Duke From Canada, joined Sep 1999, 1165 posts, RR: 2 Posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 6028 times:
I would like to be able to tell my legal English students more about a topic we have touched upon, what powers the German Lander (or states, eg. Bavaria, Saxony, Baden-Wurtenburg) have in the Federal Republic of Germany. One of my students says that the Lander have relatively little power compared to the states/provinces in federal countries like Canada and the USA, and that these powers are specifically listed in the constitution (or Grundgesetz="basic law"). I have looked at this and have found much more about what powers the Lander DO NOT have, I.E. a long list of all the issues that the federal government in Germany has jurisdiction over (also a long list of issues that are "concurrent", I don't know if this means both the Federal govt. and the govts. of the Lander deal with it. An example of this is Civil Law).
So, what matters do the Lander in Germany actually have jurisdiction over?
Klaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21592 posts, RR: 53
Reply 1, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 6014 times:
Others will surely elaborate on this topic, but the german states do indeed have substantial powers relative to the federal level.
Unfortunately the legislative development has led to a somewhat messy situation where there are too many interdependencies between the states and the federal government / legislative (such as too many federal laws which require assent by the Bundesrat, the assembly of the state governments). This, however, is being addressed by a reform commission which may have improved chances of success now that the political split between federal and state governments has been overcome with the grand coalition.
In general the states have their own constitutions and have primary or exclusive powers regarding cultural matters, education, infrastructure, power distribution between states and counties / local communities, even taxes to some degree.
No state can violate the federal constitution, of course, but their regional liberties are quite substantial.
ME AVN FAN From Algeria, joined May 2002, 13937 posts, RR: 24
Reply 4, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 5982 times:
I discussed that recently with a German in our office. While the German "Bundes-Laender" have considerable power, not least as each of them sends two delegates into the "upper chamber" of the parliament, and the Prime Ministers have a rather strong position in their federal states, the income taxes, at least to a considerable degree, go the union. While for instance in Switzerland, the income-taxes go to the Canton (State), and only a relatively small "federal tax" plus the VAT and the petrol tax and the alcohol tax go to the union. In Switzerland, the "financial directorates" of the Cantons have enormous powers, and even the cantonal offices for military affairs have a considerable say in the armed forces etc, so that the Swiss federalism presumably exceeds what you can find in Germany. But, whenever details differ, federal states in federalist countries like Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Canada, USA, India and Australia really have considerable powers and a considerable extent of self government and (almost) autonomy.
ME AVN FAN From Algeria, joined May 2002, 13937 posts, RR: 24
Reply 6, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 4 days ago) and read 5958 times:
Quoting Sabena332 (Reply 5): "Bundeslaender" (one word) or - original - "Bundesländer"
I know, but the habit in German to combine "names" like the famous Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaft into ONE word is weird and difficult to understand, and to write the ä as ae is almost mandatory due to the fact that most computer programs make "Zuerignaetschlets" out of that letter !
while I was doing an internship at a local authority. It was meant as a joke, but the mayor found it to be a good idea, so it really was called this way. It means Accident-prevention-act on dangerous munitions or something like this.
To go back on topic, there are many answers possible.
The fact is: The federal state has legislative powers in all important areas.
The theory is: The Länder are allowed to have legislative powers in all areas, the federal state (Bund) may only act in areas specifically mentioned in the constitution.
So if you read that, it might sound that the Länder have more powers, but that is not the case in reality. There are very few areas where the Bund has exclusive legislative powers (Defense, aviation, just to name a few), but it also has competences in many other fields, the so-called "Konkurrierende Gesetzgebung". In many fields, this "Konkurrierende Gesetzgebung" applies, this means that the Bund is allowed to act in areas where the Länder in principle may act themselves, as long it is necessary to get a nationwide harmonised legislation. This might sound complicated, but this, in fact, means that the federal state may act in this areas, as a harmonised legislation usually is extremely important. Fields of "konkurrierende Gesetzgebung" are, for example, civil law, criminal law, as well as many other fields.
Important is, that the Länder themselves are no longer allowed to act, as soon as the federal state has acted. Therefore, in most fields national rules apply as the federal state usually has acted in all fields where he is allowed to do "konkurrierende Gesetzgebung".
The Länder are enforcing federal laws as if they were their own laws, so that a federal or a local law have the same legal power and are enforced in the same way.
There are only few fields where the Länder really have their own competence: Education (schools), every state has their own school system, so children in Bremen stay stupid, while children in Bavaria get a great education (this is true, unfortunately). However, a degree from every Land allows you to study everywhere, something which leads to irritating results. For me, education should be the competence of the Bund, but I am pretty alone with that opinion.
Some other famous fields where the Länder are competent is police law (the police is in the competence of the Länder, that's why the Federal police only was called Bundesgrenzschutz for decades. This has changed, surprisingly, during the last years the federal state got a lot of police competences, a trend which some people think is great, which some others are alarmed about, though. I think it is a necessary correction). Thats why police officers in Hamburg wear blue uniforms, while they are green in Saxonia. Police is allowed to leave their state, though, if it is necessary to catch someone who is fleeing, for example.
Also, building law is mostly in the competence of the Länder. This means that planning law (how to build roads, how to set rules on what may be built where) is in the competence of the federal state, while the rules regarding law and order are in the competence of the Länder (for example, fire protection in buildings).
