The Russian Federation
The Russian Federation is situated in eastern Europe and northern Asia. In the west, Russia shares borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. In the Caucasus, Russia borders Georgia and Azerbaijan. Russia’s border with Kazakhstan runs eastwards from the Caspian Sea. In the east, Russia borders Mongolia, China and North Korea (DPRK). Russia has maritime borders with Japan and the United States.
The country borders three oceans: the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the east, and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Russia has the greatest number of seas, 13, including the Caspian Sea (sea-lake).
The country occupies an area of 17,075,400 km2.
The population is 143.3 million as of April 1, 2005.
The capital of Russia is Moscow.
The country’s administrative divisions are 21 republics, 6 territories, 49 regions, 2 cities of federal importance, one autonomous region, 10 autonomous areas, and 7 federal districts.
The state language is Russian.
The Russian currency is the ruble (1 ruble = 100 kopecks).
The basic law is the Constitution of the Russian Federation adopted in 1993.
Since 1991, the head of the Russian Federation has been the president who is elected on the basis of universal direct suffrage by secret ballot.
The current Russian President is Vladimir Putin. He was elected acting president on December 31, 1999, president on March 26, 2000, and was re-elected president on March 14, 2004.
Vladimir Putin was officially inaugurated as Russian President on May 7, 2004.
The executive authority is vested in the Government of the Russian Federation formed for the duration of the president’s term of office. The government consists of a chairman, his deputies and federal ministers.
Since January 1994, the country’s legislative authority is vested in a bicameral parliament: the Federal Assembly made up of the Federation Council and the State Duma.
The Federation Council was formed in November 2000-December 2001 from ex officio representatives. The term of the chamber as a whole is unlimited, but the term of each member depends on his or her individual term in local government. The Federation Council Chairman is Sergei Mironov.
The State Duma of the fourth convocation was elected on December 7, 2003, for a four-year term. A total of 450 deputies were elected to the Duma (with 225 deputies elected from single-mandate constituencies and 225 elected from party lists). The State Duma Chairman (Speaker) is Boris Gryzlov (leader of the United Russia party).
The state holiday is June 12, Russia Day.
The Russian economy has been growing over the past six years: 1999 - 5%, 2000 - 8.8%, 2001- 5.3%, 2002 - 4.7%, 2003 - 7.3%, and 2004 - 7.1%. By the end of the first quarter of 2005, GDP was up by 5.2%. The Russian government projects a 6.3% - 6.5% increase in GDP by the end of 2005, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts an increase of 6%.
In 2004, industrial output in Russia increased by 6.1%. In the first quarter of 2005, industry was up by 3.9%, and a 5.1% increase is predicted for the end of 2005.
The highest growth is being registered in the food industry, construction, and communications. Growth in agriculture was first recorded in 2000.
Inflation gradually declined in 1999-2004. In 2003, it was 12%, in 2004 it was 11.7%, and in the first quarter of 2005 it was 5.3%. By the end of 2005, inflation should not exceed 10%.
The gold and foreign exchange reserves of the Central Bank of Russia amounted to $10 billion at the start of 1999, $78 billion at the end of 2003, and $112.8 billion at the end of 2004. The Central Bank reports that as of April 14, 2005, Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves were $137.5 billion, which was a 10.4% increase since the beginning of the year.
In 2004, there was a 10% increase in investment in the country. In 2005, foreign investment is expected to increase by 10%, to $6 billion. An 11% increase in foreign investment is predicted for 2006.
In 2004, the budget surplus was 686.5 billion rubles, or 4.1% of GDP, budget revenues were 3,422.26 billion rubles, and budget spending was 2,735.745 billion rubles.
The federal budget for 2005 was approved on the basis of a projected GDP of 18,720 billion rubles and inflation of 7.5% - 8.5%. Planned budget revenues are 3,326 billion rubles (17.8% of GDP), planned spending is 3,047 billion rubles (16.3% of GDP), and the planned budget surplus is 278.1 billion rubles (1.5% of GDP). The federal budget surplus in 2006 is expected to be 405 billion rubles.
