States of Germany
Also known as:|
|Coat of arms||Flag||State||Part of FRG since||Head of government||Image|| Gov't
|Area (km²)||Population|| Pop.
| GDP per Capita |
|50px||50px||Baden-Württemberg||1952||Winfried Kretschmann (Greens)||70px||Greens, SPD||6||35,752||10,755,000||301||Stuttgart||BW||34,885|
|1949||Horst Seehofer (CSU)||70px||CSU||6||70,552||12,542,000||178|| Munich
|50px||50px||Berlin||1990||Michael Müller (SPD)||70px||SPD, CDU||4||892||3,469,000||3,890||–||BE||28,806|
|50px||50px||Brandenburg||1990||Dietmar Woidke (SPD)||70px||SPD, The Left||4||29,479||2,500,000||85||Potsdam||BB||22,074|
(Freie Hansestadt Bremen)
|1949||Jens Böhrnsen (SPD)||70px||SPD, Greens||3||419||661,000||1,577||–||HB||42,405|
(Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg)
|1949||Olaf Scholz (SPD)||70px||SPD||3||755||1,788,000||2,368||–||HH||52,401|
|1949||Volker Bouffier (CDU)||70px||CDU, Greens||5||21,115||6,066,000||287||Wiesbaden||HE||37,509|
|50px||50px|| Lower Saxony
|1949||Stephan Weil (SPD)||70px||SPD, Greens||6||47,609||7,914,000||166|| Hanover
|50px||50px||Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||1990||Erwin Sellering (SPD)||70px||SPD, CDU||3||23,180||1,639,000||71||Schwerin||MV||21,404|
|50px||50px|| North Rhine-
|1949||Hannelore Kraft (SPD)||70px||SPD, Greens||6||34,085||17,837,000||523||Düsseldorf||NW||32,882|
|1949||Malu Dreyer (SPD)||70px||SPD, Greens||4||19,853||3,999,000||202||Mainz||RP||28,311|
|50px||50px||Saarland||1957||Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU)||70px||CDU, SPD||3||2,569||1,018,000||400||Saarbrücken||SL||30,098|
|1990||Stanislaw Tillich (CDU)||70px||CDU, SPD||4||18,416||4,143,000||227||Dresden||SN||22,980|
|1990||Reiner Haseloff (CDU)||70px||CDU, SPD||4||20,446||2,331,000||116||Magdeburg||ST||22,427|
|50px||50px||Schleswig-Holstein||1949||Torsten Albig (SPD)||70px||SPD, Greens, SSW||4||15,799||2,833,000||179||Kiel||SH||25,947|
|1990||Bodo Ramelow (The Left)||70px||The Left, SPD, Greens||4||16,172||2,231,000||138||Erfurt||TH||21,663|
Federalism has a long tradition in German history. The Holy Roman Empire comprised many petty states numbering more than 300 around 1796. The number of territories was greatly reduced during the Napoleonic Wars (1796–1814). After the Congress of Vienna (1815), 39 states formed the German Confederation. The Confederation was dissolved after the Austro-Prussian War and replaced by a North German Federation under Prussian hegemony; this war left Prussia dominant in Germany, and German nationalism would compel the remaining independent states to ally with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, and then to accede to the crowning of King Wilhelm of Prussia as German Emperor. The new German Empire included 25 states (three of them, Hanseatic cities) and the imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine. The empire was dominated by Prussia, which controlled 65% of the territory and 62% of the population. After the territorial losses of the Treaty of Versailles, the remaining states continued as republics. These states were gradually de facto abolished and reduced to provinces under the Nazi regime via the Gleichschaltung process, as the states administratively were largely superseded by the Nazi Gau system.
During the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II, internal borders were redrawn by the Allied military governments. No single state comprised more than 30% of either population or territory; this was intended to prevent any one state from being as dominant within Germany as Prussia had been in the past. Initially, only seven of the pre-War states remained: Baden (in part), Bavaria (reduced in size), Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse (enlarged), Saxony, and Thuringia. The “hyphenated” Länder, such as Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Saxony-Anhalt, owed their existence to the occupation powers and were created out of Prussian provinces and smaller states. Former German territory that lie east of the Oder-Neisse Line fell under either Polish or Soviet administration but attempts were made at least symbolically not to abandon sovereignty well into the 1960s. However, no attempts were made to establish new Länder in these territories as they lay outside the jurisdiction of the FRG at that time.
