Constitutional principles –

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Information to the constitutional principles — basic decisions of the Basic Law.



The constitutional principles are basic value decisions of the Basic Law. They can be found in the Article 1, 20 and 20a GG.

Article 79 III GG ("eternity clause") protects Article 1 GG and 20 GG against legal changes.

Article 20

(1) The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state.

(2) All state authority is derived from the people. It shall be exercised by the people through elections and other votes and through specific legislative, executive, and judicial bodies.

(3) The legislature shall be bound by the constitutional order, the executive and the judiciary by law and justice.

(4) All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available.

Article 79 III

Amendments to this Basic Law affecting the division of the Federation into Länder, their participation on principle in the legislative process, or the principles laid down in Articles 1 and 20 shall be inadmissible.

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A republic is a system of government, which is not a monarchy.

A monarchy is a state whose heat of state gets his office for lifetime for example through succession. So, in a republic the head of state is elected for a limited time and can be dropped.

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Democracy means that the people is carrier of the government authority.

Forms of democracy:

There are two forms of democracy:

direct democracy

In an direct democracy the political decisions are made directly by the citizens during meetings.

The people is owner of the government authority and practise it. This form however is realizable in small communities only and because of that practically not of importance anymore.

In many indirect democracies however there are elements of direct democracy (for example Article 29 GG - popular vote, opinion poll and referendum in the case of new delimitation of the Laender).

indirect democracy

In an indirect democracy the political decisions are not made directly by the citizens during meetings, but representatives of the people (parliamentarians) are elected, who make political decisions vicarious for the people.

The government authority further on proceeds from the people, but the exercise of the government authority is delegated.

Also the members of other federal organs are legitimated by the people, but only in an indirect way if applicable via many interstations. For example the members of the Bundesrat are members of a federal state government, which is legitimated indirect by the people via federal state parliaments (legitimation series).

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Federal State

In an Federal State several states (countries, in Germany Laender) unite to a new state (Federation).

In contrast to a Federal State the splitting of the state into part states is missing at a Unity State.

From the Federal State the confederation of states, in which only the member countries have state character is differentiated.

The advantages of a federal state are politics near the citizens, more democracy and a better distribution of the power (vertical distibution of responsibilities).

The disadvantages of a federal state are higher costs, different procedures and a complicated process of political will founding.

In order to keep the federal state viable some rules had to be followed:

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Homogeneity principle

According to Article 28 GG, the constitutional order in the Laender must conform to the principles of the Federation. Thereby a correspondence between the Laender and the Federation is established.

Article 28 I

The constitutional order in the Länder must conform to the principles of a republican, democratic, and social state governed by the rule of law, within the meaning of this Basic Law. In each Land, county, and municipality the people shall be represented by a body chosen in general, direct, free, equal, and secret elections. In county and municipal elections, persons who possess citizenship in any member state of the European Community are also eligible to vote and to be elected in accord with European Community law. In municipalities a local assembly may take the place of an elected body.

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Principle of Federal loyalty

On account of the unwritten priciple of Federal loyalty both the Laender and the Federation must act federal state friendly. They are not allowed to pursue their own interests ruthless against the other partners in the federal state.

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Distribution of tasks

Both the Federation and the Laender have state authority. Their state authority is not unlimited but within the framework of tasks assigned by constitution.

Legislative competences, administration and jurisdiction must be distributed meaningfully in each case, so that none receives a over-powerful weight to the others.


A federal state requires a cooperation between the Laender and the Federation. This cooperation takes place at different levels for example meetings of prime ministers of the Laender, cooperation of the authorities accross borders, conventions or joint tasks.

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The 16 federal states (Laender) with capital cities

Land Capital city
Baden-Wuerttemberg Stuttgart
Bavaria Munich
Berlin Berlin
Brandenburg Potsdam
Bremen Bremen
Hamburg Hamburg
Hesse Wiesbaden
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Schwerin
Lower Saxony Hannover
North Rhine-Westphalia Düsseldorf
Rhineland-Palatinate Mainz
Saarland Saarbrücken
Saxonia Dresden
Saxonia-Anhalt Magdeburg
Schleswig-Holstein Kiel
Thuringia Erfurt

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Welfare State

In an welfare state an social adjustment to minimize the social differences between the citizens takes place. Social justice will be strived, the weak ones are protected. The public interest ranks higher than individual and association egoism. Also the production of bearable living conditions is a goal of the welfare state.

The social security systems like unemployment insurance or pension insurance are an expression of the welfare state.

The Basic Law gives only few obligatory definitions of the welfare state principle, for example to Article 14 II, Article 15, Article 1 GG in connection with SGB XII (social welfare assistance).

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To constitutional principles part 2