Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, Germany was divided into American, British, Soviet and French zones of occupation and placed under the control of the four powers. No agreement could be reached between the three Western powers and the Soviet Union on a common political and social structure for Germany. Therefore in the three Western zones of occupation the Federal Republic of Germany, a democratic and social federal state, was created in May 1949 with the promulgation of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), whilst in the Soviet zone of occupation, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was established in October 1949. The accession of the new Länder on the former territory of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990 marked the end of over forty years of division and the restoration of a unified German state. The changes in the Soviet Union and the upheaval in the countries of eastern and central Europe had helped to create the political climate for German unity.
Since 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany has been made up of 16 Länder: Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thüringen.
The Federal Republic of Germany was involved in the process of European integration from the very outset. In the year 1957, the Federal Republic signed the Treaty of Rome together with Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands. Germany is a founding member of the European Union.
In order to bring about German unity in the areas of culture, education and science, the Unification Treaty (Einigungsvertrag) concluded between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR on 31 August 1990 contains fundamental provisions which aim to establish a common and comparable basic structure in education – particularly in the school system – and a common, though differentiated, higher education and research landscape in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The unification of the two German states in October 1990 changed the party political scene in that new or altered political groupings emerged after the peaceful revolution in the GDR in November 1989. A wider political spectrum thus came into being in Germany as reflected in the distribution of seats in the German Bundestag after the nine sets of all-German elections: the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), the Alliance 90/Greens, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Left Party and the Christian Social Union (CSU).
Basic background information on Germany can be found in the handbook Facts about Germany published by the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt).