Policy competence

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The authority to issue guidelines is the competence to set binding guidelines for (government) politics .



The German Chancellor has the authority to issue guidelines vis-à-vis the other members of the government.

Basic Law Art. 65

The Federal Chancellor's authority to issue directives, also known colloquially as the “ Chancellor Principle ”, is regulated in Art. 65 sentence 1 of the Basic Law . It strengthens the position of the Federal Chancellor in the political system of the Federal Republic . An almost identical provision was already contained in Article 56, sentence 1 of the Weimar Imperial Constitution .

Policies in this context mean baseline of government policy , so the general political orientation, but not every detail of government policy, since according to Art. 65 sentence 2 each Federal Minister for the Department Principle independently and responsibly, but derives its business within these guidelines. However, individual questions can also be essential for political orientation and then the subject of guidelines. The guideline does not need a special form. If several Federal Ministries are affected by a matter, the Federal Chancellor and Federal Minister decide jointly according to the collegial principle , unless the Federal Chancellor makes use of the guideline authority he may be entitled to.


In political science, it is controversial to what extent policy competence is a basis of the Chancellor's power. While some scholars see it as an “authority reserve” ( Everhard Holtmann ), others are of the opinion that the authority to issue guidelines is a “foreign body” ( Eberhard Schuett-Wetschky ). The free mandate of members of the Bundestag stands in the way of the enforcement of guidelines ( Art. 38.1 sentence 2 GG). The guideline competence is an instrument of hierarchical leadership; In a democratic context, however, hierarchical leadership is not enforceable. In this perspective, the guideline competence is irrelevant in practice.

The policy competence is used in the section on federal government. It also only affects the federal government ( executive ) and not the legislature or the judiciary . On the contrary, the authority to issue guidelines may only be exercised within the framework established by law and case law.

“So far, in over eight years, I have not made use of the authority to issue guidelines under Article 65 of the Basic Law. Rather, I have always seen it as my duty to make great efforts to bring about sensible, practically usable compromises that are equally reasonable for both sides. "

- Helmut Schmidt : in September 1982 in the Bundestag, German Bundestag, plenary protest. 9/111, p. 6757A

State level

Most of the German state constitutions know, analogous to the Basic Law, the guideline competence of the Prime Minister .

The Governing Mayor of Berlin has a weakened authority to issue guidelines: The guidelines of government policy determined by him require the approval of the Berlin House of Representatives (Art. 58 (2) of the Berlin Constitution [VvB]).

The state constitution of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (LV) alone does not recognize the authority of the President of the Senate to issue guidelines . According to Art. 118 Para. 1 S. 1 LV, the Bremen Citizenship gives the guidelines according to which the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen has to run the administration .

Municipal bodies

The communal committees ( municipality or city ​​council , district council , district council ) have the option of giving the respective executive including its top ( mayor , lord mayor , district administrator , district council president ) guidelines for the handling of ongoing administration processes - with which the committees deal in individual cases do not employ - pretend.


The Austrian Chancellor has after the Federal Constitutional compared to the other federal ministers had no policy-making power. The Austrian Federal Government as a collegiate body defines the guidelines of government policy. It should be noted, however, that the Chancellor of the Austrian federal government ultimately insofar takes pride when he accordance with Art. 70 para. 1 of the Federal Constitution Act (B-VG) has the option at any time the President to propose the dismissal of a minister who does not correspond to its political ideas (“guidelines”). In the political reality of coalition governments , the Federal Chancellor cannot exercise this competence with ministers provided by the coalition partner, since the other party would terminate the coalition.

In addition, the Federal Chancellor can not make any decisions on budget issues without the consent of the Finance Minister . The actual supremacy of the Federal Chancellor is therefore only possible with the consent of the Finance Minister. If the Federal Chancellor and Finance Minister are appointed by different parties, the influence of the Federal Chancellor is much lower (“Federal Chancellor is only as strong as his Finance Minister”).

De facto, therefore, a possible priority position of the Federal Chancellor over the other Federal Ministers is only based on the personal authority of the respective administrator in connection with the official title of “Federal Chancellor”.

Similarly to the Federal Constitutional Law, the Austrian provincial constitutions do not recognize the governor 's authority to issue guidelines .


The Switzerland knows at the federal level, no policy-making power to the President . However, there is a trend at the cantonal level to introduce this at least in a weakened form. The new constitutions of the cantons of Vaud and Basel-Stadt provide for this in a weaker form. Art. 102 para. 2 of the Basel-Städtische Constitution describes the district president as follows: "He or she directs, plans and coordinates the official activities of the government council as a collegial authority and represents it internally and externally".


  • Eberhard Schuett-Wetschky: The Federal Chancellor's policy competence, democratic leadership and party democracy. Part I: Policy competence as a foreign body in party democracy , in: Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 13 (2003), Heft 4, pp. 1897–1932.
  • Eberhard Schuett-Wetschky: The Federal Chancellor's policy competence, democratic leadership and party democracy. Part II: Misinformation of the public , in: Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 14 (2004), Issue 1, pp. 5–30.

See also