Federal Council (Germany)
|founding||May 23, 1949|
Prussian mansion ,
|Chair||Dietmar Woidke ( Brandenburg ), President of the Federal Council 2020|
The Bundesrat (abbreviation BR ) is a constitutional body of the Federal Republic of Germany . About the Federal acting countries in the legislation and administration of the federal as well as in matters of the European Union with. Each state is represented in the Federal Council by members of its state government . In this way, the interests of the federal states are taken into account in the formation of the political will of the state as a whole.
The Bundesrat is an expression of federalism and continues a German constitutional tradition. Because he is involved in legislation, some researchers consider him a kind of second chamber or state chamber next to the Bundestag . Others see the Bundesrat as an organ of their own kind. In any case, they do not consider it a parliament or a parliamentary chamber, since the members do not have their own mandate. If the government changes in a federal state, for example after a state election, the state sends new members to the Federal Council accordingly.
The importance of the Federal Council in the political system depends on the one hand on power constellations. The parties that form a coalition in the Bundestag and make up the federal government do not always have a majority in the Bundesrat. So further parties have to be won for a Federal Council majority. In addition, in history there were sometimes more, sometimes fewer laws that required approval. In the first decades, the proportion of these laws increased sharply and with it the importance of a majority in the Federal Council. In 2006 and thereafter, attempts were made in so-called federalism reforms to reduce the number of laws requiring approval.
Even in earlier epochs of the German federal state and in the states before that, there were organs that represented the member states. The first forerunner of the Federal Council was the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire . There, the member states or the princes, bishops and cities had different rights, partly depending on their current importance, partly on historical rights.
Another model was the Bundestag (the Federal Assembly) of the German Confederation from 1815 to 1866. The representatives of around 40 German federal members were gathered in it. The most important resolutions required unanimity. Otherwise, the states had different voting weights and there were majority decisions.
The North German Confederation of 1867 was a newly founded federal state, but its constitution revealed the reform debates from the previous era. The representation of the member states was called the Federal Council . According to the constitution, the member states sent different numbers of members to the Federal Council, based on their old strength in the Bundestag before 1866. In addition to the Federal Council, there was a Reichstag directly elected by the people ; a law could only be implemented if these two bodies approved. This political system did not change after the North German Confederation was renamed the German Empire (1870/71).
In the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) the approval of the Reichsrat was only required for some laws. However, the constitution could only be changed with a two-thirds majority in the Reichsrat. The National Socialists abolished the Reichsrat in 1934.
In 1949 the Federal Republic set up a Federal Council with somewhat more rights. As in the Weimar Republic, the number of members is no longer constitutionally set per country; instead, the states receive a different number of Federal Council members depending on the number of inhabitants, which can change. In 1990 the maximum number of votes for a country was increased from five to six.
The Basic Law formulates the mandate of the Bundesrat inand nutshell as follows: "Through the Bundesrat, the states participate in the legislation and administration of the Federation and in matters of the European Union." The states, represented by the Governments of the federal states act in the Bundesrat and thus participate in the areas mentioned, whereby the types of participation are designed differently.
The Parliamentary Council had initially also discussed the name of the Land Chamber for the Bundesrat (as a contrast to the People's Chamber , which was also proposed as a name for the Bundestag), but this was later rejected. Even today, the Federal Council is occasionally referred to as the “second chamber” or “state chamber”, and abroad usually even as the upper house . Nevertheless, according to the Basic Law, it is an independent constitutional body of the federal government and, unlike in most countries of the world, “not a second chamber of a uniform legislative body that would be equally involved in the legislative process as the first chamber”.
In addition to the Federal Government and the Bundestag, the Bundesrat has the right to initiate legislation. If it passes a bill, it is first sent to the federal government, which can comment on it. The draft and the opinion are generally to be submitted to the Bundestag within six - in certain cases within three or nine - weeks.
Bills by the federal government are first forwarded to the Federal Council, which can comment on them in the first round. Again, a period of six (in special cases three or nine) weeks applies. The Federal Government can respond to the Bundesrat's opinion before submitting the bill to the German Bundestag.
The involvement of the Bundesrat in the so-called second round differs in terms of whether the law passed by the Bundestag requires the consent of the Bundesrat in order to come into force. Such a law is also referred to as a "consent law" or "law requiring consent" . The Federal Council can object to all other laws after conciliation proceedings. These laws are therefore referred to as " objection laws ".
The need for approval results from the Basic Law and affects three types of laws :
- Laws amending the constitution (a two-thirds majority is required for approval , which is currently at least 46 votes),
- Laws that affect countries ' finances (e.g., tax laws that affect countries' revenues, or laws that require countries to spend or provide in-kind contributions) and
- Laws affecting the organizational or administrative sovereignty of the federal states
According to the “uniform thesis” confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court , the need for consent always extends to the law in its entirety and not just to individual provisions that trigger the need for consent.
From the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany to the end of the 15th legislative period of the Bundestag, 3362 consent laws (around 53%) and 2973 objection laws came into force. The proportion of laws requiring approval fell to 41.8% in the 16th electoral term (2005–2009) and to 38.3% in the 17th electoral term (2009–2013), which came into force on September 1, 2006 Federalism reform is likely to be related.
In the case of laws requiring approval, the Basic Law provides the Federal Council with three options :
- He agrees to the law.
- He demands that the mediation committee be convened .
- He disagrees with the law.
If no agreement can be reached in the mediation committee (“spurious result”) and the Federal Council does not agree to this spurious result or if the Federal Council decides on a “no” without the mediation committee, the law has failed if further appeals to the mediation committee (by the federal government or the German Bundestag) lead to the same result, i.e. non-approval in the Bundesrat.
The mediation committee can therefore be convened three times (by the Bundesrat, the German Bundestag and the federal government) and has to take its decisions “within a reasonable period ”. Laws that require approval are expressly mentioned in the Basic Law - for example the financial aid according to 104b. In the case of formal constitutionality, it is not necessary to check the requirements. The pure legislative competence is necessary.