In 2004, Russia’s foreign trade turnover was $278.1 billion, up on 2003 by 31.1%: exports increased by 34.8% to $183.2 billion, and imports increased by 24.7% to $94.8 billion.
Russia’s foreign trade in the first quarter of 2005 was 32.3% up on the same period of last year, to $68.2 billion: exports were up by 34.5% at $49.5 billion, and imports were up by a 26.9% at $18.7 billion.
Russia’s special position in the CIS is determined by objective circumstances. It accounts for over a half of the total population of the CIS and about 70% of its GDP. In 2004, the GDP of the CIS single economic space was more than $711 billion, of which Russia accounted for over 70%. Russia also accounts for about 80% of the money supply and the foreign exchange reserves of the central banks of the CIS countries. Russia accounts for 54% to 88% of the foreign trade turnover of individual CIS countries.
The French Republic
The French Republic is situated in western Europe. The country borders Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany in the northeast, Germany and Switzerland in the east, Monaco and Italy in the southeast and Spain and Andorra in the southwest. France borders the North and Mediterranean seas, Pas de Calais and La Manche straits and the Bay of Biscay. The western and northern areas of the country are plains, with the central and eastern ones featuring medium-height mountains of the French Massif Central, Vosges and Jura. The southwestern border is made up by the Pyrenees and the southeastern one by the Alps, the highest mountains in western Europe.
The country occupies an area of 551,600 km2.
The population is 60.2 million as of 2004.
The capital of France is Paris.
The country’s administrative divisions are 95 departments, including a special political unit of Corsica with the greater local government authority in economy, social policies and culture, 22 regions, communes. There is also division into 37 historic provinces.
There are five overseas departments – French Guiana, Guadeloupe Island, Martinique, Reunion, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and four overseas territories – French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna islands.
The state language is French.
The currency is the euro (1 euro = 100 eurocents).
The political system is a republic.
The Fifth Republic’s Constitution is in effect. It was approved by referendum on September 28, 1958 in France and its overseas departments.
The head of state is the president elected by general direct vote for a five-year term of office. The president nominates the prime minister and individual ministers.
The current president of the French Republic is Jacques Chirac elected on April 21 and May 5, 2002. He assumed office on May 16, 2002. Jacques Chirac also had been elected in 1995.
The legislative authority is vested in two houses of parliament – the National Assembly and the Senate. The National Assembly has 491 seats and the Senate – 321. National Assembly deputies are elected by general direct vote for a five-year term in office. The Senate election is general but not direct, with the senators elected by an electoral college comprising National Assembly deputies, department council delegates and municipal council delegates. Voting is proportional in large entities and majority in smaller ones. In case none of the candidates under the majority arrangement secures a majority vote, a second round is held. Senators are elected for a nine-year term of office. A third of the Senate is renewed every three years.
A partial election to the Senate took place on September 26, 2004 against the background of the reform of the upper house of the French parliament. The senator’s term of office reduces from nine to six years and the age requirement drops from 35 to 30 years. The number of the senators increases from 321 to 331. The reform is to complete by 2010.
The chairman of the Senate is elected for three years. The current Senate chairman is Christian Ponslet.
The National Assembly was elected on June 9 and 16, 2002.
The chairman of the National Assembly is Jean-Louis Debré.
The executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was appointed on May 31, 2005.
The prime minister and his government report to parliament. Under the Constitution, a minister cannot be dual-hatted as a member of parliament. Top ministers are nominated by the prime minister or the president and approved by the government.
The judicial authority is vested in courts of two types. The first type is constituted by civil and criminal courts that are divided into the ordinary and specialized ones, e.g. commercial, social security and juvenile ones, military tribunals, etc. There are four hierarchic levels, including minor courts, courts of highest resort, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Review. The other type consists of administrative courts that also divide into ordinary and specialized ones, e.g. budget and financial discipline courts, higher education courts, etc. There are three levels of administrative courts – the first, second (Court of Appeal) and third (State Council) courts. There are courts outside the two types, e.g. the Conflict Court that judges on conflicts about the jurisdiction between courts of the above two types, the Constitutional Council in its capacity of a judiciary body, the High Court of Justice and the Court of Justice of the Republic.
