What is a federal system of government 1

The federal order of the Federal Republic - The Bundesrat


1 Introduction

2 On the concept of federalism
2.1 Definition of "federalism"
2.2 Presentation and delimitation of the structure principles
2.3 The federal system in the Federal Republic
2.4 Legislative competences of the federal and state governments

3 The foundation of federalism in Germany
3.1 Ethnic justification
3.2 Geographical justification
3.3 Historical rationale
3.4 Development of federalism in Germany after 1945

4 elements of the federal order in the Basic Law

5 The Federal Council in the federal system
5.1 Composition of the Federal Council
5.2 Duties and powers of the Federal Council

6 The financial equalization of the federal states
6.1 Aim of the financial equalization
6.2 The system of state financial equalization

7 Final consideration

List of abbreviations

Figure not included in this excerpt

1 Introduction

"The Federal Republic of Germany symbolizes the importance of federalism in its state name."1 This federal principle of order, in which the state functions are divided between the two independent political bodies, the central state and the member states, has a long tradition in Germany. If one looks at the development of the federal system, one finds that it is not a static system, but rather a process that is constantly evolving. This is subject to numerous changes over time in order to constantly restore the balance between the extremes of uniformity and diversity depending on the respective requirements.2 In Germany the development is currently tending towards a unitary state, the competencies of the federal states are increasingly being changed in favor of the federal government. This tendency could not be stopped by an amendment to the Basic Law in 1994. The federal structure should also be considered in this thesis with regard to this aspect. In particular, the following hypothesis is to be examined:

The political statehood of the countries is endangered by the continuing tendency towards standardization.

To this end, at the beginning of this thesis, the term federalism is first defined in general and differentiated from other forms of political organization. Then the federal system of the Federal Republic will be briefly considered and the lines of development of federalism in Germany will be shown. In point four of this thesis, the principles of federalism in the Basic Law are dealt with in particular. The Federal Council is then explained as a federal constitutional body. The aim is to provide an overview of the Federal Council's political position in the federal system as well as the relevant opportunities to participate, especially in legislation. The sixth section deals with the state financial equalization as one of the central features of German federalism. The work ends with a final consideration in which the results of the work in relation to the hypothesis formulated above are summarized.

2 On the concept of federalism

If one deals with the fundamental question "What does federalism mean?", One quickly realizes that there is no generally binding definition of federalism and its different manifestations. It is therefore important to first provide a definition of federalism in terms of this work and to explain the respective manifestations in political reality and to distinguish them from one another.

2.1 Definition of "federalism"

Federalism basically describes the forms of political and organizational consolidation of more or less independent members in a superordinate community.3 In other words, according to Laufer / Münch, federalism can be understood as the "organizational principle for a structured community in which, in principle, equal and independent members are united to form an overarching political entity"4. The individual members as well as the overall whole are on the one hand autonomous, but at the same time they are closely linked. This principle is also known as “diversity of unity”.

Depending on the emphasis on unity or diversity, different forms of federalism can be distinguished. To simplify matters, one can think of federalism as a bipolar continuum, one extreme of which is an order dominated by the central state. The other extreme, however, is characterized by the fact that the individual member states have such a high degree of independence that they no longer or only rarely appear as a whole.5 A federally structured political system thus moves between the extreme of a centripetal objective, which is aimed at equality of living conditions, and the extreme of a centrifugal objective, which is aimed at independence and diversity of living conditions.6

2.2 Presentation and delimitation of the structure principles

Based on the concept of federalism as the supreme organizational principle, various forms of political organization can be distinguished on the basis of structural principles. These include the confederation, the federal state, the unitary state and regionalism.

A confederation of states as a form of intergovernmental federalism is an association of sovereign states under international law in which the states retain their unrestricted independence. To pursue common tasks and goals, they enter into a relatively loose connection with one another. The member states have the right to withdraw at any time, which is why a confederation of states has a rather unstable structure. Examples of a confederation of states are the Swiss Confederation from 1815 to 1848 or the German Confederation from 1815 to 1866.7

The term federal state denotes a constitutional union of non-sovereign member states, whereby only the central state has sovereignty under international law. This is irrevocably transferred to the federal government. The withdrawal of individual member states is not planned or only possible with the consent of the federal government.8 In a federal state, the individual characteristics of the individual countries are preserved as well as their partial independence. The competences for the fulfillment of state tasks are distributed between the two independent political bodies, the central state and the member states. Neither of the executing agencies therefore has sole regulatory authority; rather, both are dependent on each other in fulfilling state tasks. The fact that neither carrier has the authority to change the competencies of the other for their own benefit (competence-competence) is an essential characteristic of a federal state. This is known as the dualism of decision centers.9

The political organization in the form of a federal state is not always uniform. With the help of the terms unitarization and centralization, certain development tendencies of a federal order can be recognized. Basically, both terms denote a shift in the federal balance towards a central state. The unitarization refers to the degree of organizational standardization within a state. The stronger the efforts to guarantee uniform basic norms and solutions to problems and the more uniform the state organization, the more unitary a state is. The initiative for standardization often comes from the federal states and not from the central government.10

If the federal government is strengthened at the expense of the member states in a federal state, then one speaks of a unitary federal state.


1 Sontheimer / Bleek p. 351.

2 See Laufer / Münch p. 22.

3 See Laufer p. 145.

4 Laufer / Münch p. 14.

5 See Laufer / Münch p. 14f.

6 See Schultz p. 156.

7 See Laufer / Münch p. 15f. and Laufer p. 145.

8 See Voigt p. 142.

9 See Laufer / Münch p. 15 and Laufer p. 146.

10 See Laufer / Münch p. 16.

End of the reading sample from 21 pages