Upon its founding in 1949, West Germany had eleven states. These were reduced to nine in 1952 when three south-western states (South Baden, Württemberg-Hohenzollern, and Württemberg-Baden) merged to form Baden-Württemberg. From 1957, when the French-occupied Saarland was returned, the Federal Republic consisted of ten states, which are called the Old States today. West Berlin was under the sovereignty of the Western Allies and neither a Western German state nor part of one. However, it was in many ways de facto integrated with West Germany under a special status.
East Germany (GDR) originally consisted of five states (i.e., Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia). In 1952, the Länder were abolished and the GDR was divided into 14 administrative districts called bezirke instead. Soviet-controlled East Berlin, despite officially having the same status as West Berlin, was declared the GDR's capital and its 15th district.
Just prior to the German reunification on 3 October 1990, East German Länder were simply reconstituted in roughly their earlier configuration as five new states. The former district of East Berlin joined West Berlin to form the new state of Berlin. Henceforth, the 10 "old states" plus 5 "new states" plus the new state Berlin add up to 16 states of Germany.
Later, the constitution was amended to state that the citizens of the 16 states had successfully achieved the unity of Germany in free self-determination and that the Basic Law thus applied to the entire German people. Article 23, which had allowed “any other parts of Germany” to join, was rephrased. It had been used in 1957 to reintegrate the Saar as Saarland into the Federal Republic, and this was used as a model for German reunification in 1990. The amended article now defines the participation of the Federal Council and the 16 German states in matters concerning the European Union.
The Länder can conclude treaties with foreign countries in matters within their own sphere of competence and with the consent of the Federal Government (Article 32 of the Basic Law).
The description free state (Freistaat) is merely a historic synonym for republic—a description used by most German states after the abolishment of monarchy. Today, Freistaat is associated emotionally with a more independent status, especially in Bavaria. However, it has no legal significance. All sixteen states are represented at the federal level in the Bundesrat (Federal Council), where their voting power depends on the size of their population.
West Germany 1945–1990
Article 29 of the Basic Law states that the "division of the federal territory into Länder may be revised to ensure that each Land be of a size and capacity to perform its functions effectively". The somewhat complicated provisions regulate that "[r]evisions of the existing division into Länder shall be effected by a federal law, which must be confirmed by referendum".
A new delimitation of the federal territory has been discussed since the Federal Republic was founded in 1949 and even before. Committees and expert commissions advocated a reduction of the number of Länder; academics (Rutz, Miegel, Ottnad etc.) and politicians (Döring, Apel, and others) made proposals – some of them far-reaching – for redrawing boundaries but hardly anything came of these public discussions. Territorial reform is sometimes propagated by the richer Länder as a means to avoid or reduce fiscal transfers.
To date, the only successful reform was the merger of the states of Baden, Württemberg-Baden, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern to form the new state of Baden-Württemberg in 1952.
Article 29 reflects a debate on territorial reform in Germany that is much older than the Basic Law. The Holy Roman Empire was a loose confederation of large and petty principalities under the nominal suzerainty of the emperor. Approximately 300 states existed at the eve of the French Revolution in 1789.
Territorial boundaries were essentially redrawn as a result of military conflicts and interventions from the outside: from the Napoleonic Wars to the Congress of Vienna, the number of territories decreased from about 300 to 39; in 1866 Prussia annexed the sovereign states of Hanover, Nassau, Hesse-Kassel, and the Free City of Frankfurt; the last consolidation came about under Allied occupation after 1945.
The debate on a new delimitation of the German territory started in 1919 as part of discussions about the new constitution. Hugo Preuss, the father of the Weimar constitution, drafted a plan to divide the German Reich into 14 roughly equal-sized Länder. His proposal was turned down due to opposition of the states and concerns of the government. Article 18 of the constitution enabled a new delimitation of the German territory but set high hurdles: Three fifth of the votes handed in, and at least the majority of the population are necessary to decide on the alteration of territory. In fact, until 1933 there were only four changes of the German map: The 7 Thuringian states united in 1920, whereby Coburg opted for Bavaria, Pyrmont joined Prussia in 1922, and Waldeck did so in 1929. Any later plans to break up the dominating Prussia into smaller states failed because political circumstances were not favorable to state reforms.
