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Light at the end of the tunnel: Federal Reform in Germany

by Saturday Mon Nov 7th, 2005 at 04:27:22 AM EST

Latest update from Germany - from the front page ~ whataboutbob

In the past few days, everyone talked about Franz Müntefering's resignation as SPD chairman. I did, too. That is why I nearly missed one of the most important news in German politics for months (or maybe even years):

SPD and CDU/CSU have agreed on the most contentious points of federal reform. Federal reform will be the first big reform project of the coming grand coalition.

Read below the fold: Parts of an article from Tuesday's Spiegel Online (humbly translated into English).

In the fields of education and environment, overall competence of the national level will basically come to an end, SPD-federalism expert Volker Kröning said after the talks of SPD and CDU/CSU chief negotiators. In education policy, the Bund will be responsible for university degrees and university admissions, as in environmental policy. (...)

In the field of internal security, a supplemental competence of the Federal Investigation Office (Bundeskriminalamt) regarding terror-prevention is planned. Representation of German interests in the EU will be arranged on a "status quo" basis [between national (Bund) and regional (Länder) governments]. The existing responsibilities of the regional governments regarding school education, culture including film, radio and television will be anchored in the constitution. Foreign cultural and educational policy and international agreements on university degrees, on the other hand, will remain on the national level.

Federal reform is envisaged to become the first big reform of the planned grand coalition. The necessary law-making is supposed to be complete in 2006. The reform efforts to put Bund-Länder-relationships on a new basis, which failed in December 2004, are supposed to accelerate law-making and curttail the veto competences of the Bundesrat [the parliamentary chamber representing the regional governments].


In the first round of talks, representatives of SPD and CDU/CSU had agreed on reforming the participation rights of the Bundesrat and the distribution of law-making competences. A fundamental new-arrangement of the fiscal relationships between Bund and Länder is envisaged for the second half of the 4-year-term. (...)

In my view, this is the most important point that could be made in favour of a grand coalition. The veto rights of the Bundesrat, which have become exceedingly numerous and important in the last three decades, blocked political decision making when Bundestag and Bundesrat had different majorities. Law-making on the most urgent reform projects virtually came to a stand-still in the years before the 1998 elections and, again, before 2005. This week's agreement is a big step into the right direction.

But two things remain to be seen: First, the coalition has to be formed despite of the current turmoil. But I am not too pessimistic about that. What worries me more is, secondly, that the problems resulting from fiscal and financial interdependences between national and regional level, mainly a result from the last grand coalition 1966-1969, will not be tackled before 2007. Many things can be said about grand coalitions, but not that they become as old as methuselah...

It does sound hopeful...though to be honest, I don't completely understand the changes you speak of. But perhaps the next most important step is their finalizing the coalition, yes? What does that entail?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Nov 4th, 2005 at 07:11:52 PM EST
I admit that some of the above is quite misty, especially regarding the fiscal intertwining between Bund and Länder (one reason is that I don't understand them very well myself). But the important thing is that they actually agreed on getting political competences straight again. This means that decisions can finally be made again on the political level to which they constitutionally belong, and that opposition politics takes place on the political level where the decisions actually take effect. This will make the whole decision-making process more transparent again.

Regarding the current coalition talks: I might do a diary about them next week, but as of now, I admit I lost track of some of the current issues during the last few days. Have to get back up to date before commenting on that.

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Fri Nov 4th, 2005 at 07:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you...and as you say, transparency in government is good.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sat Nov 5th, 2005 at 03:49:52 AM EST

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