The Berlin Republic: German Unification and a Decade of Changes

By Winand Gellner; John D. Robertson | Go to book overview

The Impact of Unification on German Federalism

ARTHUR B.GUNLICKS

Paraphrasing the medieval custom regarding kings, some students of Germany today are tempted to cry, The Republic is dead. Long live the Republic!' Whether the Bonn Republic is really 'dead' and has been replaced by the Berlin Republic is, in fact, not all that clear. Evidence exists both for and against the thesis. With respect to German federalism, a case can certainly be made that there have been a rather large number of changes since unification in October 1990 and that many if not most of these are due at least in part to the impact of unification. Whether these constitute a new federal system or merely some adjustments-some of which are rather significant-remains to be seen. The purpose of this paper is to review briefly some of the most important changes in the German federal system and to provide an analysis of their effects.

The changes are divided into several categories. First, some of the obvious territorial changes are outlined. Second, a number of constitutional changes at both the federal and Land levels are considered. Third, the strengthened role of the Länder in European-level policy is described. Fourth, the perennial topic of fiscal federalism is discussed. Fifth, we look at the related perennial topic of boundary changes and consolidation of the Länder. Finally, the changing party system in the Länder and the growing discussion about direct democracy are analysed.


TERRITORIAL CHANGES

From the time Baden-Württemberg was created in 1952 until 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was composed of eight 'territorial Länder', two city-states and West Berlin, which legally was under Allied occupation but for most practical purposes was another city-state in the Federal Republic. The German Democratic Republic created its own five Länder between December 1946 and early 1947. However, they were replaced by 15 districts, including East Berlin, in July 1952, in conformity with the highly centralised reality of the East German communist regime. Shortly after the Wall came down, it became clear that

Arthur B. Gunlicks, University of Richmond

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