In the case of laws that do not require the approval of the Bundesrat to come into force, the Bundesrat has less influence, as its vote can be overruled by the Bundestag. If he does not agree with the law, he can first convene the mediation committee and try to reach an agreement with the Bundestag. If the mediation committee proposes changes, these must first be decided by the Bundestag before the Bundesrat finally decides whether or not to object to the now amended law. If the mediation committee does not propose any changes or if an agreement cannot be reached, the Federal Council decides on an objection to the still unchanged legislative resolution without the participation of the Bundestag again.
The Federal Council must decide on an objection within two weeks, the period beginning with the receipt of the amendment resolution of the Bundestag or with the notification of the chairman of the mediation committee about the result of the mediation procedure.
An objection by the Bundesrat can be overruled by the German Bundestag. If the Bundesrat resolves the objection with an absolute majority (in total the Bundesrat has 69 votes, absolute majority = 35 votes, two-thirds majority = 46), the objection can only be rejected with an absolute majority in the Bundestag (majority of members = Chancellor majority ). If the Bundesrat submits the objection with a two-thirds majority, two-thirds of the votes cast must come together to reject the objection in the Bundestag, but at least half of all members. If the Bundestag does not reject the objection, the law has failed.
Regulations and administrative regulations
Below the level of a federal law, there are statutory ordinances of the federal government, which, depending on the authority to issue ordinances , require the consent of the Bundesrat - possibly also the German Bundestag. These ordinances are usually issued by a federal minister .
The approval of the Federal Council to federal ordinances is the case according toPara. 2 of the Basic Law,
- if the authorization to issue the ordinance has been issued in a consent law , i.e. a law that requires the consent of the Bundesrat;
- if the ordinance is carried out by the states as a separate matter or on behalf of the federal government, which is the case on the basis of and ;
- with certain ordinances in the field of postal services , telecommunications and railways .
If a draft ordinance is forwarded to the Federal Council, it can approve it, approve or refuse to approve “changes” or postpone the discussion.
The Federal Council can also adopt draft statutory ordinances of the federal government that require its own approval. Resolutions on its own draft ordinances are then passed on to the federal government.
The approval of the Federal Council is generally required for general administrative regulations as well. These are internal legal provisions that contain further definitions and modalities for the uniform application of the law. Administrative regulations have no direct legal effect and are then subject to approval if the states implement federal laws as their own matter or on behalf of the federal government.
As Europe continues to grow closer together, more and more state competencies are being transferred to the European Union . The EU can intervene directly or indirectly in many areas of life by issuing regulations. Just as the federal states have a say in federal legislation on domestic measures, the governments of the individual member states are involved in EU measures. According to (4) of the Basic Law, the Bundesrat is to be involved in the decision-making process of the federal government in such cases, insofar as it has to participate in a corresponding domestic measure or insofar as the Länder are responsible within the country.
If an area of law is to be regulated in the EU in which the federal states have a say at national level, the Bundesrat must also be involved at European level in accordance with the degree of its domestic say. This can go so far that the Federal Council appoints the German representative in the Council of the European Union ; only participation and coordination with the federal government is envisaged and the protection of national interests is to be ensured.
European Chamber since 1992,whose decisions on EU matters are deemed to be decisions of the Federal Council. Each country sends a member or a deputy member of the Federal Council to the European Chamber. The number of votes of a country in the European Chamber is identical to that in the plenary of the Federal Council. The Chamber of Europe can also decide by means of a written survey. Since the Federal Council meets every three weeks, there were hardly any cases that were so urgent that the European Chamber had to be convened in the meantime.the Basic Law has enabled the Federal Council toset upa
In certain exceptional constitutional situations, the Federal Council has additional tasks, powers and rights that only arise sporadically and have therefore only rarely or not yet been applied.
On the basis of the emergency laws, the federal government has the right to compete with legislation in the event of a defense, also for the areas that are part of the legislative competence of the states. Corresponding laws require the approval of the Federal Council. The legislative process can be accelerated by jointly deliberating a draft law by the Bundestag and Bundesrat.
Election periods of the state parliaments (and thus the terms of office of the state government) end no earlier than six months after the end of the state of defense.
If the Bundestag is unable to act in the event of a defense, the Joint Committee shall take its place . Two thirds of this consists of members of the Bundestag and one third of members of the Bundesrat. Each Land sends a member of the Federal Council who - unlike when participating in federal legislation and administration as well as in matters of the European Union - is not bound by instructions. In addition to the 16 members of the Bundesrat, a further 32 members of the Bundestag belong to the joint committee; it has a total of 48 members. If the prerequisites for the meeting of the Joint Committee are met, it shall exercise the tasks and powers of the Bundestag and Bundesrat in a uniform manner. The joint committee can also determine the state of defense. Laws of the Joint Committee are repealed by resolution of the Bundestag with the consent of the Bundesrat; the Bundesrat can demand that the Bundestag pass a resolution on this.
The lifting of the state of defense requires the consent of the Bundesrat. The latter can demand that the Bundestag pass a resolution on this.
In the event of an internal emergency, e.g. B. In the event of natural disasters or if there is a threat to the existence of a state or the federal government or their free democratic basic order , the federal government can deploy armed forces to support the police forces of the states and the federal police in protecting civilian objects and in combating organized and militarily armed insurgents. In this case, a country can request police forces from other countries as well as forces and facilities from other administrations and the federal police. The federal government can submit the police of one country and the police forces of other countries to their instructions and deploy units of the federal police if the endangered country is not ready or able to combat the danger itself.
The deployment of armed forces as well as the subordination of the police forces of the federal states to the authority of the federal government are to be stopped at any time if the Federal Council so requests.
If a vote of confidence by the Federal Chancellor fails and the Federal President does not dissolve the Bundestag, the Federal President can, at the request of the Federal Government and with the consent of the Federal Council, declare a legislative emergency if the vote of confidence was linked to a draft law. The same applies if, after a vote of confidence, the Bundestag rejects a draft law that the Federal Government has designated as urgent or does not deal with it for too long.
