The Domestic Politics of German Unification

By Christopher Anderson; Karl Kaltenthaler et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
The Future of Federalism in the Unified Germany

Arthur B. Gunlicks

It is interesting to reflect today on the euphoria in Germany and elsewhere that accompanied the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the generally high expectations and rosy predictions that seemed to prevail as a result of the spectacular developments that occurred during 1990. These developments ranged from the first free elections in East Germany on March 18 and the economic, monetary, and social union of East and West on July 2 to the unification of Germany on October 3, the elections in the five new East German Länder on October 14, and the first free all-German elections since 1933 on December 2. The future of the united Germany looked bright indeed.

Since at least the beginning of 1991, however, there has been a far more sober assessment of the future of a united Germany, especially for the Germans in the East. Even a brief listing of the many reasons for the changes that have occurred since the heady days of 1990 would take too much space in this chapter. Its more modest focus examines some of the changes that have affected the Länder and the federal system in Germany since the fall of the Wall, and it takes note of several current and emerging controversies resulting from these changes.

Federalism was a crucial component of the political system introduced in West Germany in 1949, and, in contrast to its largely reactionary features in the Bismarck Reich, it has become closely identified with the success of West German democracy ( Gunlicks 1986, 3-5). Federalism has had an immense impact on German domestic and even foreign affairs, and several books, mostly but not all in German, have been written about the subject from a variety of perspectives. 1 The purpose of this chapter is to select and discuss briefly four topics that I believe will be among the most important, not only for German federalism but also for the German political system in general. They are Neugliederung, or the redrawing of boundaries and consolidation of smaller into larger Länder; fiscal equalization among

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