The state holiday is July 14, Bastille Day, celebrated since 1789.
The principal economic indices are as follows:
The economic growth in 2005 is estimated at 2.0%-2.5%. The economic growth in the first quarter of 2005 totaled 0.2% compared with the forecasted 0.4%. It equaled 0.7% in the fourth quarter of 2004. The annual economic growth rate increased to 2.3%.
The consumer goods prices in France grew by 2.1% in 2004.
In 2004, there was a foreign trade deficit of 7.77 billion euros compared with the 1.69 billion euro surplus in 2003.
In 2004, French exports increased by 5.6% to 341 billion euros, with imports climbing by 8.6% to 349 billion euros.
As of early 2005, the French unemployment rate has hit a five-year high, having amounted to 10.2%. The 2004 unemployment rate was 9.6% of the nation’s gainfully occupied population.
United States of America
Geographical location: North America; borders Canada in the north and Mexico in the south.
Its territory equals 9,363,300 sq km.
Its capital city is Washington D.C.
The administrative divisions consist of 50 states and the federal district of Columbia. Territories: Puerto Rico (formally a freely associated state) and the Virgin Islands in the West Indies, as well as Guam, Eastern Samoa and a number of small islands in the Pacific. The Caroline, Mariana and Marshall islands, which are UN trusteeships, are administered by the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, the US population exceeds 295 million.
The state language is English.
The currency is the dollar.
The political system is a federal republic. The US Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 and came into force on March 4, 1789. Later it was amended several times.
The head of state is the president. The president and the vice-president are elected in two-stage elections for a term of four years. Presidential elections are held in parallel with Congress elections in leap years. The president’s term of office is limited to eight years. Should the president die, resign or be impeached, the vice-president succeeds him as president and is entitled to nominate a new vice-president who should be approved by both houses of Congress.
The current US president is George W. Bush, Jr. (reelected on November 2, 2004 and inaugurated on January 20, 2005). The current vice-president is Richard Bruce Cheney (re-elected on November 2, 2004).
Legislative power is vested in Congress consisting of two houses – the Senate (upper house) and the House of Representatives (lower house). The 100-person Senate comprises two senators from each state irrespective of the size of its population and territory. They are elected by direct equal voting for a term of six years. Their term of office begins next January after the election year. Every two years, a third of the senators are subject to run for their seats again. The 435-person House of Representatives is elected by direct equal majority voting for a term of two years on the principle of the number of representatives of each state being proportional to the number of the population in the state.
The term of office for the House of Representatives of every convocation is two years. The House of Representatives consists of – without the right to vote – the resident commissar of Puerto Rico, delegates from the federal district of Columbia, Guam, the US Virginian Islands and US Western Samoa. The delegates enjoy the deliberative vote. The 109th Congress convened on January 4, 2005. The Republican Party holds the majority in both houses.
Executive power is vested in the president who is dual-hatted as the commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces. The president appoints secretaries by approbation of the Senate. Congress cannot give a no-confidence vote to the administration.
Each state has its own legislative and executive authorities, whose organization and competence is determined by its constitution. The states’ legislative bodies are their single- or bicameral legislatures. Executive power in each state is vested in the governor elected by the popular vote for a term of two to four years.
Judicial power: a peculiarity of the US judicial system is the fact that there is no united, national judicial system. Instead, there are independent parallel judicial systems in each state, on the one hand, and the federal judicial system, on the other. Under Article 3 of the US Constitution, judicial power of the United States is vested in the Supreme Court of the United States and lower federal courts established by Congress. At the federal level, the Federal Judiciary consists of courts of four types – district, special, appellate and special appellate ones headed by the Supreme Court.
The national holidays are Independence Day on July 4 (since 1776), George Washington’s Birthday on February 22 and Veterans’ Day on November 11.
The principal economic indices are as follows:
The United States yields over 25% of the global GDP and about 15% of international trade. In 2004, the US GDP grew by 4.4% to about $12 trillion. Despite the growth of consumer prices by 2.7%, the inflation rate remained within 1.5%.
In FY2004, the federal budget deficit totaled $412 billion, with the state debt exceeding 7.5 trillion.
The export of goods and services in 2004 amounted to $1,146 trillion and the import to $1,764 trillion.
The foreign trade deficit equaled $617.7 billion (5.3% of the GDP), having grown by $120.8 billion over 2003.
The 2004 unemployment rate is 5.5% of the gainfully employed population.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The country is situated in the British Isles in western Europe.
The population is 59.2 million as of 2003.
The capital city is London.
The administrative divisions consist of four historical and geographical areas – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are 39 counties, six metropolitan counties and a special administrative entity, London, in England. There are eight counties in Wales, 26 districts in Northern Ireland and 12 regions in Scotland. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are independent administrative entities.
The official language is English.
The currency is the pound sterling (£1 = 100 pence since 1970).
The political system is a constitutional monarchy.
There is no constitution in the country. A set of parliamentary acts, constitutional customs and certain court orders are used instead.
The head of state is the monarch who has the exclusive right to appoint the prime minister and authorize him or her to form the government and open the sessions of parliament. Under the Act of Settlement of 1701, the British monarch must be a member of the Church of England.
The current monarch is Elizabeth II who was enthroned on February 6, 1952.
The legislative power is exercised by the monarch and parliament. Parliament consists of two houses – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords consists of representatives of aristocracy, peers, both hereditary and life peers as well as law lords who are top court members and Anglican bishops – in all, 25 Anglican archbishops and bishops. The House of Lords was reformed in 1999, which put an end to hereditary peers. The hereditary right to be a member of the Lords and vote until the second phase of the reform was retained by 102 hereditary peers, of whom 92 were granted the right through secret ballot by their aristocratic colleagues, with 10 caving in to the government’s ultimatum to switch the hereditary peerage for life one. The right to participate in the work of the House of Lords was retained by the lords who were given their peerage by the monarch in recognition of their personal services and on advice of the government. The House of Lords is the highest court of appeal.
By 2011, at the second stage of the reform, the House of Lords is to be abolished and replaced with a new upper house consisting of 600 members. As many as 120 of them are to be elected by general vote from candidates of the existing political parties, another 120 are to be appointed by a special independent commission and 360 members of the house are to be appointed by the party leaders in proportion to the parties’ performance in House of Commons elections. In line with the concept of the reform, there should be at least 30% of men and 30% of women in the new upper house that still will have no right of vetoing decisions taken by the House of Commons.
The House of Commons consists of 659 members elected by general equal secret direct vote for a term of five years. The current House of Commons was elected on May 5, 2005, sworn in on May 12, 2005 and assumed office on May 17, 2005. The current speaker is Michael Martin elected on May 11, 2005.
The executive power is exercised by the government headed by the prime minister who is appointed by the monarch. The members of the government must be members of parliament. The current premier is Anthony Blair.
The court system is as follows: the lowest degree of jurisdiction is enjoyed by deputy judges in counties. More high-profile cases are judged by county courts. Criminal cases that are out of competence of magistrates and justices of the peace in cities are judged by the Crown Court established in 1971. The Court of Appeal is the next level of the court system. The Crown Court, the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal are the Supreme Court of Judicature entitled to set precedents. The same judges (sometimes, in cooperation with their colleagues from the overseas territories) set up the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to examine certain cases. The court system in Scotland rests upon the Old French law. There are administrative courts (tribunals) in England but they operate under the aegis of executive bodies and are not administrative justice bodies.
The principal economic indices are as follows:
In the first quarter of 2005, the UK’s GDP grew by 0.5% over the fourth quarter of 2004 when it increased by 2.9%.
The 2004 unemployment rate accounted for 4.7% of the gainfully employed population.
Japan occupies the territory of a group of islands in the western Pacific at the eastern coast of Asia, with the largest islands Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.
The country occupies an area of 377,815 km2, including the Ryukyu Archipelago with its largest island of Okinawa.
The population is 127.7 million.
The capital of Japan is Tokyo.
The administrative divisions consist of 47 prefectures, including those of Tokyo and Okinawa (since 1972), and two city prefectures – Kyoto and Osaka. Prefectures are divided into districts. Hokkaido is a special administrative region comprising 14 districts.
The state language is Japanese.
The currency is the yen (¥1 = 100 sens).
The political system is a constitutional monarchy. The Constitution was adopted by parliament on August 24, 1946 and was made public on November 3, 1946. It came into force on May 3, 1947 and was amended several times.
The national holiday is the Emperor’s Birthday on December 23 (since 1933).
The head of state is the emperor. The throne is inherited by male descendants. Under the Constitution, the emperor enjoys no sovereign power and has to manage state affairs on advice and by approbation of the government that is responsible for them.
The current emperor is Akihito who was enthroned on January 7, 1989 and was crowned on November 12, 1990.
The supreme legislative authority is a bicameral parliament known as Kokkai or the Diet. It consists of two houses: the House of Representatives (Shugiin) and the House of Councilors (Sangiin). Shugiin consists of 480 deputies elected for a term of four years, with 300 elected in single-member constituencies and 180 by party-list proportional representation. A candidate is entitled to run in elections in either way. Sangiin consists of 247 members elected for a term of six years. Half of them have to run in elections every three years. Both houses are elected by general direct secret vote. A bill passes if both houses approve it by simple majority. Should there be any disagreements between the houses, Shugiin has a final authority.
Shugiin and Sangiin sessions can be routine, extraordinary or special. Routine sessions of parliament are convened once a year in January for 150 days.
Shugiin has the upper hand over Sangiin as far as the appointment of a new prime minister and discussion of international treaties are concerned.
Shugiin is entitled to put a motion of confidence or non-confidence before the government while Sangiin is not.
Japanese nationals aged 25 or older may be elected to Shugiin and those aged at least 30 to Sangiin. Japanese citizens aged 20 and older are entitled to vote.
The executive power is vested in the government headed by the prime minister elected by parliament from its ranks. The premier appoints ministers, with the most of them to be elected from members of parliament. The government reports to parliament.
The current prime minister is Junichiro Koizumi.
The principal economic indices are as follows:
Japan’s annual economic growth rate is 6.1%.
In 2004, GDP grew by 4.4%. The per-capita GDP based on the purchasing-power parity equals 75%. The basic budget deficit in 2004 totaled 7% of GDP. The state debt equals 169% of GDP, and it is the largest one among industrialized countries.
According to the governmental statistics, the unemployment rate was 4.6% as of May 2004.
The Italian Republic
The Italian Republic occupies the territory of the Apennine Peninsula in the south of Europe, the Mediterranean basin, the southern slopes of the Alps, Sardinia, Sicily and a number of smaller islands. The country is located between 47º05` and 35º29` N. Lat. and between 6º37` and 18º31` E. Long. The country borders France (488 km), Switzerland (740 km), Austria (430 km) and Slovenia (232 km) and has internal borders with San Marino (39 km) and the city-state of Vatican (3.2 km) situated within Rome. The land border measures 1,932.2 km. The coastline is 7,122 km long.
The country occupies an area of 301,200 km2.
The population is 57.9 million as of 2005.
The capital of Italy is Rome.
The administrative divisions consist of 20 administrative regions that subdivide into 94 provinces and 8,090 communes.
The state language is Italian.
The currency is the euro (1 euro = 100 eurocents).
The political system is a republic.
Adopted on December 22, 1947, the Constitution of the Italian Republic is in force since January 1, 1948.
The head of state is the president elected by parliament during a joint session of two chambers. Three delegates from every region, elected by the regional councils in a way guaranteeing minority representation, participate in the election. The president is elected for a term of seven years and can be re-elected repeatedly.
The current president of the Italian Republic is Carlo Azeglio Ciampi who was elected on May 13, 1999 and sworn in on May 18, 1999.
The legislative authority is vested in parliament consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Parliamentarians are elected for a term of five years. The current parliament was elected on May 13, 2001. Under the law on election adopted on August 4, 1993, Italy has a mixed electoral system. The law on election to the Chamber of Deputies provides for single-round voting in single-member constituencies within one day. The Chamber of Deputies comprises 630 members. A total of 475 seats (75%) are divided based on the outcome of majority voting in single-member constituencies and 155 seats by regional proportional representation.
