Born in the second half of the nineteenth century from a heap of small states, Germany was the protagonist of an incredible historical evolution that led it to conquer an extraordinary position of geostrategic advantage on the European continent. While it has long been a threat to its neighbors to protect against, in the increasingly interdependent Europe of the second decade of the 2000s it has gradually risen to lead, albeit often reluctant, key economic and political issues.
Defeated after the Second World War, for the whole course of the Cold War Germany remained divided into two separate state entities, created in the first post-war period in correspondence with the different occupation zones into which its territory was divided: to the west the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Brd), born from the unification of the British, French and US zones, and to the east the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, Ddr), on the Soviet occupation zone. While the Ddrfell completely within the range of Soviet influence, West Germany had defined its foreign policy on a double track. On the one hand, a strong Europeanism, pursued through the strengthening of the Franco-German axis which was the main engine of the European integration process; on the other, a clear Atlanticist vocation based on a solid relationship with the United States. Precisely the alliance with Washington had constituted an essential cornerstone both for the reconstruction and revitalization of the West German economy in the postwar period, and in terms of deterrence against the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
On 3 October 1990, a crucial date in national history, the two Germanys were reunited, by virtue of the annexation of the five eastern districts of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany.more Berlin. From reunification onwards, some changes in German foreign policy can be seen. Without prejudice to the interest in maintaining good relations within the Atlantic Alliance and the traditional pro-European orientation, the collapse of the Soviet Union has opened up for Germany the possibility of building a solid relationship also with the new Russian Federation. The relationship was favored by common interests, especially from the point of view of energy supplies, but it was also tempered by Germany’s natural political, economic and geographical proximity to those Eastern European countries that have more tense relations with the Russians. As for the United States, the post-1989 phase recorded a more controversial relationship, especially during the George W. Bush administration. The contrasts manifested themselves openly in the two-year period 2002-03 when the Germany of Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder led the ranks of opponents of the war in Iraq. More recently, the 2014 revelations relating to US espionage activities in Germany by theNSA have contributed to further tightening of relations between the two states.
The 1990s were also crucial as regards the role of Germany in the EU integration process. In fact, the country has decisively supported the birth of the single currency, renouncing the mark, the strongest currency in Europe, also with the aim of easing the apprehensions of the main European chancelleries towards the German reunification process. A move, that of the changeover to the euro, which did not penalize Berlin, making German products more competitive within the single European market.
Germany also supported the enlargement of the Union to include the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, geographically close and with which it has important economic relations. In May 2013, Berlin expressed itself favorably on Turkey’s entry into the European Union (Eu), changing the traditional position of distrust on the Turkish accession project and envisaging an unblocking from the impasse that for decades has slowed down the approach of Ankara in Brussels.
The subject of controversy and, in some cases, of strong tensions with European and Atlantic partners is the German attitude following the outbreak of the economic crisis. Germany has focused on the adoption of stringent austerity measures that provide for the provision of financial aid to countries in difficulty only in exchange for clear progress on budgetary discipline and radical structural reforms. The consequent adoption of unpopular measures by the countries most in crisis in the eurozone has also led to the growth of virulent anti-European movements.
Germany is one of the world’s largest suppliers of development aid, the third contributor to the basic budget of the United Nations (with 7.1%, after the United States 22% and Japan 10.8%) and the fourth in terms of financing transactions one of peacekeeping (7.13% for the three year period 2013-2015): positions and relevant percentages, would empower the pretensions of Berlin to participate actively in international diplomatic arenas and gain a permanent seat on the Security Council of the United Nations.
Institutional organization and internal politics
Germany is a federal republic made up of 16 states, the Länder. Its Constitution entrusts executive power in the hands of the federal government which is governed by a chancellor, while legislative power rests with a parliament consisting of two chambers with different prerogatives: the Bundesrat, which is the federal body through which the Länder participate in the legislative function and administration of the central state through a number of delegates proportional to the total population (from three to six seats out of a total of 69), and the Bundestag, the federal diet composed of more than 600 deputies elected every four years to direct suffrage, in whose hands lies the heart of the process of formation of the laws as well as the possibility of discouraging the chancellor.
The 16 federated states, each of which has its own governing bodies, hold both an important role in the central legislative process and exclusive prerogatives in various spheres of activity, especially in the fields of education, police and administration. Given the lack of synchrony between the elections of state parliaments and those of the federal parliament, it may happen that the political composition of the Bundesrat does not correspond to that of the government. In 2006, a constitutional reform was passed which downsized some prerogatives of this branch of the federal parliament, expanding the power of elected bodies at the state level.
The last federal elections, for the formation of the 18th Bundestag, were held on 22 September 2013. By obtaining almost 42% of the votes and 40% of the seats, incumbent Angela Merkel once again received a clear signal from the German voters. approval of the political line followed so far, both on the domestic front and on the crisis management strategy in the eurozone. The coalition formed by the Christian Democrats (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands, CDU) of Merkel and the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU), the Bavarian counterpart of the CDU, thus achieved his best electoral result since 1990. However, for this mandate he will have to do without his other usual partner, the German liberal party, Freie Demokratische Partei (Fdp), who failed to exceed 5% of the votes and, for the first time in its history, it does not hold any seats in the Bundestag. To rely on a secure majority, Merkel’s party has allied itself, after two months of negotiations, with the main opposition party of the Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, Spd). The CDU / SPD coalition currently maintains high levels of approval among the German electorate, making it likely a further reconfirmation also in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2017.