, and other social needs. Modern Germans also 
are mobile; millions travel abroad each year.

With unification on October 3, 1990, Germany began the major task
of bringing the standard of living of Germans in the former German
Democratic Republic (G.D.R.) up to that of western Germany. This
will be a lengthy and difficult process due to the relative 
inefficiency of industrial enterprises in the former G.D.R., 
difficulties in resolving property ownership in eastern Germany, and the 
inadequate infrastructure and environmental damage that resulted from 
years of mismanagement under communist rule.

Drastic changes in the socio-economic landscape brought about
by reunification have resulted in troubling social problems. The
economic uncertainty in eastern Germany is often cited as one
factor contributing to extremist violence, primarily from the
right. Confusion about the causes of the current hardships and
a need to place blame have found expression in an alarming wave
of harassment and violence by some Germans directed toward 
foreigners, particularly non-Europeans. However, thousands of Germans 
have formed groups and marched to condemn violence or other anti-
foreigner or extremist acts. Although violence or harassment directed at
foreigners continued to occur within society as a whole, rightwing
extremist violence peaked in 1992 and has since declined sharply.


The rise of Prussian power in the 19th century, supported by 
growing German nationalism, eventually ended inter-state fighting and
resulted in the formation of the German empire in 1871 under the
chancellorship of Otto von Bismarck. Although authoritarian in
many respects, the empire eventually permitted the development
of political parties, and Bismarck was credited with passing the
most advanced social welfare legislation of the age. Dynamic 
expansion of military power, however, contributed to tensions on the 
continent. The fragile European balance of power broke down in 1914, and
World War I and its aftermath, including the Treaty of Versailles,
led to the collapse of the German empire.

Fascism's Rise and Defeat
The postwar Weimar Republic (1919-33) was an attempt to establish
a peaceful, liberal democratic regime in Germany. This government
was severely handicapped and eventually doomed by economic problems
and the inherent weakness of the Weimar state. The inflation of
the early 1920s, the world depression of the 1930s, and the social
unrest stemming from the draconian conditions of the Versailles
Treaty worked to destroy the Weimar government from inside and

The National Socialist (Nazi) Party, led by Adolf Hitler, stressed
nationalist themes and promised to put the unemployed back to
work. The party blamed many of Germany's ills on alleged Jewish
conspiracies. Nazi support expanded rapidly in the early 1930s.
Hitler was asked to form a government as Reich Chancellor in 
January 1933. After President Paul von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler
assumed that office as well. Once in power, Hitler and his party
first undermined then abolished democratic institutions and 
opposition parties.The Nazi leadership attempted to remove or subjugate 
all non-German peoples in Germany by forced migration and, ultimately,
genocide. Hitler restored Germany's economic and military strength,
but his ambitions led Germany into World War II. For Germany,
World War II resulted in the destruction of its political and
economic infrastructures, led to its division, and left a 
humiliating legacy.

After Germany's unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, the United
States, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.S.R. occupied the country
and assumed responsibility for its administration. The commanders-
in-chief exercised supreme authority in their respective zones and
acted in concert on questions affecting the whole country. France
was later given a separate zone of occupation.

Although the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet
Union agreed at Potsdam in August 1945 to a broad program of 
decentralization, treating Germany as a single economic unit with some 
central administrative departments, these plans failed. The turning 
point came in 1948, when the Soviets withdrew from the Four Power 
governing bodies and blockaded Berlin. Until May 1949, West Berlin was 
kept supplied only by an Allied airlift.

Political Developments In West Germany
The United States and the United Kingdom moved to establish
a nucleus for a future German government by expanding the size
and powers of the German Economic Council in their two zones.
The program provided for a West German constituent assembly, an
occupation statute governing relations between the Allies and
the German authorities, and the economic merger of the French
with the British and American zones.

On May 23, 1949, the Basic Law, the constitution of the Federal
Republic of Germany, was promulgated. The first federal government
was formed by Konrad Adenauer on September 20, 1949. The next
day, the occupation statute came into force, granting powers of
self- government with certain exceptions.

The F.R.G. quickly progressed toward fuller sovereignty and 
association with its European neighbors and the Atlantic community. The 
London and Paris agreements of 1954 restored full sovereignty (with some
exceptions) to the F.R.G. in May 1955 and opened the way for German
membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and
the Western European Union (WEU).