After the National Socialists seized power in January 1933, the Länder increasingly lost importance. They became administrative regions of a centralised country. Three changes are of particular note: on January 1, 1934, Mecklenburg-Schwerin was united with the neighbouring Mecklenburg-Strelitz; and, by the Greater Hamburg Act (Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz), from April 1, 1937, the area of the city-state was extended, while Lübeck lost its independence and became part of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein.
Between 1946 and 1947, new Länder were established in all four zones of occupation: Bremen, Hesse, Württemberg-Baden, and Bavaria in the American zone; Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia in the British zone; Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden, Württemberg-Hohenzollern and the Saarland—which later received a special status—in the French zone; Mecklenburg(-Vorpommern), Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia in the Soviet zone.
In 1948, the military governors of the three Western Allies handed over the so-called Frankfurt Documents to the minister-presidents in the Western occupation zones. Among other things, they recommended revising the boundaries of the West German Länder in a way that none of them should be too large or too small in comparison with the others.
As the premiers did not come to an agreement on this question, the Parliamentary Council was supposed to address this issue. Its provisions are reflected in Article 29. There was a binding provision for a new delimitation of the federal territory: the Federal Territory must be revised ... (paragraph 1). Moreover, in territories or parts of territories whose affiliation with a Land had changed after 8 May 1945 without a referendum, people were allowed to petition for a revision of the current status within a year after the promulgation of the Basic Law (paragraph 2). If at least one tenth of those entitled to vote in Bundestag elections were in favour of a revision, the federal government had to include the proposal into its legislation. Then a referendum was required in each territory or part of a territory whose affiliation was to be changed (paragraph 3). The proposal should not take effect if within any of the affected territories a majority rejected the change. In this case, the bill had to be introduced again and after passing had to be confirmed by referendum in the Federal Republic as a whole (paragraph 4). The reorganization should be completed within three years after the Basic Law had come into force (paragraph 6).
In their letter to Konrad Adenauer the three western military governors approved the Basic Law but suspended Article 29 until such time as a peace treaty should be concluded. Only the special arrangement for the southwest under Article 118 could enter into force.
Foundation of Baden-Württemberg
In southwestern Germany, territorial revision seemed to be a top priority since the border between the French and American occupation zones was set along the Autobahn Karlsruhe-Stuttgart-Ulm (today the A8). Article 118 stated "The division of the territory comprising Baden, Württemberg-Baden and Württemberg-Hohenzollern into Länder may be revised, without regard to the provisions of Article 29, by agreement between the Länder concerned. If no agreement is reached, the revision shall be effected by a federal law, which shall provide for an advisory referendum." Since no agreement was reached, a referendum was held on 9 December 1951 in four different voting districts, three of which approved the merger (South Baden refused but was overruled as the result of total votes was decisive). On 25 April 1952, the three former Länder merged to form Baden-Württemberg.
Petitions asking to reconstitute former states
With the Paris Agreements West Germany regained (limited) sovereignty. This triggered the start of the one-year period as set in paragraph 2 of Article 29. As a consequence, eight petitions for referendums were launched, six of which were successful:
- Reconstitution of the Free State of Oldenburg 12.9%
- Reconstitution of the Free State of Schaumburg-Lippe 15.3%
- Integration of Koblenz and Trier into North Rhine-Westphalia 14.2%
- Reintegration of Rheinhessen into Hesse 25.3%
- Reintegration of Montabaur into Hesse 20.2%
- Reconstitution of the Land of Baden 15.1%
The last petition was originally rejected by the Federal Minister of the Interior in reference to the referendum of 1951. However, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that the rejection was unlawful: the population of Baden had the right to a new referendum because the one of 1951 had taken place under different rules from the ones provided for by article 29. In particular, the outcome of the 1951 referendum did not reflect the wishes of the majority of Baden's population.