The current chairman of the Chamber of Deputies is Pierferdinando Kazini elected on May 31, 2001.
Under the law on the Senate election, 75% of 324 seats are divided based on the outcome of plurality majority voting in single-member constituencies. Political parties divide the rest 25% of seats by regional proportional representation. Nine senators are appointed for life. The current chairman of the Senate is Marcello Pera (elected on May 30, 2001).
The executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers led by the prime minister (currently Silvio Berlusconi). The prime minister is nominated by the Italian president and approved by parliament. The Council of Ministers is nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president. The government pledges allegiance to the president and it should be granted confidence by both chambers of parliament.
The Constitutional Court was set up under the Italian Constitution in 1947 and started working in 1956. The Constitutional Court comprises 15 judges appointed for nine years, with five of them elected by parliament, five appointed by the president and five elected by supreme judicial and administrative bodies. The Supreme Council of Magistrates is the supreme body of self-administration of Italian judges. It is chaired by the Italian president. The Supreme Council of Magistrates decides on most important issues relevant to the Italian judicial authorities. It also appoints, promotes, reassigns and disciplines judges.
The state holiday is Republic Day, the first Sunday of June.
The principal economic indices are as follows:
In 2004, the Italian GDP grew by 1.2%. The official forecast by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the economic growth in 2005 is 1.7%. The consumer price increase totaled 2.2% in 2004, with the unemployment rate equaling 8% of the gainfully employed population.
The Federal Republic of Germany
The Federal Republic of Germany is situated in western Europe. The country borders Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland in the south, Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands in the west and northwest, the Czech Republic in the southeast and Poland in the east. Germany owns the East and part of the North Frisian Islands and Helgoland in the North Sea, Rügen, Hiddensee, Fehmarn, most of the Usedom Island and a number of small islands in the Baltic Sea. The Baltic and North seas wash it in the north and the foothills of the Alps in the south featuring the highest point in the country – the Zugspitze Mountain (2,962 m).
The country occupies an area of 357,000 km2.
The population is 82.2 million.
The capital of Germany is Berlin.
The country’s administrative divisions consist of 16 administrative entities – Baden-Wuerttemberg (Stuttgart), Bayern (Munchen) or Bavaria (Munich), Berlin, Brandenburg (Potsdam), Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen (Wiesbaden), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Schwerin), Niedersachsen (Hanover), Nordrhein-Westfalen (Dusseldorf), Rheinland-Pfalz, (Maintz); Saarland, (Saarbrucken); Sachsen (Dresden), Sachsen-Anhalt (Magdeburg), Schleswig-Holstein (Kiel), Thueringen (Erfurt); Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg are cities that are independent administrative entities.
The state language is German.
The currency is the euro (1 euro = 100 eurocents).
The political system is a federal republic.
The country has the Constitution of the united Germany, which entered into force on October 3, 1990 and is grounded in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany adopted on May 23, 1949.
The head of state is the federal president elected by the Federal Assembly, the constitutional body established for this particular purpose. The Federal Assembly consists of the members of the Bundestag and the same number of deputies elected by the provincial parliaments. The federal president is elected by a majority of votes for a term of five years (on May 23) and can be re-elected only once. He represents the nation in international and legal matters. The federal president appoints and fires federal judges, officials and commissioned and warrant officers. He enjoys the right of pardon, nominates a candidate for the federal chancellor, appoints and relieves federal ministers on advice of the federal chancellor.
The current federal president of the Federal Republic of Germany is Horst Koehler elected on May 23, 2004. He assumed office on July 1, 2004.
The legislative authority is vested in a bicameral parliament: the Bundestag (lower chamber) and the Bundesrat (upper chamber).
The Bundestag is elected by popular vote for a term of four years. The 15th Bundestag consists of 603 deputies. Half of them are elected by direct majority vote and the other half by weighted voting by means of party lists in each land.
The Bundesrat consists of 68 representatives of 16 federal lands. It consists of members of land governments or their representatives. Depending on the number of the population, the federal lands are issued three, four, five or six votes.