The three Western Allies retained occupation powers in Berlin
and certain responsibilities for Germany as a whole. Under the
new arrangements, the Allies stationed troops within the F.R.G.
for NATO defense, pursuant to stationing and status-of-forces
agreements. With the exception of 45,000 French troops, Allied
forces were under NATO's joint defense command. (France withdrew
from the collective military command structure of NATO in 1966.)

Political life in the F.R.G. was remarkably stable and orderly.
The Adenauer era (1949-63) was followed by a brief period under
Ludwig Erhard (1963-66) who, in turn, was replaced by Kurt Georg
Kiesinger (1966-69). All governments between 1949 and 1966 were
formed by the united caucus of the Christian Democratic Union
(CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), either alone or in 
coalition with the smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP). Kiesinger's 
1966-69 "Grand Coalition" included the F.R.G.'s two largest
parties, CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In the
1969 election, the SPD--headed by Willy Brandt--gained enough
votes to form a coalition government with the FDP. Chancellor
Brandt remained head of government until May 1974, when he resigned
after a senior member of his staff was convicted of spying for
the East German intelligence service.

Finance Minister Helmut Schmidt (SPD) formed a government and
received the unanimous support of coalition members. He served
as Chancellor from 1974 to 1982. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a leading
FDP official, became Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister. Schmidt,
a strong supporter of the European Community (EC) and the Atlantic
alliance, emphasized his commitment to "the political 
unification of Europe in partnership with the U.S.A."

In October 1982, the SPD-FDP coalition fell apart when the FDP
joined forces with the CDU/CSU to elect CDU Chairman Helmut Kohl
as Chancellor. Following national elections in March 1983, Kohl
emerged in firm control of both the government and the CDU. The
CDU/CSU fell just short of an absolute majority, due to the entry
into the Bundestag of the Greens, who received 6% of the vote.

In January 1987, the Kohl-Genscher government was returned to
office, but the FDP and the Greens gained at the expense of the
larger parties. Kohl's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the
CSU, slipped from 49% of the vote in 1983 to 44%. The SPD fell
to 37%; long-time SPD Chairman Brandt subsequently resigned in
April 1987 and was succeeded by Hans-Jochen Vogel. The FDP's share
rose from 7% to 9%, its best showing since 1980. The Greens' share
rose to 8% from their 1983 share of 6%.

Political Developments In East Germany
In the Soviet zone, the Social Democratic Party was forced
to merge with the Communist Party in 1946 to form a new party,
the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The October 1946 elections 
resulted in coalition governments in the five Land (state) parliaments
with the SED as the undisputed leader.

A series of people's congresses were called in 1948 and early
1949 by the SED. Under Soviet direction, a constitution was drafted
on May 30, 1949, and adopted on October 7, which was celebrated
as the day when the German Democratic Republic was proclaimed.
The People's Chamber (Volkskammer)--the lower house of the G.D.R.
parliament--and an upper house--the States Chamber (Laenderkammer)-
-were created. (The Laenderkammer was abolished in 1958.) On October
11, 1949, the two houses elected Wilhelm Pieck as President, and
a SED government was set up. The Soviet Union and its East European
allies immediately recognized the G.D.R., although it remained
largely unrecognized by non-communist countries until 1972-73.

The G.D.R. established the structures of a single-party, 
centralized, communist state. On July 23, 1952, the traditional Laender 
were abolished and, in their place, 14 Bezirke (districts) were 
established. Effectively, all government control was in the hands of the 
SED, and almost all important government positions were held by SED

The National Front was an umbrella organization nominally 
consisting of the SED, four other political parties controlled and 
directed by the SED, and the four principal mass organizations (youth,
trade unions, women, and culture). However, control was clearly
and solely in the hands of the SED. Balloting in G.D.R. elections
was not secret. As in other Soviet bloc countries, electoral 
participation was consistently high, with nearly unanimous candidate 

Inter-German Relations
The constant stream of East Germans fleeing to West Germany
placed great strains on F.R.G.-G.D.R. relations in the 1950s.
On August 13, 1961, the G.D.R. began building a wall through the
center of Berlin to divide the city and slow the flood of refugees
to a trickle. The Berlin Wall became the symbol of the East's
political debility and the division of Europe. 

