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German Flag.Germany (German: Deutschland), officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is a country in Central Europe. It is bordered on the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea, on the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, on the south by Austria and Switzerland, and on the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Germany is a democratic parliamentary federal republic of 16 states (Bundesländer). The country previously consisted of several sovereign states with their own history, culture, and religious affiliation. Germany was first unified as a nation state amidst the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

The Federal Republic of Germany is a member state of the United Nations, NATO, the G8 and the G4 nations, and is a founding member of the European Union. It has the largest population and largest economy of all European Union member states. Germany is both the world's third largest economy and its third largest exporter of goods.

Because of its central location, Germany shares borders with more European countries than any other country on the continent. Its neighbours are Denmark in the north, Poland and the Czech Republic in the east, Austria and Switzerland in the south, France and Luxembourg in the south-west and Belgium and the Netherlands in the north-west.


Germany is facing major demographic change, its fertility rate of 1.39 children per mother being one of the lowest in the world. The federal statistics office estimates the population will shrink to approximately 75 million by 2050. Chemnitz is thought to be the city with the lowest birth rate in the world. Because of the country's federal and decentralized structure, Germany has a number of larger cities. The most populous are Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. By far the largest conurbation is the Rhine-Ruhr region, including the Düsseldorf-Cologne district and the cities of Essen, Dortmund, Duisburg and Bochum. Protestants (concentrated in the north and east) comprise about 31% of the population and Roman Catholics (concentrated in the south and west) also 31%. The current Roman Catholic Pope, Benedict XVI, was born in Bavaria. In total, more than 55 million people officially belong to a Christian denomination. Non-religious people (including atheists and agnostics (especially in the former GDR)), amount to a total of 28.5% of the population (23.5 million). Approximately three million Muslims (predominantly from Turkey and some from the former Yugoslavia) live in Germany. Most are Sunnis and Alevites from Turkey but there are a small number of Shiites. Today's Germany has Western Europe's third-largest Jewish population. In 2004, twice as many Jews from former Soviet republics settled in Germany as in Israel, bringing the total Jewish population to more than 200,000, compared to 30,000 prior to German reunification. Important cities with significant Jewish populations include Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.


The greater part of Germany lies in the cool/temperate climatic zone in which humid westerly winds predominate. The climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream, which promotes an unusually mild climate. The climate in Great Britain, Portugal, France and Norway is especially influenced by this stream and to a lesser extent so are the areas bordering the North Sea including the peninsula of Jutland in north Germany and the area along the Rhein, which flows into the North Sea. In the north-west and the north, the climate is oceanic. There is steady rainfall all year round with maximum levels occurring during summer. Winters there are mild and summers tend to be cool, even though temperatures can reach above 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F) for prolonged periods. In the east, the climate shows clear continental features; winters can be very cold for long periods, and summers can become very warm. Here, too, long dry periods are often recorded. In the central part and the south, there is a transitional climate which varies from moderately oceanic to continental, depending on the location. Hot summers with temperatures about 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F) are possible.
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