This book provides an introduction to how the Länder (the sixteen states of Germany) function, not only within the country itself, but also within the wider context of Europe's political affairs. It looks at the Länder in the constitutional order of the country, as well as their political and administrative systems, and also discusses their organisation and administration, together with their financial administration. Finally, the book looks at the role of political parties and elections in the Länder, and considers the importance of their parliaments.
Questions about identity have been asked for centuries in Germany, and to some extent are still asked today. Following the French Revolution, the concept of the state was modified to include a particular kind of state: the nation-state. This meant that it was now the goal of people who identified with one another – whether because of geography, language, religion, history or culture – to form a state which included this distinct group of people, leading to the rise of nationalism, which generally replaced religion as the major focus of common identity. This chapter discusses the origins of the Länder in Germany, focusing on the Holy Roman Empire, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and Germany's transition from the Second Reich to the Third Reich. After World War II, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation, with the supreme commander in each zone – a general from the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union – acting as the highest authority.
As in the case of the American states, the Länder in Germany existed before the federation. But, unlike the United States, there is no legal controversy in Germany over the role of the states as opposed to the ‘people’ in creating the federation. Representatives from the Länder met at Herrenchiemsee in 1948 to draft the new constitution and formed the Parliamentary Council, which negotiated with the Allies over the final text in 1949. The German Constitution, or Basic Law, was then approved by the parliaments of the Länder (except Bavaria) rather than by popular referendum. This chapter explores the theory and constitutional framework of German federalism, first considering the controversy over the location of sovereignty between two tiers of government or, at the very least, over the proper distribution of powers between them. It then discusses the separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary, and finally examines the organisation of the judiciary.
To some extent the Allies tried after World War II to break older administrative traditions in Germany, but the Americans and French looked for guidance at the pre-Nazi administrative structures in their occupation zones. Nineteenth-century organisational structures were largely reinstated under the formula, ‘a new beginning, but not a fundamentally new organisation’. However, there was a focus on localising administration, in part as a consequence of the Potsdam Agreement that called for ‘decentralisation’ in post-war Germany. The reconstruction of administration from the bottom up helped strengthen and stabilise local self-government. The Germans carried out wide-ranging territorial reorganisations and administrative reforms in the late 1960s and 1970s, but these efforts took the form of adjustments of the administrative organisation to long-ignored changes in social and economic developments. Today, the sixteen Länder are divided between thirteen territorial states and three city-states. This chapter explores administrative structures in Germany, federal administration, special agencies, indirect administration by nongovernmental public bodies and private persons, universities and specialised schools of higher education, public radio and television, planning in the Länder and public employees.
For almost forty years after the federal constitution went into effect, little attention was paid to state (Land) constitutions in Germany. At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, this changed dramatically, for two major reasons. A scandal in Schleswig-Holstein in 1987 involving allegations that the prime minister had been guilty of a serious abuse of power (the Barschel/Pfeiffer affair) led to a thorough revision of that Land constitution, which included both far-reaching plebiscitary (direct democracy) features and provisions strengthening the parliament's control over the government (cabinet). The second cause of a strong interest in Land constitutions was the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the re-emergence of five Länder that had ceased to exist in 1952, and the unification of Germany in October 1990. This chapter discusses the Land constitutions in Germany, the Basic Law and the Länder, origins and legal framework of Land constitutions, and Land parliaments and legislation. It also examines Land executives, judiciaries and social institutions, as well as basic rights, social rights and state goals.
According to the official English translation of Article 20, para. 1, of the Basic Law, the Federal Republic of Germany is a ‘democratic and social federal state’. A better translation might be ‘a democratic and federal social welfare state’. ‘Social’ in German usually means socially fair, or just, and generally equal. Therefore, this concept provides a constitutional basis for the German welfare state. How to secure and preserve a highly developed social welfare state with a variety of public services available to all citizens and simultaneously maintain a functioning federal system with autonomous Länder is a question Germans have had to wrestle with since the Basic Law went into effect in 1949. This chapter focuses on the financing of the German federal system and discusses the issue of taxes in the drafting of the Basic Law, the finance reforms of 1955 and 1969, basic principles of German fiscal federalism, fiscal equalisation within the Länder, German unification and the Solidarity Pact of 1993, other federal grants to the Länder and the issue of Länder consolidation.
In the Kaiserreich of 1871–1918, the German Constitution gave the central government only a brief catalogue of powers, with all other powers reserved for the states. However, the central state also had concurrent powers and implied powers. In the Weimar Republic of 1919–1933, the monarchical governments in the states (now called Land (singular) and Länder (plural)) were replaced by governments dependent on majorities in the Land parliaments (Landtage). With the accession of Adolf Hitler to power in January 1933, the Land governments were soon authorised to bypass the Land parliaments by passing laws through ‘simplified legislative procedures’. On January 31, 1934, the Land parliaments were officially disbanded. This chapter traces the history of Land parliaments in Germany. It examines the Land parliaments as legislatures today, Land parliaments and the Basic Law, the party group, the decline of Land legislative powers, functions of the Land parliaments today, the role of Land parliaments and the organisation of the Land parliaments.
When one reads of European parliaments and their members, one normally thinks of the national level. This is understandable with respect to the mostly unitary political systems, which have only national parliaments. But some of these states, such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium, are federal systems, and some others, such as Spain, have a semifederal territorial organisation. In these systems, far more parliamentarians are members of regional parliaments than of the national parliament. Nevertheless, since the regional parliamentarians receive much less media coverage and relatively little public attention in general, less is known about them than about their counterparts in the national capital. In Germany, there is some newspaper coverage of the Land parliaments and their members, but very little attention is paid them by television. One issue that has been discussed to some extent by the attentive public is legislative salary and various benefits, along with the question of whether the Land politicians are overpaid and underworked. This chapter provides an overview of parliamentary deputies in Germany, and their functions, salaries and benefits.
The American party system stands in sharp contrast to the German political parties, which, in spite of regional party organisations of varying strength, are hierarchically organised and member-based, programmatic, disciplined and led by leaders, usually the Chancellor, certain prime ministers of the Länder or other well-known office holders, who are elected by party organs for that purpose. The parties are financed by a mixture of private and public funds, the latter of which are very generous by international standards. Much of the private funding comes from the large dues-paying membership or supporters who, also in contrast to the United States, receive significant tax benefits for their contributions. This chapter discusses political parties and politics in the Länder. It first examines the relationship between federal and Land politics, including voting behaviour in national and regional elections, and then looks at voter turnout and voting behaviour, along with direct democracy.
Five phases can be distinguished in the development of political parties in the Länder. In order to provide the reader with some of the flavour and spice of Landtag elections, and to better assess some of the hypotheses about Land elections and parties in Germany, this chapter presents a very brief overview of political developments in the Länder since 1945. This overview also contains a summary of the major issues, personalities and events associated with the most recent Land elections. The chapter first looks at the old Länder (Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, North-Rhine Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein), and then focuses on politics in city-states such as Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin. Finally, it examines the five new Länder (Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia) and whether Land elections are ‘partial’ federal elections.