The Bundesrat passes laws adopted by the Bundestag on amendments to the Constitution and affecting the interests of the federal lands. If the chambers are unable to reach agreement, a special committee is set up to work out a compromise. Chairmanship of the Bundesrat is rotated among the prime ministers of the 16 federal lands for a term of one year.
The executive power is vested in the federal government headed by the federal chancellor (prime minister). The German chancellor is nominated by the president and elected by the Bundestag by majority vote.
The current federal chancellor is Angela Merkel who was elected in November 22, 2005. The executive authorities are divided into three levels – the federal, provincial and local ones that work independently from one another. The federal ministries pursue governmental policies, as a rule, via similar governmental bodies in the lands and municipalities. The foreign and defense ministries are an exception, as well as a number of divisions of the finance, transport and interior ministries authorized by the federal constitution. The lands of the Federal Republic of Germany are relatively independent federal entities and determine the organization of their executive bodies. They are formally independent from the federal government within their competence.
The judicial authority is represented by the Federal Constitutional Court (the higher judicial body), the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Arbitration Court that handles administrative, financial, labor and social issues.
The state holiday is the Day of National/German Unity celebrated on October 3 since 1990.
The principal economic indices are as follows:
In the fourth quarter of 2004, the GDP growth accounted for 0.8%. The growth of consumer prices totaled 1.7% in 2004. The German economic institute IWH and the banking association BDB forecast Germany’s GDP to be 1.1% in 2005, while the government expects the economy to grow by 1.6%.
The unemployment rate in 2004 totaled 11.7% of the gainfully occupied population.
Geographic position. Canada is situated in the northern part of North America and is washed by the Artic, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It borders on the United States in the south, and its northernmost islands lie 800 km beyond the Arctic Circle. Canada has thousands of islands, the largest of which are: the Baffin Island, Victoria, Ellesmere, Devon, Banks, Newfoundland, etc. The highest peak is Mount Logan in the northwest (5,951 m).
Area. 9,976,000 sq km.
Population. 32.1 million people (2005).
Capital city. Ottawa (1.3 million people).
Administrative division. 10 provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan) and three territories (Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut Territory, which was created on April 1, 1999, by splitting it from Northwest Territories and is Canada's first administrative region populated by an aboriginal group, the Inuit) with their own legislatures and governments.
Official languages. English and French.
Currency. The Canadian dollar (CAD1=100 cents).
National holidays. July 1 is Day of Canada (since 1867).
State structure. Canada is a federation (a constitutional monarchy) and belongs to the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Canadian Constitution came into force on April 17, 1982.
Head of State. The monarch of Britain (Queen Elizabeth II) represented by the governor general (from September 27, 2005 – Michaelle Jean). The governor general, who is a Canadian national, is appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the prime minister of Canada, usually for a term of five years.
Legislative power belongs to the Queen represented by the governor general and the parliament, which consists of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Commons. There are 105 Senators representing the provinces and territories: 24 from Ontario and Quebec each, 10 from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, 4 from Prince Edward Island, 6 from Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, and 1 from Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut. Senators are appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister. A senator must own at least 4,000 dollars worth of property and be over 30 and under 75 years of age. The speaker of the Senate is appointed by the government.
Speaker of the Senate. Noel Kinsella.
The House of Commons currently has 308 members elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. Eligible voters have to be citizens of Canada or Britain, over 18 (since 1972), who have lived in Canada at least one year prior to elections. Last election took place on January 23, 2006. According to its outcome, the Conservative Party holds 125 seats, the Liberal Party 102, the Quebec bloc 51, the New Democratic Party 29, and one MP is independent. The speaker is elected from among the members of the House of Commons at the first session of the newly elected House (scheduled for April 3, 2006).
Executive power is exercised by the government headed by the prime minister. A party that wins the majority in the elections becomes the ruling party and forms the government, its leader becoming the prime minister. Members of the Cabinet are usually members of the House of Commons (or, rarely, of the Senate). The government is accountable to the parliament.
After the parliamentary election on January 23, 2006, the Conservative Party won the right to form the new government, which was sworn to office on February 6, 2006.
Prime Minister. Stephen Harper
Each province is headed by the lieutenant governor and has a parliament and a government of its own.