In 1969, Chancellor Brandt announced that the F.R.G. would remain
firmly rooted in the Atlantic alliance but would intensify efforts
to improve relations with Eastern Europe and the G.D.R. The F.R.G.
commenced this Ostpolitik by negotiating non-aggression treaties
with the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and 

The F.R.G.'s relations with the G.D.R. posed particularly difficult
questions. Though anxious to relieve serious hardships for divided
families and to reduce friction, the F.R.G. under Brandt was intent
on holding to its concept of "two German states in one German
nation." Relations improved, however, and in September 1973,
the F.R.G. and the G.D.R. were admitted to the UN. The two Germanys
exchanged permanent representatives in 1974, and, in 1987, G.D.R.
head of state Erich Honecker paid an official visit to the F.R.G.

German Unification
During the summer of 1989, rapid changes took place in the
G.D.R., which ultimately led to German unification. Growing numbers
of East Germans emigrated to the F.R.G. via Hungary after the
Hungarians decided not to use force to stop them. Thousands of
East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at
F.R.G. diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals.
The exodus generated demands within the G.D.R. for political 
change, and mass demonstrations in several cities--particularly in 
Leipzig--continued to grow. On October 7, Soviet leader Mikhail 
Gorbachev visited Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 
establishment of the G.D.R. and urged the East German leadership to 
pursue reform.

On October 18, Erich Honecker resigned as head of the SED and
as head of state and was replaced by Egon Krenz. But the exodus
continued unabated and pressure for political reform mounted.
On November 4, a demonstration in East Berlin drew as many as
1 million East Germans. Finally, on November 9, the Berlin Wall
was opened and East Germans were allowed to travel freely. 
Thousands poured through the wall into the western sectors of Berlin, 
and on November 12, the G.D.R. began dismantling it.

On November 28, F.R.G. Chancellor Kohl outlined a 10-point plan
for the peaceful unification of the two Germanys based on free
elections in the G.D.R. and a unification of their two economies.
In December, the G.D.R. Volkskammer eliminated the SED monopoly
on power, and the entire Politburo and Central Committee--including
Krenz--resigned. The SED changed its name to the Party of 
Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the formation and growth of numerous 
political groups and parties marked the end of the communist system. 
Prime Minister Hans Modrow headed a caretaker government which shared
power with the new, democratically oriented parties. On December
7, 1989, agreement was reached to hold free elections in May 1990
and rewrite the G.D.R. constitution. On January 28, all the parties
agreed to advance the elections to March 18, primarily because
of an erosion of state authority and because the East German exodus
was continuing apace; more than 117,000 left in January and 

In early February 1990, the Modrow government's proposal for a
unified, neutral German state was rejected by Chancellor Kohl,
who affirmed that a unified Germany must be a member of NATO.
Finally, on March 18, the first free elections were held in the
G.D.R., and a government led by Lothar de Maiziere (CDU) was formed
under a policy of expeditious unification with the F.R.G. The
freely elected representatives of the Volkskammer held their first
session on April 5, and the G.D.R. peacefully evolved from a 
to a democratically elected government. Free and secret communal
(local) elections were held in the G.D.R. on May 6, and the CDU
again won. On July 1, the two Germanys entered into an economic
and monetary union.

Four Power Control Ends
During 1990, in parallel with internal German developments,
the Four Powers--the United States, U.K., France, and the Soviet
Union-- negotiated to end Four Power reserved rights for Berlin
and Germany as a whole. These "Two-plus-Four" 
were mandated at the Ottawa Open Skies conference on February
13, 1990. The six foreign ministers met four times in the ensuing
months in Bonn (May 5), Berlin (June 22), Paris (July 17), and
Moscow (September 12). The Polish Foreign Minister participated
in the part of the Paris meeting that dealt with the Polish-German

Of key importance was overcoming Soviet objections to a united
Germany's membership in NATO. This was accomplished in July when
the alliance, led by President Bush, issued the London Declaration
on a transformed NATO. On July 16, President Gorbachev and 
Kohl announced agreement in principle on a united Germany in NATO.
This cleared the way for the signing in Moscow on September 12
of the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany.
In addition to terminating Four Power rights, the treaty mandated
the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Germany by the end of
1994, made clear that the current borders were final and 
definitive, and specified the right of a united Germany to belong to 
NATO. It also provided for the continued presence of British, French,
and American troops in Berlin during the interim period of the
Soviet withdrawal. In the treaty, the Germans renounced nuclear,
biological, and chemical weapons and stated their intention to
reduce German armed forces to 370,000 within three to four years
after the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, signed
in Paris on November 19, 1990, entered into force. 

