DEUTSCH
ENGLISH
ESPAÑOL
FRANÇAIS
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THE BASIC LAW
THE CONSTITUTIONAL BODIES
THE LEGAL SYSTEM
FEDERALISM & SELF-GOVERNMENT
PARTIES & ELECTIONS
COUNTRY AND LANDSCAPE
THE "LÄNDER" (STATES/COUNTRIES)
THE PEOPLE
THE STATE OF HAMBURG
HISTORY UP TO 1945
HISTORY PAST 1945
HAMBURG HISTORY
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The People
Germany has a population of approximately 82.0 million (including 7.3 million foreigners) and is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe (230 people per square kilometer). Only Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Northern Ireland have a higher population density.

The population is distributed very unevenly. The Berlin region has been growing rapidly since Germany’s unification and presently has more than 4.3 million inhabitants. More than 11 million people (about 1,100 per square kilometer) live in the Rhine-Ruhr industrial region, where towns and cities are so close together that there are no distinct boundaries between them.

Other concentrations are to be found in the Rhine-Main area around Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Mainz, the Rhine-Neckar industrial region around Mannheim and Ludwigshafen, the industrial area around Stuttgart, and the catchment areas of Bremen, Cologne, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Nuremberg/Fürth.

These densely populated regions contrast with very thinly populated areas such as the heathlands and moorlands of the North German Plain, parts of the Eifel Mountains, the Bavarian Forest, the Upper Palatinate, the March of Brandenburg and large parts of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The western part of Germany is much more densely populated than the eastern part, where less than one fifth of the population (15.5 million) live on roughly 30 percent of the national territory. Of the 20 cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants, two are in the eastern part of Germany.

Nearly one third of the population (about 26 million people) live in the 84 large cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. But the majority of people in the Federal Republic live in small towns and villages: nearly 6.6 million in municipalities with a population of fewer than 2,000 and 49.7 million in towns with between 2,000 and 100,000 inhabitants.

The population in both the old and new states began to decline in the 1970s because the birthrate was falling. Despite an increase in the number of births in 1996, Germany has one of the lowest birthrates in the world: 10.5 births per 1,000 inhabitants per year (in the western part of the country). The population increase after the Second World War was mainly due to immigration. Some 13 million refugees and expellees entered the present German territory from the former German eastern provinces and Eastern Europe.

There was a continuous strong flow of people who fled from eastern to western Germany until the Berlin Wall was erected by the regime in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1961, which hermetically sealed the border. Beginning in the early 1960s, large numbers of foreign workers came to the Federal Republic of old whose expanding economy needed additional labor which was not available at home.

Regional disparities. The German nation essentially grew out of a number of German tribes such as the Franks, the Saxons, the Swabians and the Bavarians. These old tribes have of course long since lost their original character, but their traditions and dialects live on in their respective regions.

Those ethnic regions are not, however, identical to the present states (Länder), most of which were only formed after the Second World War in agreement with the occupying powers. In many cases the boundaries were drawn without any consideration for old traditions. Furthermore, the flows of refugees and the massive postwar migrations, but also the mobility of the modern industrial society, have more or less blurred the ethnic boundaries.

Since time immemorial, different characteristics have been ascribed to the various regional groups. Natives of Mecklenburg, for instance, are considered reserved, Swabians thrifty, Rhinelanders happy-go-lucky, and Saxons hardworking and shrewd – traditional observations that are gladly perpetuated to this very day in a spirit of good-natured folkloric rivalry.

The German language. German is one of the large group of Indo-Germanic languages, and within that one of the Germanic languages. It is thus related to Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch and Flemish, but also to English. The emergence of a common High German language is attributed to Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible.

Germany has a wealth of dialects. It is usually possible to determine a German’s native region from his or her dialect and pronunciation. These dialects differ greatly: If, for instance, a Frisian or a Mecklenburger and a Bavarian were to carry on a conversation in their respective pure dialects, they would have great difficulty understanding each other.