If the Bundestag rejects the draft bill again after declaring the legislative emergency or if it accepts it in a version that the Federal Government has designated as unacceptable, the law is deemed to have been passed, provided the Bundesrat approves it. Through this procedure, the Basic Law can neither be changed nor wholly or partially invalidated or suspended.
This turns the Federal Council into an emergency parliament that is supposed to ensure that the minority government is able to act. The Bundestag can elect a new Federal Chancellor at any time and thus end the legislative emergency. The other competencies of the Bundestag, such as B. the introduction and adoption of laws remain in place. In this way, the laws passed on the legislative emergency can also be repealed if a constructive majority in favor can be found in the Bundestag.
The legislative emergency has never been declared in the history of the Federal Republic.
Other Powers and Rights
In addition to the specific tasks and responsibilities that the Basic Law assigns to the Federal Council, the Federal Council has a number of constitutional functions.
Election of constitutional judges
GG provides that the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court are elected half by the Bundestag and half by the Bundesrat. While the electoral committee consisting of twelve members isformedfor the judges to be elected by the Bundestag according to BVerfGG, thejudges to be appointedby the Bundesrat are elected from the plenary with at least two thirds of the votesaccording to BVerfGG. Because of the required two-thirds majority, the constitutional judges can only be elected by the Federal Council if there is broad consensus in the plenary.
For disputes with other constitutional organs about the scope of mutual rights and obligations arising from its position as a constitutional organ , the Federal Council is authorized to bring the organ before the Federal Constitutional Court. So far, the Federal Council has made use of this option twice:
In the first case, the motion was directed against the Federal President, who , contrary to the opinion of the Federal Council, did not consider the law on the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation of July 25, 1957, to require approval. However, the Federal Council withdrew the lawsuit after the Federal Constitutional Court confirmed the law as constitutional in parallel proceedings.
In the second case, the Federal Council turned against the Federal Government and its “ Apostille Ordinance ” of February 23, 1966. Here too, the need for approval was disputed.
Competence control procedure
In the area of competing legislation , the federal government only has the legislative competence to regulate certain situations in life if and to the extent that the establishment of equivalent living conditions in the federal territory or the preservation of legal or economic unity in the national interest makes federal regulation necessary. In the event of disputes over the question of whether these requirements are met, the Bundesrat, along with the state governments and state parliaments, is authorized to bring an action before the Federal Constitutional Court.
The Bundesrat, like the Bundestag, can indict the Federal President before the Federal Constitutional Court if it is of the opinion that the Federal President has intentionally violated the Basic Law or another federal law. The application to be submitted by a quarter of the members of the Bundesrat or the Bundestag requires a two-thirds majority to be accepted (GG). The Federal Constitutional Court can remove the Federal President from office by means of an interim order, even during the ongoing proceedings. Since the Federal Republic of Germany came into existence, there have been no presidential charges.
Participation in personnel issues
The Federal Council participates in the appointment of various officials and federal bodies to varying degrees. In agreement with the Federal Government, the Federal Council proposes half of the members of the Board of Directors of the Bundesbank pursuant to BBankG ; pursuant to (2) No. 2 SGB III, it appoints three members of the group of public bodies on the Administrative Council of the Federal Employment Agency . According to GVG, the proposals of the Federal Minister of Justice for the office of the Federal Public Prosecutor and the Federal Prosecutor require the approval of the Federal Council. Further nomination rights relate to the financial planning council , the broadcasting councils of Deutsche Welle and Deutschlandfunk, and the advisory board at the Federal Network Agency .
President and Presidium
The Presidium consists of the President of the Federal Council and two Vice-Presidents. According to the Basic Law and the rules of procedure, the Federal Council re-elects its Presidium for one year. As early as 1950, the Königstein Agreement agreed on a sequence according to which these representative offices were to be filled: starting with the country with the most inhabitants, the prime ministers of the countries are elected president in descending order of their number of inhabitants. Due to changes in the population, the order was adjusted several times, most recently on December 12, 2013. The vice-presidents are also determined according to a corresponding key. The president and vice-presidents are regularly elected unanimously. They take up their office at the beginning of the financial year on November 1st of each year. If a Prime Minister leaves office, he also gives up his office as President of the Federal Council. His successor as Prime Minister also succeeds him in the Presidium of the Federal Council. In this way, the office of President of the Federal Council is protected from changing majorities and party-political discussions. In addition, this corresponds to the federal principle, according to which every country, regardless of size or number of inhabitants, has the same rank and provides the president. The annual state act on the Day of German Unity on October 3rd was also linked to the presidency cycle, so that it is carried out by the country that currently has the President of the Federal Council - usually in the respective state capital. The President represents the Federal Republic of Germany in all matters of the Bundesrat. He is the highest employer of the Federal Council officials and he exercises the house rights. The Presidium is responsible for drawing up the Federal Council's budget.
According tothe Basic Law, the President of the Federal Council performs the duties of the Federal President if the President is prevented or leaves office prematurely. While he is serving as Federal President, he is prevented from exercising his office as Federal Council President. The Vice-Presidents represent the Federal Council President in the event that he is prevented from doing so in the order in which they appear, i.e. first the first and then the second Vice-President.
