Germany. The protests continued during the year against the savings package, Agenda 2010, which the Social Democrat-led government managed to get through just before the turn of the year. Half a million people took part in a protest march in April, and after the summer, repeated demonstrations were directed mainly at the changes in unemployment benefits included in the package.
According to CountryAAH, the total population in Germany is 83,783,953 people in 2020. The Social Democratic SPD also continued to lose members and suffer stinging electoral defeat. The party received a record low 21% in the EU elections in June, compared to 44% for the Christian Democratic CDU. The SPD also lost voters in all five state elections held during the year. Thus, the SPD had lost seven of nine state elections since the beginning of 2003, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder launched its reform package.
The only state where the SPD won despite voter turnout was Brandenburg. At the same time, as in Saxony, the former communists in PDS maintained their strong position, with 28 and 23% of the votes respectively. In both eastern German states, right-wing extremist parties also progressed strongly. In Saxony, 9% of the votes went to the National Democratic NPD, considered by many as neo-Nazi. In Brandenburg, the German People’s Union received DVU 6%. The CDU also lost many voters in the two East German states, where the elections were held in September. The same happened when the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia held municipal elections later that month. There, the SPD managed to stay at about the same level as in the previous elections and soon showed opinion polls on a general recovery for the SPD.
For the first time, a majority of Germans also said they would accept the tough program of measures that Chancellor Schröder, despite the protests, continued to claim was necessary to get the economy settled. Schröder was also considered to have won in February resigning as party chairman in the SPD. He was succeeded by Franz Müntefering.
Germany got a new head of state in July, when Horst Köhler took over after Johannes Rau. Köhler was the candidate of the bourgeois parties and was appointed by an electoral college where the bourgeois are in the majority. He most recently came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where he has been head since 2000.
There were few signs of economic recovery during the year and the budget deficit fell above the EU ceiling of 3% of GDP for the third consecutive year. Growth was weak, but still at a plus, unlike the previous year when the economy shrank by 0.1%. Unemployment also continued to grow, approaching 4.5 million people by the end of the year, or almost 11%. The worst was in eastern Germany, where one in five went without work.
In February, Moroccan Abd al-Ghani Mzoudi was released from suspicion of involvement in the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001. This led to the Constitutional Court ripping the convict a year earlier against another Moroccan, Mounir Motassadeq, because it was based on the same evidence. Motassadeq, known as the only one in the world sentenced for the Sept. 11 deed, was released on formal grounds and set free. However, he had admitted to conspiring with the terrorist cell in Hamburg that several of the perpetrators were included in, although he denied that he would have known about the assault plans. In August, a new trial was initiated against Motassadeq.
During the year, several German states forbade teachers to wear Muslim headscarves. The Constitutional Court had the year before ruled that federal law permits headscarf, but that the states have the right to impose a ban on religious symbols.
The position of women
During the Adenauer period, women’s work outside the home was degraded and their major contribution to the reconstruction of war-torn Germany was disguised. Instead, the old ideal: “Küche, Kinder, Kirche” was revalued, and a fourth K was added, namely “Consumption”. The Equality Act of 1957 remained a paper provision. Only in 1978 was the principle of equal pay established. Neither was the trade union movement particularly interested in prioritizing the demand for women to remove certain low-wage classes that specifically affect women. Although many of the outward characteristics of the 19th century patriarchy have disappeared, the issue of equal education for girls and women’s access to equal participation in business, in political decision-making, etc., remains. still considered inferior. Women’s income continues to apply as a secondary income in a marriage.
The proportion of working women has therefore remained at the same level since the statistics began. It varies between 30 and 36% – depending on the level of unemployment. Women are predominantly found in low-wage jobs. Within the industry, their income is approx. 30% below the men’s. In 1975, more than 1.6 million. West Germans had a net monthly income of over 2,000 marks, but only 3% of them were women. The share of women in political life is minimal. In Federal Day, the proportion of women declined from 8.8% in 1953 to 6.6% in 1976.
The women’s movement was based on the student movement and the anti-authoritarian movement in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s, the influence of the North American women’s movement increased. The fight for the right to abortion led to cooperation between the various women’s groups, and resulted in significant extra-parliamentary actions. Despite this mobilization, the abortion struggle ended in defeat and led to a certain dissolution of the women’s movement, but it also provided a deeper insight into the power mechanisms of society and led to increased awareness. Yet the women’s movement did not achieve the prevalence it gained in the Nordic countries.
The dramatic changes in East-West conditions in Europe fundamentally changed Germany’s position internationally. The country emerged from the mid-1990s, despite high reunification costs, as Europe’s leading economic power. The expectation that Germany, when the economy in the eastern part of the country comes up on a level with the western one, will further strengthen its dominance has had an impact on international cooperation. Greater Germany has, to some extent, created tensions within European cooperation, and between Europe and the United States. Germany has also demanded a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
The discussion about German military units being able to participate in operations outside the NATO area was highly relevant in the 1990s, as the international community faced an increasing number of situations that required military intervention and control. The topic of domestic politics has been combustible in Germany, but it is also sensitive to the overall role of Germany’s security and foreign policy in Europe. In 1994, the Constitutional Court ruled that the participation of German soldiers in peace and security operations abroad did not violate the Constitution if the Federal Day in each case gives its approval by a common majority. In line with this, the Confederation Day in 1995 decided to contribute 4,000 German soldiers to the IFOR force, the NATO-led multinational force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 1993, the German Constitutional Court ruled that the Maastricht Agreement does not violate the German Constitution. Thus, Germany as the last EU country could ratify this agreement on economic and political union. However, there was a certain European skepticism in the population, especially reluctance to declare the D-mark as currency – the very symbol of the German economic success (“Wirtschaftswunder”) in the post-war period. But the changeover went without any significant problems, not to be missed because the EU’s new central bank came under German leadership.
Germany has been a driving force in the issue of EU enlargement. After Austria became a member (together with Sweden and Finland) in 1995, Germany contributed to the 1997 decision to start membership negotiations with the Eastern European countries. With the ten new EU countries from 2004, Germany has again placed itself geographically in the center of Europe – and in the EU.
After the terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001, Germany contributed to the US-led force invading Afghanistan to expel al-Qaeda; the first German military operation outside Europe since World War II. The decision was disputed, and Chancellor Schröder had to ask cabinet questions. But the conflict went deeper when the government in 2002 opposed an invasion of Iraq without a clear UN mandate. The vision was a German-wide, international cooperation – based on diplomacy and UN weapons inspectors – to solve the Iraq crisis.
The opposition to the US doctrine of the right to “advance attack” was further thought as part of the process of developing the EU’s foreign and security policy, with a German-French axis as its center of gravity. This axis in the EU was strengthened during Schröder’s reign. Mass demonstrations in German big cities were taken to the government’s line. But both in the EU context and internationally, the German government gradually emerged as an outpost of opposition to US Iraqi policy. At the same time, the United States looked with skepticism at an ever-expanding cooperation between Germany and Russia. There was an ice front between the United States and Germany, and the opposition accused the government of isolationism. Conditions were gradually normalized after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, but first under Angela Merkel, the historical friendship seemed to be fully restored. Under Merkel, the German-French axis was also diminished somewhat, but the main coalition’s main message was continuity both in foreign policy and when it came to Germany’s role in the EU.
The 60-year commemoration of the end of World War II in 2005 proved to be a popular celebration – and as a front against neo-Nazi currents in society. President Horst Köhler’s words that the Germans should “move on, without any personal guilt, but without forgetting” – and the cheer with German flags during the home football World Cup the following year – indicated that the normalization is finally complete.