Moreover, while the country was divided the two German states developed a different political vocabulary. New words were coined which were not necessarily understood in the other part of the country. Nevertheless, the common language was one of the links which held the divided nation together.

German is also spoken as the native language in Austria, Liechtenstein, most of Switzerland, South Tirol (northern Italy) and in small areas of Belgium, France (Elsass/Alsace) and Luxemburg along the German border. The German minorities in Poland, Romania and the countries of the former Soviet Union have partly retained the German language as well.

German is the native language of more than 100 million people. About one in ten books published throughout the world has been written in German. As regards translations into foreign languages, German is third after English and French, and more works have been translated into German than into any other language.

Integrated ethnic groups. The Lusatian Sorbs are the descendants of Slavic tribes. They settled the territory east of the Elbe and Saale rivers in the 6th century in the course of the migration of peoples that occurred in the early centuries A.D. The first document in which they are mentioned dates from 631. In the 16th century, under the influence of the Reformation, a Sorbian written language evolved. During the flush of democratic aspirations in the 19th century the Sorbs experienced a phase of national rebirth, yet at the time of the fascist dictatorship in our century plans were made for their annihilation. Reunified Germany has committed itself to encouraging the Sorbian minority. In addition to the Institute for Sorbian Studies at the University of Leipzig, there are a large number of schools, associations and other institutions which are devoted to the cultivation of the Sorbian language and culture.

The Frisians are the descendants of a Germanic tribe on the North Sea coast (between the Lower Rhine and the Ems River) and have preserved numerous traditions in addition to their own distinct language. A Danish minority lives in the Schleswig region of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, especially around Flensburg.

Foreign nationalities. Germany is a hospitable country. Of the country’s approximately 82.0 million inhabitants (1996), 7.3 million are foreigners. They were all glad to come and stay in Germany. For decades there were no racial problems. The category of “guest workers“, initially consisting of Italians, was extended to include Greeks and Spaniards, and then Portuguese, Yugoslavs and Turks.

Integration within the European Union and the Western world, the dissolution of the East bloc, and the immigration of people from Asian and African countries naturally meant a considerable increase in the number of foreigners of diverse origin in Germany. The Turks, who number 2,107,000, have long been the largest foreign community, followed by people from presentday Yugoslavia (Serbia/Montenegro), who number about 721,000. About 281,400 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina live in Germany, and 206,600 from Croatia. The roughly 608,000 Italians, 363,000 Greeks, 185,000 Austrians, 132,000 Spaniards, 132,000 Portuguese, 115,000 British, 113,000 Netherlanders and 104,000 French are the largest contingents from the countries of the European Union. About 283,000 Poles, 95,000 Romanians and 110,000 citizens of the United States live in Germany. They are joined by 50,500 people from the former Soviet Union, 52,000 from Hungary, 84,000 from Morocco, 25,500 from Tunisia, 22,000 from Ghana, 19,600 from Brazil, 66,500 from Afghanistan, 36,700 from China, 36,000 from India, 114,000 from Iran, 56,000 from Lebanon, 38,000 from Pakistan, 60,000 from Sri Lanka and 88,000 from Vietnam.

The Federal Republic has proved itself to be an open society not only by taking in asylum-seekers and war refugees. It has also always been a champion of free movement of labor, freedom of occupation and freedom of establishment within the European Union.

Approximately 2.5 million German repatriates from the countries of the former East bloc, especially from the territory of the former Soviet Union, have come to the Federal Republic of Germany since 1987; in 1997 they numbered more than 134,000.

Germany’s willingness to open its doors to foreigners who have been persecuted on political grounds is unparalleled. The new Article 16a of the Basic Law, like the former Article 16, still guarantees protection from political persecution as an individual basic right. In 1992, for instance, Germany alone took in nearly 80 percent of all people seeking asylum in the whole of the European Community. In 1989 the number of foreigners seeking asylum in Germany was 121,318; in 1991 the figure rose to 256,112 and in 1992 to 438,191. At the same time the proportion of those who could be recognized as genuine victims of political persecution fell to less than five percent. In 1993 some 322,600 asylum-seekers entered Germany. Their number fell significantly when the new legislation on the right of asylum became effective on 1 July 1993: Only 127,210 people sought asylum in 1994, 127,937 in 1995, 116,367 in 1996 and about 104,000 in 1997. Under the new constitutional amendment in force since 1 July 1993 (the “asylum compromise“), the right of asylum has been focused on its true purpose – the normal state of affairs in other countries – of affording protection to those who actually have been persecuted on political grounds and really do need protection. As a result, foreigners who enter Germany from a safe third country may no longer invoke this basic right. Germany also reserves the right, notwithstanding the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, to draw up a list of countries where, according to official sources of information, no one is subject to persecution so that there is, as a rule, no ground for asylum. Nonetheless, anyone whose application for asylum has been rejected may appeal, if necessary right through to the Federal Constitutional Court.

Policy on foreigners. Nearly half of the foreigners residing in Germany have lived here for at least ten years; 30 percent have already lived here for 20 years or more. Of the foreigners who have resided here for at least ten years, about 900,000 are under the age of 25. Two thirds of the children and adolescents were born here.

In light of these facts, German policy on foreigners focuses on integration of the immigrants who are living here permanently. The core of this policy of integration is a modernization of the law on nationality. A wide variety of measures serve to promote the integration of foreigners who have been living in Germany for a long time. These include special language courses and social counseling services specifically for foreigners.

The interests of foreigners living in Germany are represented by the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Matters relating to Aliens. She is concerned with the conception of and individual issues pertaining to policy on foreigners and to this end conducts talks with German and foreign politicians, representatives of the parties to collective bargaining agreements, and other groups within society; in particular, she is the person approached by organizations actively involved in matters pertaining to foreigners. The Commissioner above all supports initiatives to promote the interests of the foreigners permanently residing in Germany. For this reason she is also constantly in contact with the embassies of the countries in which Germany formerly recruited labor. She visits these countries herself and meets with government representatives there to discuss pertinent issues. One important task of the Commissioner is to disseminate comprehensive and factual information on the history of employment of foreigners in Germany and its economic significance, the origination and development of German policy on foreigners, humanitarian aspects of the actual immigration situation for foreigners and Germans alike, and the political and legal obligations assumed by Germany under international conventions and declarations.

The Federal Republic of Germany will continue to limit immigration, also in the interest of the foreigners residing in Germany and their integration. The 1973 ban on recruitment of foreign workers from non-EU countries remains in effect. Illegal entry and employment are liable to prosecution.

Under the law presently in force, foreigners permanently residing in Germany may only acquire German nationality through naturalization, a process which is essentially governed by the Nationality Act of 1913 and the Aliens Act of 1990. Since 1993, young foreigners who have grown up in Germany and foreigners who have lived here for at least 15 years have been deemed to have fulfilled the eligibility requirements for naturalization pursuant to the Aliens Act and have been granted a legal entitlement to naturalization. In the context of its policy of integration, the Federal Government will frame a new, modern law on nationality which will provide for the acquisition of German nationality at birth for foreign children born here and make it considerably easier for foreigners to acquire German nationality through naturalization.


DEUTSCH
ENGLISH
ESPAÑOL
FRANÇAIS
.
THE BASIC LAW
THE CONSTITUTIONAL BODIES
THE LEGAL SYSTEM
FEDERALISM & SELF-GOVERNMENT
PARTIES & ELECTIONS
COUNTRY AND LANDSCAPE
THE "LÄNDER" (STATES/COUNTRIES)
THE PEOPLE
THE STATE OF HAMBURG
HISTORY UP TO 1945
HISTORY PAST 1945
HAMBURG HISTORY
X
X
X

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