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700 - 1066 (Viking Age)
1066 - 1397
1397 - 1523 (Kalmar Union)
1523 - 1814
Government and politics
Germany is a federal, parliamentary, representative democratic republic. The German political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1949 constitutional document known as the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). By calling the document Grundgesetz, rather than Verfassung (constitution), the authors expressed the intention that it would be replaced by a proper constitution once Germany was reunited as one state. Amendments to the Grundgesetz generally require a two-thirds majority of both chambers of the parliament; the articles guaranteeing fundamental rights, the separation of powers, the federal structure, and the right to resist attempts to overthrow the constitution are valid in perpetuity and cannot be amended. Despite the initial intention, the Grundgesetz remained in effect after the German reunification in 1990, with only minor amendments. The Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor)—currently Angela Merkel—is the head of government and exercises executive power, similar to the role of a Prime Minister in other parliamentary democracies. Federal legislative power is vested in the parliament consisting of the Bundestag (Federal Diet) and Bundesrat (Federal Council), which together form a unique type of legislative body. The Bundestag is elected through direct elections, yet abiding proportional representation. The members of the Bundesrat represent the governments of the sixteen federal states and are members of the state cabinets. The respective state governments have the right to appoint and remove their envoys at any time. The Bundespräsident (Federal President)—currently Horst Köhler—is the head of state, invested primarily with representative responsibilities and powers. He is elected by the Bundesversammlung (federal convention), an institution consisting of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of state delegates. The second highest official in the German order of precedence is the Bundestagspräsident (President of the Bundestag), who is elected by the Bundestag and responsible for overseeing the daily sessions of the body. The third-highest official and the head of government is the Chancellor, who is nominated by the Bundespräsident after being elected by the Bundestag. The Chancellor can be removed by a constructive motion of no confidence by the Bundestag, where constructive implies that the Bundestag simultaneously elects a successor.
States and territories
Denmark | Norway | Sweden
Estonia | Gadangmeland | Gebaland | Iceland | Monland | Sleswick-Holstein | Tenasserim
Aaland Islands | Cruzan Islands | Faroe Islands | Nicobar Islands
Serampore | Tranquebar
Foreign relations and military
Scandinavia's military, the Forsvaret, is a defence force consisting of Hæren (Army), Marinen (Navy) with Marinerkorpset (Marines) and Luftforsvaret (Air Force). Military service is compulsory for men at the age of 18 and conscripts serve 12 months tours of duty (15 months in the Navy).
Law and criminal justice
The Judiciary of Germany is independent of the executive and the legislative branches. Germany has a civil or statute law system that is based on Roman law with some references to Germanic law. The Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court), located in Karlsruhe, is the German Supreme Court responsible for constitutional matters, with power of judicial review. It acts as the highest legal authority and ensures that legislative and judicial practice conforms to the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Basic Law). It acts independently of the other state bodies, but cannot act on its own behalf. Germany's supreme court system, called Oberste Gerichtshöfe des Bundes, is specialized. For civil and criminal cases, the highest court of appeal is the Federal Court of Justice, located in Karlsruhe and Leipzig. The courtroom style is inquisitorial. Other Federal Courts are the Federal Labour Court in Erfurt, the Federal Social Court in Kassel, the Federal Finance Court in Munich and the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. Criminal law and private law are codified on the national level in the Strafgesetzbuch and the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch respectively. The German penal system is aimed towards rehabilitation of the criminal; its secondary goal is the protection of the general public. To achieve the latter, a convicted criminal can be put in preventive detention (Sicherungsverwahrung) in addition to the regular sentence if he is considered to be a threat to the general public. The Völkerstrafgesetzbuch regulates the consequences of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. It gives German courts universal jurisdiction if prosecution by a court of the country where the crime was committed, or by an international court, is not possible.
Legislative power is divided between the federation and the state level. The Basic Law presumes that all legislative power remains at the state level unless otherwise designated by the Basic Law itself.
Any federal law overrides state law if the legislative power lies at the federal level. A famous example is the purported Hessian provision for the death penalty, which goes against the ban on capital punishment under the Basic Law, rendering the Hessian provision invalid. The Bundesrat is the federal organ through which the states participate in national legislation. State participation in federal legislation is necessary if the law falls within the area of concurrent legislative power, requires states to administer federal regulations, or is so designated by the Basic Law. Every state has its own constitutional court. The Amtsgerichte, Landgerichte and Oberlandesgerichte are state courts of general jurisdiction. They are competent whether the action is based on federal or state law.
Many of the fundamental matters of administrative law remain in the jurisdiction of the states, though most states base their own laws in that area on the 1976 Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz (Administrative Proceedings Act) covering important points of administrative law. The Oberverwaltungsgerichte are the highest level of administrative jurisdiction concerning the state administrations, unless the question of law concerns federal law or state law identical to federal law. In such cases, final appeal to the Federal Administrative Court is possible.
Income and human development
Science and technology
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