Germany is a country situated in Central and Western Europe between the Baltic and North seas (north) and the Alps (south). It shares borders with Denmark (north), Poland and the Czech Republic (east), Austria and Switzerland (south), and France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands (west). Germany is composed of 16 constituent states and covers an area of 137,988 square miles. Its population numbers nearly 83 million people, making it the second most populous state of Europe after Russia. Its capital is Berlin, with Frankfurt the financial capital with the busiest airport.
Germany is a sovereign state and a federal parliamentary republic. Considered a great power with a strong economy, it has the fourth-largest economy in the world with a very high standard of living, at the core of which are social security and a universal health care system, as well as good environmental protection policies, and tuition-free university education.
Germany is a founding member of the European Union, and is part of the Schengen Area; it became a co-founder of the Eurozone in 1999. Germany is a member of a number of organisations such as the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, and the OECD. The country boasts a large number of World Heritage sites and ranks among the top tourism destinations on the globe.
The Legislative Branch
Legislative power is shared between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. Members of the Bundestag are elected by the people; the Bundesrat represents the governments of regional states. The legislative branch has powers of jurisdiction with the states in constitutionally-specified areas.
The Bundestag is the more powerful house of the two, and only needs the Bundesrat’s consent for proposed legislation related to certain matters. If the Bundestag and the Bundesrat are in disagreement, a conciliation committee is formed to find a solution quickly.
Members of the Bundestag are elected for four years at a time, and number 598 or more members. 299 members stand in representation of single-seat constituencies, and are elected using a first-past-the-post system. The current Bundestag is the largest in German democratic history, featuring 709 parliament members.
The Executive Branch
The President of Germany is the head of state, while the Federal Chancellor runs the government and day-to-day operations, making the role of President mostly ceremonial. The Federal President represents the state itself in matters of international law, confirming its existence, legitimacy, and unity to the world at large.
The majority of German Presidents were active politicians and party members before taking office, so they are required to adapt their political style upon becoming President. The official residence of the President is Bellevue Palace. The current President of Germany is Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The Bundeskanzler (or Federal Chancellor) leads the Bundesregierung (Federal Government), overseeing the executive branch of the government. The Chancellor is elected for a four-year term by the Bundestag. Other members of the government are the Federal Ministers, who are selected by the Chancellor. The office of Chancellor is currently held by Angela Merkel.
The Chancellor cannot be removed from office unless the Bundestag has agreed on an appropriate successor. This system is intended to ensure that the circumstances in which the Weimar Republic found itself are avoided (the executive was unable to govern effectively due to lack of support). The chancellor is also responsible for appointing a minister as their deputy, who becomes known unofficially as the Vice Chancellor (currently Olaf Scholz).
The German Cabinet is the chief executive body of Germany, and is composed of the chancellor and the cabinet ministers. As of 2018, the active cabinet is Merkel IV.
The Judicial Branch
Germany uses the civil law tradition, and its judicial system is made up of three types of courts. Ordinary courts are the most common, and deal with criminal and civil cases. The Federal Court of Justice of Germany is the uppermost ordinary court, and the highest court of appeals.
Specialized courts exist to hear cases regarding administrative, labour, fiscal, social and patent law. The Federal Constitutional Court is the highest court charged with dealing in matters of the Constitution. The Federal Constitutional Court is only called if a case contains a question relating to the Constitution, while the Federal Court of Justice can be called at any time.