Conclusion of the final settlement cleared the way for unification
of the F.R.G. and G.D.R. Formal political union occurred on October
3, 1990, with the accession (in accordance with Article 23 of
the F.R.G.'s Basic Law) of the five Laender which had been 
reestablished in the G.D.R. On December 2, 1990, all-German elections 
were held for the first time since 1933. 


The government is parliamentary and based on a democratic 
constitution that emphasizes the protection of individual liberty and 
division of powers in a federal structure. The chancellor (prime 
minister) heads the executive branch of the federal government. The 
duties of the president (chief of state) are largely ceremonial; power
is exercised by the chancellor. Although elected by and responsible
to the Bundestag (lower and principal chamber of the parliament),
the chancellor cannot be removed from office during a four-year
term unless the Bundestag has agreed on a successor. 

The Bundestag, also elected for a four-year term, consists of
at least 656 deputies (more may be admitted when parties' directly
elected seats exceed their proportional representation). There
are 672 deputies serving in the current session. Elections
for an all-German Bundestag were first held on December 2, 1990,
and again on October 16, 1994. The Bundesrat (upper chamber or
Federal Council) consists of 68 members who are delegates of the
16 Laender. The legislature has powers of exclusive jurisdiction
and concurrent jurisdiction with the Laender in areas specifically
enumerated by the Basic Law. The Bundestag bears the major 
responsibility. The role of the Bundesrat is limited except in matters 
concerning Laender interests, where it can exercise substantial veto 

Germany has an independent federal judiciary consisting of a 
constitutional court, a high court of justice, and courts with 
jurisdiction in administrative, financial, labor, and social matters. 
The highest court is the Federal Constitutional Court, which ensures a 
uniform interpretation of constitutional provisions and protects the 
fundamental rights of the individual citizen as defined in the Basic 

Principal Government Officials

President--Roman Herzog 
President of the Bundestag--Rita Suessmuth (CDU) 
Chancellor--Helmut Kohl (CDU) 
Vice Chancellor--Klaus Kinkel (FDP) 
Minister of Defense--Volker Ruehe (CDU) 
Minister for Foreign Affairs--Klaus Kinkel (FDP) 
Ambassador to the U.S.--Juergen Chrobog 
Ambassador to the UN--Tono Eitel

Germany maintains an embassy in the United States at 4645 Reservoir
Road NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-298-4000).

Consulates general are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, 
Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and 
Seattle. Germany has honorary consuls in over 30 U.S. cities.

Political Parties
Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU).
An important aspect of postwar German politics has been the 
emergence of a moderate Christian party--the Christian Democratic Union-
-operating with a related Bavarian party, the Christian Social Union. 
Although each party maintains its own structure, the two form a common
caucus in the Bundestag and do not run opposing campaigns. The
CDU/CSU is loosely organized, containing Catholics, Protestants,
rural interests, and members of all economic classes. It is 
generally conservative on economic and social policy and more identified
with the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches than are the other
major parties, although its programs are pragmatic rather than
ideological. Helmut Kohl has served as chairman of the CDU since
1973; Theo Waigel succeeded the late Franz Josef Strauss as 
chairman of the CSU in 1988. The parties together polled 41.5% of the 
national vote and won 294 seats on October 16, 1994, reaffirming the 
Union as Germany's largest party. 

Social Democratic Party (SPD). The SPD is the other major
party in Germany and is one of the oldest organized political
parties in the world. Historically, it advocated Marxist 
principles, but in the Godesberg Program, adopted in 1959, the SPD 
abandoned the concept of a class party while continuing to stress 
social welfare programs. Although the SPD originally opposed West 
Germany's 1955 entry into NATO, it now strongly supports German ties 
with the alliance. The SPD has a powerful base in the bigger cities
and industrialized Laender. Oskar Lafontaine was elected SPD 
chairman in November 1995, replacing the SPD's 1994 Chancellor 
candidate, Rudolf Sharping.

Free Democratic Party (FDP). The FDP has traditionally
been composed mainly of middle- and upper-class Protestants, who
consider themselves "independents" and heirs to the
European liberal tradition. Although the party is weak on the
state level, it has participated in all but three postwar federal
governments and has spent only seven years out of government in
the 46-year history of the Federal Republic. The party took 7%
of the vote and returned 47 deputies to the Bundestag in 1994.
Klaus Kinkel was elected chairman of the FDP in 1993. Wolfgang
Gerhardt was elected by the party as Kinkel's successor on June
1, 1995. 

Greens. In the 1970s, environmentalists organized politically
as the Greens. Opposition to expanded use of nuclear power, to
NATO strategy, and to certain aspects of highly industrialized
society were principal campaign issues. The Greens received 8%
of the vote in the January 1987 West German national election.
However, in the December 1990 all-German elections, the Greens
in western Germany were not able to clear the 5% hurdle required
to win seats in the Bundestag. It was only in the territory of
the former G.D.R. that the Greens, in a merger with Alliance 90
(a loose grouping of left- wing political entities with diverse
political views), were able to clear the 5% hurdle and win 
Bundestag seats. In 1994, Greens from East and West returned to the 
Bundestag with 7% and 49 seats. The Greens Party leader is Joschka

Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). Under chairman Lothar
Bisky and Bundestag caucus leader Gregor Gysi, the PDS is the
successor party to the SED (the communist party of the G.D.R.).
Established in December 1989, it renounced most of the extreme
aspects of SED policy but has retained much of the ideology. In
the December 1990 all- German elections, the PDS gained 10% of
the vote in the former G.D.R. and 17 seats in the Bundestag. In
October 1994, the PDS won four directly elected seats, to reenter
parliament with a total caucus of 30 seats despite falling below
the 5% hurdle for proportional representation which applied again
throughout all of Germany. 

Other Parties. In addition to those parties that won representation
in the Bundestag in October 1994, 16 other parties were on the
ballot in one or more states. The extreme right-wing Republikaner
party saw its vote share sink to below 2% nationally, while the
others drew even less support. Subsequent state elections have
witnessed a continued decline in the party's fortunes.

Recent Election Issues
In the "super election year" of 1994-95, Germans
voted in European Parliament, local, state, and federal 
parliamentary elections. On May 23, 1994, the President of Germany's 
Constitutional Court, Roman Herzog, was elected President of the 
Republic in a special federal convention. The most significant of these 
elections was the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) election on October 16.
The coalition of the CDU/CSU and the FDP was returned to government
with a narrow majority of 341 seats to 331 for the opposition
parties. The new Bundestag, in turn, re-elected Helmut Kohl as
Federal Chancellor for a four- year, renewable term of office.

There have been several state elections of note since the 1994
Bundestag elections. Overall, the results have done little to
alter the political landscape of the F.R.G. Finally, in a May
1996 referendum, Brandenburg voters, for the second time, failed
to approve a planned merger of that state with the city of Berlin.

Many of the most compelling public issues in Germany are 
domestically oriented, with the economy dominating the political debate. 
The high unemployment rate has become a primary concern. External
issues, however, continue to play an important role. Germans are
deeply concerned with the pace and scope of European integration.
They also are concerned with the circumstances under which German
military forces may participate in international peacekeeping
or collective security operations.


Germany ranks among the world's most important economic powers,
witnessed by its presence among the G7. From the 1948 currency
reform until the early 1970s, West Germany experienced almost
continuous economic expansion, but real growth in gross national
product slowed and even declined from the mid-1970s through the
recession of the early 1980s. The economy then experienced eight
consecutive years of growth that ended with a downturn beginning
in late 1992.

After national unification, eastern German industrial output 
collapsed to about 40% of its 1989 level, leading to high unemployment 
in the new states. Reunification strained German public finance,
hurt the labor market, and eventually exposed structural weaknesses
in the economy. Following a reunification-induced western German
economic boom during 1990-92 fueled by explosive consumer demand
and capital spending, growth stalled while transfer payments to
the eastern states rose to $90 billion per year. In an effort
to contain the inflationary pressures of these transfers, the
Central Bank (Bundesbank) maintained a high (short-term) interest
rate policy which further dampened economic activity. In 1994,
the German economy began to recover, and the 10% growth rate in
the eastern states was the highest of any region in Europe. 1995
growth was unexpectedly low at 1.9%, though eastern Germany 
maintained growth of over 5%. 1996 GDP growth was an even lower 1.4%, 
due mainly to a drop in construction investment and lower private
consumption. Growth forecasts for 1997 range from 1.5 to 2.5%
-- not enough to reduce unemployment. Exports continue to drive
growth in 1997 as private consumption remains low, dampened by
modest nominal wage gains, higher contributions to the social
security system and the postponement of tax relief measures. 

Germans often describe their economic system as a "social
market economy." The German Government provides an extensive
array of social services. Although the state intervenes in the
economy through the provision of subsidies to selected sectors
and the ownership of some segments of the economy, competition
and free enterprise are promoted as a matter of government policy.
The government has restructured the railroad system on a corporate
basis and is privatizing the national airline and postal service.
The challenges of restructuring are similar to those faced by
the United States a decade ago. The Government has worked hard
to improve competitiveness by reforming the nation's social and
fiscal systems but these efforts have run into difficulties. 
Changes to the German "social compact" have met with strong
resistence from labor and management alike.

The German economy is heavily export oriented, with one-third
of its national output going to the external sector. As a result,
exports traditionally have been a key element in German 
macroeconomic expansion. Germany is a strong advocate of closer European 
economic integration, and its economic and commercial policies are 
increasingly determined by agreements among European Union (EU) members. 

Outside the EU, the United States and Japan are Germany's major
trading partners. U.S. - German trade is very dynamic, with both
import and export sectors growing by over 10% in 1996. Two-way
U.S.-German merchandise trade is more than $50 billion. The United
States continued to run trade deficits with Germany; U.S. 
merchandise exports in 1995 were $22.4 billion, while German exports 
expanded to $36.8 billion. Major U.S. export categories include 
aircraft, electrical equipment, telecommunications equipment, data 
processing equipment, and motor vehicles and parts. German export sales 
are concentrated in motor vehicles, machinery, chemicals, and heavy
electrical equipment. In services, the United States consistently
shows a surplus in trade with Germany. 

Germany follows a liberal policy toward foreign investment. About
65% of U.S. capital invested in Germany is in manufacturing. In
1996, total U.S. direct investment in Germany was $41 billion,
making the U.S. Germany's the leading source of foreign investment.
Total German investment in the United States in 1993 was $35 
billion, also up significantly from the 1992 level of $30 billion. 

Seven years after the unification of the two German states, great
strides have been made, and the complex task of introducing a
market economy in the east is well-advanced. Overall productivity
in the former G.D.R., which was less than half that in the F.R.G.,
is now increasing, narrowing the gap in productivity rates. The
challenge is to close the productivity gap altogether. The poor
condition of the basic infrastructure, widespread environmental
damage, and lower-than-expected levels of private investment in
the east have complicated the process of economic integration.
Private investment in eastern Germany has been slower than expected
in large part because the issue of property ownership in the former
G.D.R. has proven difficult to resolve. Most observers nevertheless
believe that, after an initial period of economic adjustment,
eastern Germany will enter an era of rapid and self-sustaining
economic growth.

Germany's greatest economic problem is its persistently high 
unemployment rate. As of Spring 1997, unemployment figures were at their 
highest level since 1933, with nearly one in eight of Germany's working
population is on some form of support. In January 1996, government,
industry, and labor leaders worked out a "Fifty-Point Action
Plan" proposal to halve unemployment by the year 2000, but
the current plan cannot achieve its goal without further measures
to stimulate growth and employment. Although a recent 
"Alliance for Jobs" program to trade wage restraint for job 
guarantees has had some success, it will probably not significantly 
decrease Germany's high unit labor costs any time soon. Massive layoffs
by some of the country's biggest firms have spawned a feeling
of insecurity new to western Germans. 

However, despite the growing clamor to address structural
rigidities in the labor market and excessive government regulation,
the economy remains fundamentally strong and internationally 
competitive. Although production costs are very high, Germany is still 
an export powerhouse. Germany competes successfully in highly-
engineered, quality products backed by excellent service. German firms 
are somewhat less successful in high-tech electronic goods. In 1995,
Germany ran a merchandise trade surplus of over $60 billion and
a manageable current account deficit of about $17 billion.
Abundant human capital, low corporate debt burdens, and cooperative
industrial relations continue to characterize the German
economy. Additionally, Germany is strategically placed to take
advantage of the rapidly growing central European countries. 
Although the Germans face fundamental economic adjustments, they have 
the discipline and the resources to meet the challenges ahead. 


Unified Germany continues to emphasize close ties with the United
States, membership in NATO, the "deepening" of 
integration among current members of the EU, and expansion of union 
membership to include Central and Southern European neighbors. The 
F.R.G. took part in all of the joint postwar efforts aimed at closer
political, economic, and defense cooperation among the countries
of Western Europe. Germany is also a strong supporter of the 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which seeks 
to reduce tensions and improve relations among the European nations,
the U.S., and Canada.

