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Collection of signatures for a petition

A petition ( Latin petitio petition , request , input ; in educational language also address ) (also petitum ) is a letter (a petition, a request, a complaint) to a competent body, e.g. an authority or parliament . A basic distinction can be made between requests that aim to regulate a general political matter (e.g. the resolution or amendment of a law by parliament, the change of a procedure in an authority) and complaints that seek remedial action on an individual basis Ask for experienced injustice (e.g. a decision by the authorities that is formally admissible but perceived as disproportionate). The sender of a petition is called the petitioner . The admissibility of petitions is a generally recognized component of the basic democratic rights of every citizen.

Right of petition

The right to petition is the right to submit a petition to all bodies and offices, to be heard and not to fear any disadvantages as a result.


Federal law

In Germany, the right of petition is laid down as a fundamental right in Article 17 of the Basic Law (GG):

"Everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, in writing with requests or complaints to the responsible authorities and to the parliament."

- Art. 17  GG

The German Bundestag has a separate petition committee .

Further relevant regulations are:

  • Art. 17a GG - Possible restriction of the right to petition (officials must comply with official channels in official matters; restricted right of petition for military and alternative service providers)
  • Art. 45c GG - Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag

A petition within the meaning of the Basic Law must be made in writing and identify the sender. The submitting party has the right to have his petition accepted and approved. However, he only needs to be informed of the result; according to the case law of the Federal Constitutional Court, the right of petition does not give him the right to an oral hearing or justification.

On April 22, 1953, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled ( BVerfGE 2, 225- online ( memento of November 24, 2006 in the Internet Archive )):

"1. The basic right of Article 17 of the Basic Law gives those who submit an admissible petition the right to not only receive the petition, but also to examine it objectively and at least notify the petitioner in writing of the nature of the petition.
2. Anyone who has duly issued a decision on an admissible petition, if he submits the same petition again to the same office, has basically no right to a factual examination and decision. "

Since September 1, 2005, it has been possible to submit online petitions to the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag using an internet form. Public petitions have also been introduced.

If a petition is supported by 50,000 or more people within four weeks of receipt (in the case of public petitions, the deadline is calculated from the publication on the Internet), it will usually be discussed publicly in the Petitions Committee. The petitioner is invited to this consultation and has the right to speak.

In addition to petitions, complaints from the supervisory authority and technical supervision complaints are legitimized by Article 17 of the Basic Law.

State law

The respective state constitutions also grant citizens the right to petition. B. in Article 115 of the Bavarian Constitution or Article 34 of the Berlin Constitution . Submissions to a state parliament are received by the petitions committee of this parliament . The framework conditions for petition procedures at the state level differ considerably both in comparison to the federal level and among each other.

Administrative law

In addition, there is the far less observed right to contact an authority or another “responsible” public body . Any authority of the state or the indirect state administration , i.e. every authority of the regional authorities (for example the health department, the education authority or the immigration authority) as well as social service providers ( health insurance companies , professional associations , providers of basic security for jobseekers and the like) or state "entrusted" (such as the TÜV or the Dekra ), but also political bodies such as the local mayor , the district administrator or the state chancellery of the state government .

If the respective body does not deal with the petition, you can enforce this through administrative legal channels. If the petition is raised by a non-competent body, it must be forwarded to the competent body.

However, the control function of the state parliaments and the Bundestag vis-à-vis the respective governments is rarely used in petitions to the responsible bodies . In Bremen, such a possibility for the Senate to report to the citizens is being examined.

Differentiation from other legal channels

The petition to the Federal President regarding early release from custody is called a pardon and should not be confused with a petition.

Right of petition in the GDR

September 21, 1990 Eisenach: Miners from Fluß- und Schwerspat GmbH from the Thuringian Trusetal hand over a petition to Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière , in which u. a. the same regulations are required for all miners in the case of retraining measures and severance payments.

In the GDR , due to the lack of administrative jurisdiction from 1952 to mid-1989 and the lack of an individual right to appeal against administrative decisions, petitions were the only possibility for the population to defend themselves against arbitrary state decisions. The legal basis was the right to petition, anchored in Article 103 of the Constitution of the German Democratic Republic of 1968, and the law on processing citizen submissions (submission law). However, the petitioners had no legal right to have their request fulfilled. The historian Beatrix Bouvier describes the input system in the GDR as premodern. The at least formal processing of the submission within a four-week period was guaranteed in Section 7 of the Submission Act of the GDR. In the GDR, a petition could also be sent to state- owned companies , socialist cooperatives and other economic institutions. The input should serve as conflict resolution between citizens and the state.

The result of the after the peaceful revolution wrote previously achieved freedom on 26 November 1989 calling for our country , the most successful petition in East Germany with about 1.17 million consents represents This call was until December 1, 1989 -. The People's Parliament session - at passed the ruling government. Immediately after the press conference on November 28, 1989, it was broadcast in the media on radio and television.


The right of petition is guaranteed in Art. 33 of the Federal Constitution . The authorities are obliged to take note of the petition, but do not have to respond to it. Nevertheless, the concerns of petitions are sometimes heeded, and often answered.