The judicial system consists of the Supreme Court of Canada, to which the Federal Court of Canada and provincial courts are subordinated.
Canada's economic performance. The 2004 GDP grew by 2.7% to CAD1.25 trillion. Trade turnover was CAD758 billion, out of which exports accounted for CAD404 billion and imports for CAD354 billion. As of 2004, direct foreign investment in Canada's economy amounted to CAD363.1 billion, compared to CAD357.5 billion in 2003. Investment abroad was CAD432.4 billion in 2004 and CAD399.1 billion in 2003. Consumer prices grew by 1.8% in 2004, and the unemployment rate was 8%.
The European Union (its official name, or EU in abbreviated form) is a political and economic association of twenty-five integrated states of Europe: Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Estonia.
Territory: 3,892,200 square kilometers.
Population: 454.5 million.
The EU is based on European Communities: the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (both founded in 1957).
The principal goals of the Union and its powers are defined by the Single European Act (1987), and the Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1999) and Nice (2001) treaties.
On October 29, 2004, a Constitution was signed at a ceremony in Rome, which, to be adopted, requires ratification by all EU member-countries. It is meant to replace the Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties (and is appended with an insignificant number of additional protocols). The Constitution is a summary of proposals on the European Union's new institutional structure and its functioning. It will greatly simplify the EU basic legal documents.
From January 1, 1999, the European Union (12 of its states at the initial stage) introduced the single euro currency for cashless transactions; from January 1, 2002 its coins and notes replaced the national monetary units of 12 countries of the Eurozone in cash circulation.
The main EU institutions are:
The European Council - meets not less than twice a year at the level of heads of state and government and the President of the Commission of the European Communities and serves to lay down a general political line of development for the EU.
The European Parliament (EP) is elected by universal direct suffrage in all EU member-countries for 5 years (732 deputies). The EP has powers to approve a EU budget, solve inter-institutional problems and ratify international treaties; on other issues it is authorised either to adopt joint decisions with the Commission of the European Communities and the Council of the European Union, or to submit recommendations. EP sessions meet alternatively in Strasbourg (France) and Brussels (Belgium).
The Council of the European Union (the council of foreign ministers or — dealing with branch-specific issues — appropriate ministers of member-countries) is empowered to adopt binding decisions practically on all aspects of EU activity. The sitting procedure is determined by the Council President — an appropriate minister of the state holding the EU presidency for half a year according to agreed timetable.
The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) is a working body of the Council of the European Union, which functions within the framework of the General Secretariat of the Council and prepares questions for its consideration.
The Commission of the European Communities (CEC, or, unofficially, also the European Commission) is an executive body, a kind of government concerned with daily chores in pursuing a single EU policy. It overseas the observance, both by states and private companies, of "European law" as formulated by the founding treaties, legislative acts and international treaties of the Union. Drafts normative documents for Council approval and issues its own administrative regulations. Consists of 25 members (commissioners) who are given, with the general consent of member-country governments, a five-year mandate.
The Chairman of the CEC is appointed by the European Parliament on a recommendation of the European Council. In 2004, Jose Manuel Barroso became the Chairman of the European Commission. Each country submits a list of three candidates for CEC members, of whom the Chairman selects 13 members of the Collegium (not more than one from each list). The candidacies for Chairman, EU foreign minister, collegium members and CEC members without voting rights are subject for approval by the European Parliament.
The Council and the Commission in their work use the consultation services of the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.
The European Court of Justice (consisting of 25 judges elected for a term of six years, and 8 advocates-general) takes part in formulating "European law" and ensures its uniform interpretation. Its lower chamber also rules on claims by individuals and companies.
The European Court of Auditors (its 25 members are appointed by the Council for six years) checks financial reports on all EU revenues and spending and EU instituted bodies and sums up audit results upon completion of every fiscal year.
The European Central Bank is a body of the European Union. Officially was approved on June 1, 1998. Determines the monetary policy of EU countries, sets benchmark interest rates, and administers the official reserves of the European System of Central Banks.
In gross domestic product and foreign trade, surpasses both the U.S. and Japan. Per capita GDP is about 22,300 euros.