During the postwar era, the F.R.G. also sought to improve its
relationship with the countries of Eastern Europe, first 
establishing trade agreements and, subsequently, diplomatic relations. 
With unification, German relations with the new democracies in Central
and Eastern Europe have intensified. On November 14, 1990, Germany
and Poland signed a treaty confirming the Oder-Neisse border.
They also concluded a cooperation treaty on June 17, 1991. Germany
concluded four treaties with the Soviet Union covering the overall
bilateral relationship, economic relations, the withdrawal of
Soviet troops from the territory of the former G.D.R., and German
support for those troops. Russia accepted obligations under these
treaties as successor to the Soviet Union.

The Final Settlement Treaty ended Berlin's special status
since 1945 as a separate area under Four Power control. Under
the terms of the treaty between the F.R.G. and the G.D.R., Berlin
became the capital of a unified Germany. The Bundestag voted in
June 1991 to make Berlin the seat of government. The Chancellory,
Bundestag, Foreign Office, and other government ministries will
move to Berlin by the turn of the century. Berlin is also one
of the Federal Republic's 16 Laender. Its first united government
since 1948 was elected in December 1990. 

The opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, was a watershed
in the developments which culminated in German unity on October
3, 1990. The infamous 165-kilometer (103 mi.) wall surrounding
the western sectors of the city has been torn down, and the city
has been physically reunited. President Clinton highlighted the
lasting significance for all free nations of the fall of the Berlin
Wall in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on July 12, 1994--the
first address by a U.S. president delivered from the eastern side
of that Berlin landmark.

Shortly after World War II, Berlin became the seat of the Allied
Control Council, which was to have governed Germany as a whole
until the conclusion of a peace settlement. In 1948, however,
the Soviets refused to participate any longer in the quadripartite
administration of Germany. At the same time, they also refused
to continue cooperating in the joint administration of Berlin
and drove the government elected by the people of Berlin out of
its seat in the Soviet sector and installed a communist regime
in its place. From then until unification, the Western Allies
continued to exercise supreme authority--effective only in their
sectors--through the Allied Kommandatura. To the degree compatible
with the city's special status, however, they turned over control
and management of city affairs to the Berlin Senat (executive)
and House of Representatives, governing bodies established by
constitutional process and chosen by free elections. The Allies
and German authorities in the F.R.G. and West Berlin never 
recognized the communist city regime in East Berlin or G.D.R. authority 

During the years of Berlin's isolation--176 kilometers (110 mi.)
inside the former G.D.R.--the Western Allies encouraged a close
relationship between the Government of West Berlin and that of
the F.R.G. Representatives of the city participated as non-voting
members in the F.R.G. parliament; appropriate West German agencies,
such as the supreme administrative court, had their permanent
seats in the city; and the governing mayor of Berlin took his
turn as President of the Bundesrat. In addition, the allies 
carefully consulted with the F.R.G. and Berlin Governments on foreign 
policy questions involving unification and the status of Berlin. 

The Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin in 1971 also provided for
practical improvements in the life of Berliners. It made possible
unhindered civilian access to Berlin and greater freedom of 
movement between eastern and western sectors for a period of 20 years.
In addition, it contained Soviet acknowledgment of the ties that
had grown between West Berlin and the F.R.G., including the 
latter's right to represent Berlin abroad.

Between 1948 and 1990, major events such as fairs and festivals
were sponsored in West Berlin, and investment in commerce and
industry was encouraged by special concessionary tax legislation.
The results of such efforts, combined with effective city 
administration and the Berliners' energy and spirit, were encouraging. 
Berlin's morale was sustained, and its industrial production 
considerably surpassed the prewar level. The Government of Germany asked 
the allies to maintain a military presence in Berlin until the complete
withdrawal of the Western Group of Forces (ex-Soviet) from the
territory of the former G.D.R. The Russian withdrawal was completed
August 31, 1994. Ceremonies were held on September 8, 1994, to
mark the final departure of Western Allied troops from Berlin.


U.S.-German relations have been a focal point of American 
involvement in Europe since the end of World War II. Germany stands at 
the center of European affairs and is a key partner in U.S. relations
with Europeans in NATO and the European Union.

But German-American ties extend back to the colonial era. More
than 7 million Germans have immigrated over the last three 
centuries, and today nearly 25% of U.S. citizens can claim some German 
ancestry. In recognition of this heritage and the importance of modern-
day U.S.- German ties, the U.S. Congress annually has declared October
6 to be "German-American Day."

The U.S. objective in Germany remains the preservation and 
consolidation of a close and vital relationship with Germany not only as 
friends and trading partners but also as allies sharing common 
institutions. During the 45 years in which Germany was divided, the U.S. 
role in Berlin and the large American military presence in West Germany
served as symbols of the U.S. commitment to the preservation of
peace and security in Europe. Since German unification, the U.S.
commitment to these goals has not changed. The U.S. has made 
significant reductions in its troop levels in Germany, and, on July 12, 
1994, President Clinton "cased the colors" at the Berlin 
Brigade's deactivation ceremony. American policies, however, continue to
be shaped by the awareness that the security and prosperity of
the United States and Germany depend--to a major extent--on each
other. Over 80,000 U.S. military personnel remain in Germany to
protect these common interests. 

As allies in NATO, the United States and Germany work side by
side to maintain peace and freedom. This unity and resolve made
possible the successful conclusion of the 1987 U.S.-U.S.S.R. 
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the Two-plus-Four 
process, which led to the Final Settlement Treaty, and the November 1990 
Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

As two of the world's leading trading nations, the United States
and Germany share a common, deep-seated commitment to an open
and expanding world economy. Germany is the world's second- leading
trading nation. It is the fifth-largest trading partner of the
United States.

Personal ties between the United States and Germany extend beyond
immigration to include lively foreign exchange programs, booming
tourism in both directions, and the presence in Germany of large
numbers of American military personnel and their dependents. In
the commercial sphere, more than 600,000 Germans work for U.S.
companies in Germany while Americans employed by German firms
here number over 500,000.

The United States and Germany have built a solid foundation of
bilateral cooperation in a relationship that has changed 
significantly over four decades. The historic unification of Germany 
and the role played by the United States in that process have served to
strengthen ties between the two countries. The relationship is
now a mature partnership but remains subject to occasional 
misunderstandings and differences. These strains tend to reflect the 
importance, variety, and intensity of U.S.-German ties and respective 
interests rather than fundamental differences.

German-American political, economic, and security relationships
continue to be based on close consultation and coordination at
the most senior levels. High-level visits take place frequently,
and the United States and Germany cooperate actively in 
international forums.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--John C. Kornblum
Deputy Chief of Mission--Michael Polt 
Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs--Brian Flora 
Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs--Joseph Saloom 
Minister-Counselor for Commercial Affairs--Robert Kohn 
Minister-Counselor for Administrative Affairs--Warren P. Nixon

Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs--Edward Wilkinson
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs--David Arnett 
Chief, Office of Defense Cooperation--Col. Robert Stratton 
Defense Attache--Col. Jan Karcz

The U.S. embassy in Germany is located at Deichmanns Aue, 53170
Bonn (0228) 339-1. A branch office of the embassy is in Berlin,
and consulates general are in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, 
Stuttgart, Leipzig, and Dusseldorf.


The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program 
provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel
Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends
that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular
Information Sheets exist for all countries and
include information on immigration practices, currency regulations,
health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, 
political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the 
country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to
disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other
relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant
risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this
information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs
at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000.
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available
on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program
to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation
to VT100. The login is travel and the
password is info (Note: Lower case is required).
The CABB also carries international security information from
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau
of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers 
publication series, which contain information on obtaining 
passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; 
fax 202-512-2250. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling
abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens 
Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and 
holidays, call 202-647-4000. 

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 
7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778).
Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-
362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,
Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and
advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries.
A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel
(HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-

Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency
and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of 
interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure
from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this
country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing
in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling
in dangerous areas, are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy
upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy
Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family
members contact you in case of an emergency. 

Further Electronic Information: 

Department of State Foreign Affairs Network.
Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access
to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN
includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official
magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories
of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World
Wide Web site is at U.S. State Department Home Page;
this site has a link to the DOSFAN Gopher Research Collection,
which also is accessible at gopher://

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published
on a semi-annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC
archives information on the Department of State Foreign Affairs
Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy 
information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent of 
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh,
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by
the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of
trade-related information, including Country Commercial Guides.
It is available on the Internet (
and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more

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