This historical right lost its importance in the legislative process, as the political rights were soon expanded to include a binding initiative and binding referendum since the petition was introduced in the early 19th century . Nevertheless, the law should not be underestimated, because foreigners, minors or legal persons can also submit petitions. This allows any person to submit suggestions, criticisms or complaints; these requests to the authorities are also referred to as submissions.

European Union

As early as 1953, the predecessor of the European Parliament - the Common Assembly of the ECSC - included the possibility of petitioning in its rules of procedure and thus granted every citizen the right to voice their concerns in this way. Until the direct elections in 1979, however, very little use was made of this. A total of 128 petitions were submitted between 1958 and 1979. For example, in the years 1978–1979 there were around 20 petitions that were submitted, whereas in 2004 1,002 were submitted. With the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty (November 1, 1993), the right of petition was incorporated into the European Treaties. According to Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (to 30 November 2008 Article 194 of the EC Treaty ) Union citizens and have legal and natural persons with (living) based in the EU the right to petition the European Parliament to judge. Prerequisite: The subject of the petition must fall within the competence of the EU and the petitioners are directly affected. The right of petition is also guaranteed in Article 44 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights .

The petition can contain an individual request, complaint or comment on the application of EU law, or a request to the European Parliament to comment on a specific matter. Such petitions give the European Parliament the opportunity to respond to violations of the rights of a Union citizen by a member state or an EU body.

Petitions can be submitted in writing by post, online on the website of the European Parliament or by email. Every year the European Parliament receives around 1,000 petitions. Some of them are also discussed in the parliamentary plenary. In 2006, Parliament even set up a special committee based on two petitions on the case of the Equitable Life Assurance company, which had run into liquidity problems, which examined it for over a year.

In contrast to the now constant number of petitions, the number of signatories to these petitions has increased significantly. In the legislative period from 1984 to 1989, around 5.5 million people supported petitions, while in the period 1994–1999 there were already 10 million people who signed a petition. In the period from 1999 to 2004, several petitions exceeded one million signatories.

Historical classification

As early as the Middle Ages, the supplic was a means of soliciting grace from the ruler. In canon law , a well-formulated supplic was the prerequisite for gaining an indult or privilege .

Special forms

See also


  • Reinhard Bockhofer (Ed.): Changing politics with petitions . Nomos-Verlag: Baden-Baden 1999. ISBN 3-7890-6271-5
  • Richard Corbett, Francis Jacobs, Michael Shackleton: The European Parliament - sixth edition , John Harper Publishing: London 2005. ISBN 0-9543811-7-3
  • Franz C. Heidelberg: The European Parliament , Verlag August Lutzeyer: Baden-Baden 1959.
  • Gregor Mayntz : Petitions. From petition to civil rights . Ed .: German Bundestag, Public Relations Department. Berlin 2007.
  • Felix Mühlberg: Citizens, Requests and Authorities , Berlin 2004.
  • Franco Piodi: The citizens turn to the European Parliament - THE PETITIONS 1958 - 1979 , European Parliament (Ed.), Strasbourg 2009. Online edition (PDF file; 4.65 MB)
  • Rupert Schick: Petitions: from petition to citizenship . 3. Edition. Hüthig: Heidelberg 1996. ISBN 3-7785-2517-4 .
  • Ulrich Riehm et al .: Citizen participation through e-petitions . Edition Sigma: Berlin 2009. ISBN 978-3-8360-8129-0 .
  • German Bundestag, Petitions Committee (ed.): The annual report of the Petitions Committee. Edition 2010. Mercedes-Druck: Berlin 2010. Online edition (PDF file; 2.56 MB)
  • Katrin Wenkel: Nordhausen district council (1990 to 1994): Committee for coming to terms with the past and petitions. In: Landratsamt Nordhausen (Hrsg.): Landkreis Nordhausen:: Yearbook of the Landkreis Nordhausen. Volume 2 (1994), Neukirchner, Nordhausen 1995, 1037046390 in the GVK - Common Union Catalog , pp. 126–129.

Web links

Commons : Petitions  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Petition  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Petitions in Germany
Petitions in Europe
on the right of petition in Switzerland

Individual evidence

  1. Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language. 23rd edition, Berlin 1999
  2. Network portal of the Bundestag Petitions Committee ( memento of the original from October 25, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Press release DBT November 16, 2011 ( Memento from October 3, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  6. ^ Schenke, in: Kopp / Schenke, Verwaltungsgerichtsordnung, 13th edition 2003, § 40 VwGO Rn. 34 mwN
  7. Beatrix Bouvier: The GDR - a welfare state? Social policy in the Honecker era . Bonn 2002, p. 314.
  8. Law on the processing of submissions from citizens -Eingabengesetz- of June 19, 1975
  9. Cf. Felix Mühlberg, Bürger, Bitten und Demokratie, Berlin, 2004, pp. 275f.
  10. ^ Call of November 26, 1989 "For our country" - complete text with the first signatories
  11. "For our country". In: Retrieved September 17, 2018 .
  12. See Piodi, p. 15
  13. See Heidelberg, p. 37 and Corbett et al., P. 309
  14. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union , PDF document.
  15. Citizens' petition: fallout from a plane crash concerns MEPs . In: , May 9, 2007.
  16. See Corbett et al., Pp. 309-310
  17. Please. Retrieved June 14, 2018 .