You should note, however, that the Länder tend to harmonise their legislation themselves in areas where they are competent. The police laws of the Länder are very similiar, with some exceptions. Also, the general administrative procedure law (Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz) is a good example for this. There are 17 Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetze in Germany, one for the federal state, 16 (1 for each Land). These 17 laws are identical.
To summarize it: While the Länder officially have more powers, in reality the opposite is true. The only fields where the Länder really have something to say is police and education.
Another interesting problem is the European union. A directive of the EU must be enforced into national law. Representation of Germany is usually something the Federal state is responsible for, but it might well be that the Länder are affected by an EU legislation. In this case, the Länder must adopt the EU legislation, otherwise Germany itself is infringing the EU contract. Germany cannot excuse before the EU by saying: We wanted to adopt, but the Länder didn't.
So, altogether: The Federal state has much more powers than the Länder.
Duke From Canada, joined Sep 1999, 1165 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5899 times:
Excellent explanation! It will be very useful to me.
It reminds me of another situation which, while far from identical, has some common points, the 1868 Hungaro-Croatian Compromise. A little background information, first: in 1867-1868, the Austrian Empire was re-organized into two co-states as the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The two states were linked principally by only three common interests and respective ministries, the monarch, who however reigned separately as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary and had to reign according to the constitutional provisions of each country, and a couple of common institutions. There was an Austrian imperial state, called officially "The Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council", Austria in colloquial speech, and a Hungarian royal state, formally called "The Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown" or "The Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen" and colloquially typically termed Hungary. They were independent for domestic purposes.
But this was not the end of the story, as the monarchy contained many ethnicities and there were often calls for independence. The most successful in this matter were the Croats occupying the province of Croatia-Slavonia (modern Croatia without Dalmatia), who put forward historical claims to being for centuries co-kingdoms with Hungary under the same monarch, but not purely a Hungarian province, though events within the preceeding century or more had compromised these claims, as Hungary treated Croatia more and more as a province or dependency. As part of the Austro-Hungarian compromise, Hungary was required to make its own compromise with Croatia. Deliberations between Hungary an artificially created, pro-union Croatian parliament resulted in the 1868 compromise. The document affirmed that Hungary and Croatia were in a state union, but was written in such a way as to suggest that Croatia was a group of separate kingdoms within the state. Many provisions were included to give Croatia the right to autonomous dealings: the official language was Croatian, they could use their own flag for internal puproses, Croats doing military service were to be drafted into Croatian regiments, and there was to be a minister in the federal cabinet for Croatia, who was supposed to protect Croatian affairs. The Croatian parliament was also "completely autonomous" in all its internal affairs. On the whole, there were some provisions theoretically beneficial for Croatia and its separate identity from Hungary.
However, the "internal affairs" were effectively limited by the same document to education, religious matters, internal affairs and justice. There was significantly more (not the least issue of which was financial matters) which was to be dealt with jointly in the federal parliament, in which the Croatian MPs could easily be voted against, being quite in the minority. Not only this, but the 1868 compromise provided for several ways in which Croatian autonomy could be limited in practice. For one thing, while the Croatian parliament theoretically decided on the autonomous matters mentioned above, its decisions had to be countersigned by the aforementioned minister for Croatia, who was appointed by the King on the advice of the federal Prime Minister, and could thus easily be a Magyarist who would promote Hungarian interests. Also, the Ban or president of the Croatian parliament tended to be a Magyarist, and the Compromise seems to me to suggest that the "Hungaro-Croat co-state" was still insinuated to be an essentially Hungarian-dominated state. It uses the term "Lands of the Hungarian Crown" for it many times and calls one minister of the joint federal parliament the "joint Hungarian Minister". I also believe that the citizenship was called "Hungarian" whether one was from Hungary proper or Croatia.
Thus the compromise of 1868 used some flowery words to formally established Croatian autonomy and distinctiveness in the Hungaro-Croatian state, but also provided technicalities which enabled Hungary to limit some of these rights.
TheSonntag From Germany, joined Jun 2005, 4197 posts, RR: 29
Reply 11, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 5892 times:
Thank you for bringing this up. As always, historical reasons that go back for centuries usually explain why things developed like they did. The German federalism, while wanted by the allies after WW2, goes back for centuries. There is one big difference between Germany and other countries that have federal or autonomous structures.
Germany only has Germans. We have a Sorbic minority in Eastern Germany and a Danish minority in the North, but these have full minority rights, but we have no nationality conflicts.
Look on Belgium, for example: The country really consists of two nationalities, something which always leads to conflicts. The same applies to Spain, in some respects also to Northern Ireland.
So while many Germans have a close connection to their respective Land where they come from, especially visible in Bavaria, this does not change the fact that all Germans feel like Germans. This is one of the reasons why Germany does not have internal conflicts.
Flyingbabydoc From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 5877 times:
Quoting TheSonntag (Reply 11): So while many Germans have a close connection to their respective Land where they come from, especially visible in Bavaria, this does not change the fact that all Germans feel like Germans. This is one of the reasons why Germany does not have internal conflicts.
I don't want to be cinical here but OST/WEST still comes a bit to mind in many conversations and interviews (Mr. Stoiber - 2005). Sometimes I still feel that people wish there were 2 separate countries.