By resolution of the Federal Council of June 8, 2007, the number of Vice Presidents was reduced from three to two at the beginning of the 2007/2008 financial year. Among other things, the explanatory memorandum states: “The downsizing of the Presidium and the concentration of its tasks enables the continuity of the composition of the Presidium to be strengthened. These innovations can be expected to have positive effects on the work of the Presidium and the perception of the Federal Council as a whole. "
Members and distribution of votes to the countries
|Baden-Württemberg||11,023,425||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||1,837,238||Greens, CDU||2021||2029|
|Bavaria||12,997,204||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||2,166,201||CSU, FW||2023||2028|
|Berlin||3,613,495||4 █ █ █ █||903.374||SPD, Left, Greens||2021||2034|
|Brandenburg||2,504,040||4 █ █ █ █||626.010||SPD, CDU, Greens||2024||2020|
|Bremen||681.032||3 █ █ █||227.010||SPD, Greens, Left||2023||2026|
|Hamburg||1,830,584||3 █ █ █||610.195||SPD, Greens||2025||2023|
|Hesse||6,243,262||5 █ █ █ █ █||1,248,652||CDU, Greens||2023||2031|
|Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania||1,611,119||3 █ █ █||537.040||SPD, CDU||2021||2024|
|Lower Saxony||7,962,775||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||1,327,129||SPD, CDU||2022||2030|
|North Rhine-Westphalia||17.912.134||6 █ █ █ █ █ █||2,985,356||CDU, FDP||2022||2027|
|Rhineland-Palatinate||4,073,679||4 █ █ █ █||1,018,420||SPD, FDP, Greens||2021||2033|
|Saarland||994.187||3 █ █ █||331.396||CDU, SPD||2022||2025|
|Saxony||4,081,308||4 █ █ █ █||1,020,327||CDU, Greens, SPD||2024||2032|
|Saxony-Anhalt||2,223,081||4 █ █ █ █||555.770||CDU, SPD, Greens||2021||2021|
|Schleswig-Holstein||2,889,821||4 █ █ █ █||722.455||CDU, Greens, FDP||2022||2035|
|Thuringia||2.151.205||4 █ █ █ █||537,801||Left, SPD, Greens||2021||2022|
- According to the regular election cycle according to the respective state election law
- Calendar year of the presidency in the Federal Council, in which the majority lies; So the year after the presidency began
The Federal Council consists of members of the governments of the countries that appoint and dismiss them. They can be represented by other members of their governments (cf. prime ministers and ministers of the federal states as well as the mayors and senators of the city-states. Even secretaries can be members of the Federal Council, provided they cabinet rank have. Each country can appoint as many members as it has votes. The other members of the state government are usually appointed as deputy members of the Federal Council. Each state government decides for itself which member of the government will become a full or deputy member of the Bundesrat. A total number of full members is therefore not stipulated in the constitution, this only results from the current number and population of the federal states.GG). A member of the Bundesrat may not be a member of the German Bundestag at the same time. The member must have a seat and one vote in a state government; these are the
- Each country has at least three votes,
- Countries with more than two million inhabitants have four votes,
- Countries with more than six million inhabitants have five votes,
- Countries with more than seven million inhabitants have six votes.
According to this system, a total of 69 votes are currently represented in the Federal Council by full members. The absolute majority required for resolutions is achieved with 35 votes. According to79.2 of the Basic Law, changes to the Basic Law are only possible with the consent of two thirds of the members of the Bundesrat, i.e. at least 46 votes.
The distribution of votes should create a balance between equal treatment of the countries on the one hand and, in summary, exact representation of the country populations on the other. Small countries receive proportionally a greater weight of votes. Larger countries have - in relation to their population - a relatively lower voting weight in the Federal Council. The four largest countries each have six votes and can jointly prevent the two-thirds majority required for amendments to the Basic Law (“ blocking minority ”). However, they alone do not have the majority of all votes and thus cannot bring about resolutions against the other countries.
The total number of votes and their distribution among the federal states is important for voting in the plenary session of the Bundesrat, as a resolution can already depend on one vote. Changes in the number of residents have a direct effect on the distribution of votes in the Federal Council, as the Basic Law does not provide for any further legal acts. Exceeding or falling below the threshold values changes the composition of the Federal Council immediately after the official determination and publication of the results of censuses and population updates. In the history of the Federal Council, the distribution of votes has only changed once due to a change in the number of inhabitants: On January 18, 1996, the Hessian State Statistical Office determined that Hesse had 6,000,669 inhabitants on August 31, 1995. Since January 18, 1996, the state has therefore been represented with five votes in the Federal Council.
The members of the Bundesrat are also members of their state government and receive no remuneration for their work in the Bundesrat. However, travel expenses are reimbursed and, as for all members of federal legislative bodies, there is a right to free use of Deutsche Bahn AG; A BahnCard 100 First (entitlement to free travel in first class within Germany) is currently being made available to those affected .
Today (as of 2017) 25 of its members are women, which corresponds to 36.2%.
Distribution of votes to the parties
|Cooperations with a two-thirds majority (at least 46 votes)|
|52||█ █ █ █|
|49||█ █ █ █|
|Cooperation with a simple majority (at least 35 votes)|
|38||█ █ █|
|Cooperations without a majority|
|27||█ █ █ █|
|24||█ █ █ █|
|18th||█ █ █ █|
This table shows possible partnerships in the Federal Council.
Of a total of 69 votes, 35 are required for a majority, 46 for a two-thirds majority.
All possible collaborations that meet the two criteria of the minimum profit coalition are shown :
- Each partner in the cooperation contributes votes.
- No real subset of the partners has already reached the corresponding majority.
In addition, the largest collaborations are shown without a majority. Cooperations without a majority are not shown if a real superset does not reach the simple majority.
The parties of the governing coalitions of the federal states that reflect the federal government ( CDU / CSU and SPD ) have 12 votes in the Bundesrat: the CDU-SPD government (3) in Saarland and two SPD-CDU governments (9) in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Lower Saxony .
The votes of Thuringia (FDP) fall purely on the opposition. All the remaining 53 votes fall on the neutral camp, since at least one of the two partners in the grand coalition of the Union and the SPD is involved in each state government. Specifically, these are the SPD with the CDU and the Greens (4) in Brandenburg , the SPD with the Left and the Greens (4) in Berlin or with the Greens and the Left (3) in Bremen , the SPD with the Greens (3) in Hamburg , the SPD with the FDP and the Greens (4) in Rhineland-Palatinate , the CSU with the Free Voters (6) in Bavaria , the CDU with the Greens (5) in Hesse , with the FDP (6 ) in North Rhine-Westphalia , with the Greens and the FDP (4) in Schleswig-Holstein , and with the Greens and the SPD in Saxony (4) or with the SPD and the Greens in Saxony-Anhalt (4) and the Greens with the CDU (6) in Baden-Württemberg .
For an absolute majority, the cooperation of the grand coalition of the Union and SPD with the Greens is necessary (38 votes). For a two-thirds majority, cooperation with the FDP (56 votes) or with left and free voters (51 votes) is necessary.
Permanent advisory board
The 16 authorized representatives of the federal states form the permanent advisory board. This does not meet weekly in public and supports the Presidium in an advisory capacity, in particular in the preparation of the plenary sessions, requests to shorten deadlines by the Federal Government and administrative tasks. A representative of the Federal Government also takes part in the meetings.
The authorized representatives of the federal states are often political officials with the rank of state secretary and, in organizational terms, mostly belong to the state chancellery of the respective state.
The main work of the Federal Council is done in the committees . If a submission is technically very extensive, the corresponding committee can first convene a subcommittee according to the rules of procedure, which prepares the technical votes for the actual committee with its work. A subcommittee is usually made up of experts from the state ministries.
All submissions - with a few exceptions, such as plenary motions or submissions for immediate decision-making - are first discussed in the committees, regardless of whether they come from the Federal Government, the Bundestag or a state, before they are submitted to the plenary session for resolution. The committees examine all the drafts from a technical point of view, advise on amendments and thus bring the experience and specialist knowledge of the federal states that they acquire in the implementation of the laws or ordinances into the Federal Council procedure. Unlike in the Bundesrat plenary, each country has only one vote in the committee, i.e. H. a proposal can be approved with a maximum of 16 votes. If the same number of votes are cast for and against a proposal ( equality of votes ), the proposal is rejected by the committee.
The Federal Council has 16 standing committees, which essentially reflect the responsibilities of the federal ministries (see the list on the left; the abbreviation for identifying the printed matter assigned to the committees is shown in brackets).
Since 1991 the total number of committees corresponds to the number of federal states. In this way, each country has an equal committee chair.
The Mediation Committee and the Joint Committee are to be distinguished from the standing committees of the Federal Council, which are also known as technical committees , as these have special tasks of constitutional status and meet with different members.
Each state government sends a permanent representative to each committee, which has only one vote there. As a rule, the specialist ministers of the federal states are also formally appointed as members of the specialist committee. So z. B. The interior ministers of the federal states are usually appointed members of the Committee for Internal Affairs, the finance ministers are appointed members of the finance committee. The heads of government of the federal states are appointed to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Defense Committee. These are therefore also referred to as “political committees”. The respective state government is responsible for appointing and dismissing committee members. In this way, the states are represented in each committee by a member of the Federal Council, a deputy member or a permanent representative. Only a few committees - such as the Finance Committee - meet at ministerial level. Most of the time, advice is given in the form of “civil servants”. Through the participation of the ministerial officials, who can also change within a committee meeting, expert knowledge is brought into the advisory process down to the level of individual agenda items. If the advice on a template is too extensive or too technical, the respective committee can set up a subcommittee to assist the actual committee.
The following table shows the distribution of seats according to government alliances. This always shows the status at the end of the year.
|year||CDU / CSU||Union SPD||Union Greens||Union FDP||Union FW||Union-FDP-Greens||Union SPD Greens||SPD||SPD Greens||SPD left||SPD-Left-Greens||SPD-FDP-Greens||SPD-Greens-SSW||TOTAL|
Meetings and resolutions
The Federal Council's committees meet in closed sessions. In addition to the members or their representatives, staff from the committee offices take part in the meetings, who provide the committee with organizational support and with regard to the legal formality of the items being discussed . Furthermore, the members of the Federal Government have the right and, upon request, the duty to participate in the meetings of the Federal Council and its committees. For each item on the agenda there is first a summary report by a committee member and then a discussion, during which questions can also be put to the representatives of the Federal Government. If there are amendments or statements from the federal states, this is first voted on before a final vote on the proposal as a whole. The voting question depends on the content of the proposal and the status of the legislative process. In the case of bills, opinions are voted on or no objections are raised. In the case of laws (e.g. in the second round), for example, approval, the convening of the mediation committee, objections or resolutions come into consideration; in the case of reports by the federal government, however, the recommendation could be for information or a statement. If the committee proposes a change or rejection of the proposal, this must be justified.
The results of the individual committee deliberations are the recommendations to the Federal Council, which the respective lead committee compiles in a printed recommendation (in technical jargon also "line printed matter").
On the basis of the constitutionally enshrined autonomy of the rules of procedure , the Federal Council has set up a secretariat to which all employees of the house belong. In the 2009 federal budget, a total of 195.5 posts (117 posts for civil servants and 78.5 posts for collective bargaining employees) and approx. 21.3 million euros in budget funds have been allocated for the secretariat. The task of the secretariat as the parliamentary administration is to support the work of the Federal Council in terms of personnel, organization and technology. The following organizational units are set up for this purpose:
- Director and Deputy Director
- Presidential Office, Parliamentary Relations
- Parliamentary Service, Parliamentary Law
- Offices of the committees
- Press and public relations, visitor service, submissions
- Information technology
- Shorthand service
According to its position in the organization of the federal authorities, the secretariat is a supreme federal authority as it is not subordinate to any other federal authority.
Convocation of the plenary
The Federal Council meets regularly about every three to four weeks, generally on Fridays at 9:30 a.m. The rhythm of the meetings is determined in advance, taking into account the meeting calendar of the German Bundestag. The focus here is on the most efficient way of working. Since the members of the Bundesrat in the main office are members of their state government, the time required for the Bundesrat meetings must be kept as low as possible. From a cost perspective, too, the Federal Council deliberations, which for the majority of members involve considerable travel expenses, should be organized as efficiently as possible.
In addition to these economic considerations, the deadlines anchored in the constitution in the legislative process (three, six or nine weeks) result in the necessity of a three-week meeting rhythm. On the basis of an agreement between the Bundesrat and the German Bundestag, legislative resolutions of the Bundestag are delivered to the Bundesrat in such a way that the deliberation deadlines are available to it in full.
As a rule, the President convenes the Federal Council orally at the end of each plenary meeting by announcing the next meeting date. The meeting is formally convened by sending or publishing the agenda. According toParagraph 2, Sentence 2 of the Basic Law, the President must convene the plenary session if the representatives of at least two countries so request. The Rules of Procedure of the Bundesrat have expanded this regulation in Section 15 (1) so that the President must convene the Bundesrat if a Land so requests. In practice, however, this call-up request is not used.
Preparation and course of the plenary session
In the week before the plenary session - in addition to the coordination in the states themselves, in which the participating state ministries have to agree on uniform voting behavior - various preliminary discussions take place between the states at different levels. Separate meetings are held at civil servant level on the A and B sides in order to position themselves politically on the planned topics and to find allies. On the Wednesday before the plenary session, the course of the plenary session is largely prepared in a joint preliminary meeting with officials from the state representations and the Federal Council officials and in the afternoon in the session of the standing advisory council. The individual items to be discussed are discussed and trial votes are carried out. State applications are announced, requests for speeches from the members of the Federal Council are recorded and the order and a summary of votes are determined. Undisputed proposals, which no more than four countries contradict and which are mostly politically less important, are summarized in the so-called "green list", on which a decision is made with just one vote.
On the evening before the plenary session, further preliminary discussions on the A and B sides take place at the highest political level in the state representation of Rhineland-Palatinate as well as in the representation of a Union-led state (host country rotates), in which the Prime Ministers and the members of the Federal Government take part ( so-called "Beck Round" and "Merkel Round"). This is where the final political agreements are made in relation to the Federal Council meeting.
On the day of the plenary, a non-public preliminary meeting will take place in the plenary at 9:00 a.m., in particular to regulate final votes and organizational matters. The President opens the Federal Council meeting at 9:30 a.m. He leads through the agenda, which regularly comprises between 50 and 80 items. After calling up the respective items on the agenda, he refers to the written committee recommendations (so-called "line print materials") and asks for comments on the debate. Speeches are often put on record to streamline the session. Finally, the committee recommendations and any country proposals are voted on before the next item on the agenda is called.
The members of the Federal Government have the right and, at the request of the Federal Council, the duty to take part in the deliberations of the Federal Council and to answer questions on individual items. In practice there has never been a formal “citation”. Rather, the members of the Federal Government voluntarily exercise their right to speak in the plenary session of the Federal Council in order to promote their proposals.
The way the Bundesrat works differs greatly from the way the Bundestag works. While applause, heckling, loud protests, laughter or sharp attacks on the political opponent are normal during heated debates in the Bundestag, the plenary sessions of the Bundesrat are decidedly businesslike and in a calm, moderate tone. Applause and expressions of disapproval are undesirable and for a long time were even considered improper.
The Basic Law stipulates inPara. 3 Clause 2 that the votes of a country can only be cast uniformly. This means that all votes to which a country is entitled must be the same, ie “yes”, “no” or “abstention”. Since at least an absolute majority of votes (currently 35 votes) is required for resolutions, and a two-thirds majority is required for amendments to the Basic Law, only the yes votes are counted for votes. This means that abstentions do not appear neutral, but like rejections.
In the Federal Council, the will of the state towards the federal government should be represented. The state government must therefore agree before the plenary session of the Federal Council how to position itself on each individual item on the agenda. This can put a heavy burden on coalition governments in politically controversial projects. Most coalition agreements, however, stipulate that the country should abstain from voting in the Federal Council in the event of differing views between the governing parties.
In the history of the Federal Council, there have only been two inconsistent votes. The first case (1949) was a misunderstanding that was clarified at the meeting. The second case (2002) concerned the voting behavior of the state of Brandenburg on the immigration law . In its ruling on the Immigration Act , the Federal Constitutional Court u. A. Specifies the expectation expressed in the Basic Law for uniform voting in such a way that in the event of an obvious dissent between the members of a country, the votes of that country are to be regarded as invalid. This has the same effect as an abstention or a no vote.
Bound by instructions
The requirement of uniform voting suggests that members are not free to vote. The wording of the Basic Law does not contain any express regulation on this issue. However, the fact that the members are bound by instructions can be derived from various sources in the constitution:
- It is not the members, but the federal states , who, according to participate in federal legislation through the Federal Council.
- para. 2 speaks of the votes that every country - and not every member - has . According to paragraph 3 , each country can send as many members as it has votes . But if it can send fewer members, but still has to cast all votes uniformly, it follows that the votes represent the will of the country - and not that of the member personally.
- For the members of the Federal Council in the Joint Committee and in the Mediation Committee , Paragraph 1, Clause 3 and Paragraph 2, Clause 3 provide that they are not bound by instructions . If these "exceptions" are fixed in writing, it can be concluded from the reverse that the constitution is unspoken from the rule of being bound by instructions.
Furthermore, the fact that the members are bound by instructions can be derived from the discussions in the Parliamentary Council about the model of the Federal Council and it corresponds to long-term practice, which has also been confirmed by the highest court.
The votes are cast in the Federal Council by members present. Since the votes of a country can only be cast uniformly, the representatives of a country usually agree on a member who votes for the country, the so-called voting leader. This has no prominent position. He only has to represent the state vote in plenary. The electoral leadership can be transferred to other members present during the meeting. It is sufficient if a member with voting rights is present for a country; it is not necessary that as many members be present as the country has votes.
The Federal Constitutional Court decided in 2002 that a member of the Bundesrat can object to the electoral leader in his country. In this case, the electoral leadership collapses and the country expresses its divided will to vote, which looks like an invalid vote.
Type of vote
As a rule, the members of the Federal Council vote by showing their hands. The President counts the votes that represent the respective voting leaders. He is supported in this by the keeper of the minutes and the director of the Federal Council .
At the request of a country, a call is made by the countries to vote. In these cases - for example in the case of changes to the Basic Law or politically controversial projects - the states are called in alphabetical order and the vote is cast by calling out the voting leader. The voting after the country has been called is noted in the minutes of the meeting.
Publication of voting behavior
A central publication of the voting behavior does not take place. However, some federal states have decided to publish part or all of their own voting behavior.
- Baden-Württemberg : Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann announced on October 23, 2013 that Baden-Württemberg would make its voting behavior publicly known at future Federal Council meetings. The representation of the state of Baden-Württemberg at the federal government operates a website.
- Bavaria : The voting behavior of the Free State of Bavaria is published in the Bavarian Legal and Administrative Report , the information portal on public law and public administration in Bavaria.
- Bremen : Since June 2015, the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen has published the Federal Council's resolutions and the voting behavior of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen on the website of the Federal Commissioners for Europe and Development Cooperation shortly after the plenary session of the Federal Council.
- North Rhine-Westphalia : According to a communication dated May 8, 2014, the state government is ready to inform the main committee of the state parliament at regular intervals about how NRW voted on "material" issues in the Federal Council. At the request of MPs, the government will also disclose the state government's voting behavior on other topics discussed in the Federal Council.
- Saarland : On July 10, 2015, the Saarland state government announced that it would publish its voting behavior in the Federal Council in full in future.
- Saxony : The Saxon State Chancellery operates its own website for documenting Federal Council meetings. Saxony's voting behavior is only disclosed for selected items on the agenda.
Position of the Federal Council
The position of the Bundesrat in the power structure of the Federal Republic of Germany, in particular the relationship with the German Bundestag and the Federal Government, depends on the party-political majority in the federal government on the one hand and in the federal states on the other. This power structure may change from election to election. Both in the German Bundestag and in the Bundesrat there are politicians who, as a rule, belong to a party and represent its political will. In this respect, the party political power relations in the federal states have an impact on the power relations of the federal government. The interests of the 16 states are not always congruent with the majorities in the German Bundestag and thus with the interests of the federal government. If the same political forces prevail in the federal government as in the Federal Council, the Federal Council will support the federal government's projects more often than if the balance of power differ. Due to the different electoral periods and election dates in the Federation and the Länder, the political majorities in the Bundesrat can change constantly, while the composition of the Bundestag mostly remains constant for a legislative period of four years.
The Federal Council should serve to balance the interests and forces of the federal and state governments.
Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, the question of the extent of the influence of the Bundesrat on federal politics and thus the influence of party politics has repeatedly been the subject of political discussions. This is increasingly the case in times when the majority in the Bundesrat is dominated by the opposition parties of the German Bundestag. The polarization according to the two major party-political lines also established itself linguistically in the 1970s with the demarcation between A-countries and B-countries , when the social-liberal coalition in the German Bundestag faced an absolute majority of the opposition in the Bundesrat for the first time. The times when the government parties in the federal government also had a majority in the Bundesrat had not been the rule since 1969, but rather the exception. In the event of different majorities, the Federal Council can block laws requiring approval out of party-political calculations and in this way stop entire “reform projects” of the governing coalition. In isolated cases, laws have already been split into a part that does not require consent and a part that requires consent - for example, the non-consenting Civil Partnership Act and the Life Partnership Supplementary Act that requires consent .
Among other things, in order to limit the Bundesrat's ability to block and thereby increase the efficiency of the federal government's legislative action, the Bundesrat and the German Bundestag decided on October 17, 2003 to set up a federalism commission, which made proposals for a comprehensive reform of the competences of the federal and state governments should work out. The first results of the commission were incorporated into the law amending the Basic Law ( Federal Law Gazette 2006 I p. 2034 ) and the Federalism Reform Supplementary Act ( Federal Law Gazette 2006 I p. 2098 ).
The financial relations between the federal government and the federal states were initially left out and reserved for a further commission (Commission of the Bundestag and Bundesrat for the modernization of federal-state financial relations), which concluded its deliberations on March 5, 2009. The legislative changes proposed by the Commission were passed by the Bundestag on May 29, 2009, and the Bundesrat on June 12, 2009. The central element is a constitutionally anchored debt rule for the federal and state governments from the 2011 budget year (“ debt brake ”).
The Federal Council - officially known as the German Federal Council only until the end of 1952 , after that no more - has its seat in the Prussian mansion in Berlin-Mitte and a branch in the north wing of the Federal Palace in Bonn .
In the plenary hall , the members of the Federal Council sit in 16 seating blocks in a horseshoe shape. Each country has a block with six seats each. At the front of the plenary hall is the seat of the presidium, which chairs the meeting. In front of this is the lectern, in front of which the stenographers sit . On the right as seen from the Presidium, the bank is for members of the federal government and their agents. Employees of the Federal Council sit to the left of the Presidium. The seats are arranged in alphabetical order of the country names: the members of the Federal Council from Baden-Württemberg sit on the far right of the Presidium , and finally those from Thuringia on the far left .
On the sides and on the back wall of the hall there are seats for representatives of the federal states and the federal government. After all, the press stands are located above the hall on the side walls and the visitors' stand at the back. Above the Presidium, the national coats of arms are attached to the front wall in alphabetical order of the countries.
From the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 until the move in the summer of 2000 to Berlin, the Federal Council in the specially built for him was the north wing of the Federal Parliament building in Bonn resident. The structurally connected former assembly hall of the Pedagogical Academy, in which the Parliamentary Council had drafted the Basic Law as early as 1948/49, served as the plenary hall . During Bonn's time as the seat of the Federal Council, a total of eight plenary sessions took place between March 16, 1956 and October 23, 1959 in what was then West Berlin in Schöneberg Town Hall . The offices of the following specialist committees have their headquarters in today's Bonn branch: Committee on Defense, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Agricultural Policy and Consumer Protection, Committee on Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Committee on European Union Questions and Committee on Cultural Affairs. If necessary, they meet in Bonn, unless the German Bundestag has its committee and plenary week at the same time .
- Konrad Reuter: Practical Guide Federal Council. Constitutional foundations, commentary on the rules of procedure, practice of the Federal Council . 2nd Edition. CF Müller, Heidelberg 2007, ISBN 3-8114-5223-1 .
- The Federal Council (ed.): The Federal Council as a constitutional body and political force . Neue Darmstädter Verlagsanstalt, Bad Honnef-Darmstadt 1974, ISBN 3-87576-027-1 .
- Kerstin Wittmann-Englert, René Hartmann (Hrsg.): Buildings of the countries. The state representations in Bonn, Berlin and Brussels , Kunstverlag Josef Fink, Lindenberg im Allgäu 2013, pp. 203–210. ISBN 978-3-89870-796-1 .
- Gebhard Ziller, Georg-Berndt Oschatz: The Federal Council . 10th edition. Droste, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-7700-7068-2 .
- Distribution of seats in the German state parliaments
- List of presidents of the German Bundesrat
- List of members of the German Bundesrat
- Federal Council (Austria)
- Federal Council (Switzerland)
- Literature by and about the Federal Council in the catalog of the German National Library
- Federal Council
- Rules of Procedure of the Federal Council (GO BR) with relevant articles of the Basic Law
- Abbreviations. (PDF; 49 kB) Abbreviations for the constitutional organs, the highest federal authorities and the highest federal courts. In: bund.de. Federal Office of Administration (BVA), accessed on May 23, 2017 .
- 48th meeting of the main committee on February 9, 1949, HA-Steno p. 753.
- So literally the Federal Constitutional Court in a decision from 1974, cf. BVerfGE 37, 363, file number 2 BvF 2, 3/73
- BVerfGE 8, 274
- Figures from the overall statistics published on the Federal Council's website
- Konrad Reuter: Practical Guide Federal Council. Constitutional foundations, commentary on the rules of procedure, practice of the Federal Council . Müller Juristischer Verlag, Heidelberg 1991, ISBN 3-8114-6590-2 , Part IV, p. 705
- Overall statistics of the Federal Council administration (PDF; 67 kB)
- para. 2 and 2a GG
- Dreyer in: Dreyer, 3rd ed., P. 1443
- See ff. GG
- See Emergency Acts , in particular Para. 4 and
- BVerfGE 24, 184
- Paragraph 1, No. 2a and Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law
- Quoted from BR-Drs. 310/07 (decision) (PDF; 35 kB)
- Federal Statistical Office, federal states with capitals according to area, population and population density on December 31, 2017
- Section 27 Rules of Procedure of the Federal Council para. 2 GG i. V. m.
- Konrad Reuter: Practical Guide Federal Council. Constitutional foundations, commentary on the rules of procedure, practice of the Federal Council . Müller Juristischer Verlag, Heidelberg 1991, ISBN 3-8114-6590-2 , § 27 GO, Rn. 13
- See provisions on the reimbursement of costs for members of the Federal Council
- See first and second sentences of the Basic Law
- See the law on the establishment of the federal budget for the budget year 2009 (Budget Law 2009) - publication of a read version at www.bundesfinanzministerium.de is still pending .
- "Everyday work as a minister: Friday is Berlin or constituency day" on Rainer Wiegard's page.
- The atmosphere of a Bundesrat meeting on Bundesrat.de
- Stenographic report on the 10th session of the Federal Council on December 19, 1949, p. 116
- See the scandal surrounding the Immigration Act 2002
- BVerfGE 8, 104 (120)
- BVerfGE 106, 310
- See § 29 Paragraph 1 Rules of Procedure of the Bundesrat
- State will publish future voting behavior in the Federal Council. www.baden-wuerttemberg.de, October 23, 2013, accessed on July 28, 2015 .
- Representation of the state of Baden-Württemberg at the federal level: Federal Council initiatives and votes. State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg , accessed on March 31, 2017 .
- Bavarian legal and administrative: Federal Council. In: Bavarian legal and administrative report. Retrieved July 31, 2015 .
- Federal Affairs - Resolutions of the Federal Council. Authorized representative of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen at the federal government, for Europe and development cooperation, July 4, 2017, accessed on July 4, 2017 .
- How does the state government vote in the Federal Council? State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia , May 8, 2014, accessed on July 31, 2015 .
- Representation of the Saarland at the federal government in Berlin: Publication of the voting behavior of the Saarland in the Federal Council. (No longer available online.) July 10, 2015, archived from the original on September 24, 2015 ; accessed on July 28, 2015 .
- Saxon State Chancellery: Saxon Politics in Berlin. Retrieved July 28, 2015 .
- "The construction of a federal state requires that the people and the states are bearers of federal authority and that their representatives at the federal level jointly determine the federal will to which the individual and the members have to be classified in a well-balanced relationship." Representative Hans-Christoph Seebohm in the 10th Plenary session of the Parliamentary Council on May 8, 1949, Stenographic Report p. 201 ( Google Books ).
- Konrad Reuter: Practical Guide Federal Council. Constitutional foundations, commentary on the rules of procedure, practice of the Federal Council . Müller Juristischer Verlag, Heidelberg 1991, ISBN 3-8114-6590-2 , Art. 50 GG, Rn. 69 ff.
- Archives of the Federal Council: files 3003, order of the Federal Council President Reinhold Maier dated September 12, 1952 to determine the designation "Federal Council"
- Ralf Georg Reuth : Berlin - Bonn. A competitive situation? In: Federal Ministry for Building, Regional Planning and Urban Development (Ed.): Forty Years Federal Capital Bonn 1949–1989 . CF Müller, Karlsruhe 1989, ISBN 3-7880-9780-9 , pp. 25-43 (here: pp. 31, 32).
- Report of the 155th meeting of the Federal Council (PDF)
- Report of the 210th meeting of the Federal Council (PDF)
- Organization plan of the Federal Council Secretariat