The two Palatine petitions (for a reintegration into Bavaria and integration into Baden-Württemberg) failed with 7.6% and 9.3%. Further requests for petitions (Lübeck, Geesthacht, Lindau, Achberg, and 62 Hessian communities) had already been rejected as inadmissible by the Federal Minister of the Interior or were withdrawn as in the case of Lindau. The rejection was confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court in the case of Lübeck.
Saar: Little reunification with Germany
In the Paris Agreements of 23 October 1954, France offered to establish an independent "Saarland", under the auspices of the Western European Union (WEU), but on 23 October 1955 in the Saar Statute referendum the Saar electorate rejected this plan by 67.7% to 32.3% (out of a 96.5% turnout: 423,434 against, 201,975 for) despite the public support of Federal German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer for the plan. The rejection of the plan by the Saarlanders was interpreted as support for the Saar to join the Federal Republic of Germany.
On October 27, 1956, the Saar Treaty established that Saarland should be allowed to join Germany, as provided by the Grundgesetz constitution art. 23 for the Federal republic of Germany. Saarland became part of Germany effective January 1, 1957. The Franco-Saarlander currency union ended on 6 July 1959, when the West Deutsche Mark was introduced as legal tender in the Saarland.
Paragraph 6 of Article 29 stated that if a petition was successful a referendum should be held within three years. Since the deadline passed on 5 May 1958 without anything happening the Hesse state government filed a constitutional complaint with the Federal Constitutional Court in October 1958. The complaint was dismissed in July 1961 on the grounds that Article 29 had made the new delimitation of the federal territory an exclusively federal matter. At the same time, the Court reaffirmed the requirement for a territorial revision as a binding order to the relevant constitutional bodies.
The grand coalition decided to settle the 1956 petitions by setting binding deadlines for the required referendums. The referendums in Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate were to be held by 31 March 1975, and the onreferendum in Baden was to be held by 30 June 1970. The quorum for a successful vote was set at one-quarter of those entitled to vote in Bundestag elections. Paragraph 4 stated that the vote should be disregarded if it contradicted the objectives of paragraph 1.
In his investiture address, given on 28 October 1969 in Bonn, Chancellor Willy Brandt proposed that the government would consider Article 29 of the Basic Law as a binding order. An expert commission was established, named after its chairman, the former Secretary of State Professor Werner Ernst. After two years of work, the experts delivered their report in 1973. It provided an alternative proposal for both northern Germany and central and southwestern Germany. In the north, either a single new state consisting of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen and Lower Saxony should be created (solution A) or two new states, one in the northeast consisting of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and the northern part of Lower Saxony (from Cuxhaven to Lüchow-Dannenberg) and one in the northwest consisting of Bremen and the rest of Lower Saxony (solution B). In the Center and South West either Rhineland-Palatinate (with the exception of the Germersheim district but including the Rhine-Neckar region) should be merged with Hesse and the Saarland (solution C), the district of Germersheim would then become part of Baden-Württemberg.
The Palatinate (including the region of Worms) could also be merged with the Saarland and Baden-Württemberg, and the rest of Rhineland-Palatinate would then merge with Hesse (solution D). Both alternatives could be combined (AC, BC, AD, BD).
At the same time the commission developed criteria for classifying the terms of Article 29 paragraph 1. The capacity to perform functions effectively was considered most important, whereas regional, historical, and cultural ties were considered as hardly verifiable. To fulfil administrative duties adequately, a population of at least five million per Land was considered as necessary.
After a relatively brief discussion and mostly negative responses from the affected Länder, the proposals were shelved. Public interest was limited or nonexistent.
The referendum in Baden was held on 7 June 1970: With 81.9% the vast majority of voters decided for Baden to remain part of Baden-Württemberg, only 18.1% opted for a reconstitution of the old Land of Baden. The referendums in Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, were held on 19 January 1975:
- Reconstitution of the Free State of Oldenburg 31%
- Reconstitution of the Free State of Schaumburg-Lippe 39.5%
- Integration of Koblenz and Trier into North Rhine-Westphalia 13%
- Reintegration of Rheinhessen into Hesse 7.1%
- Reintegration of Montabaur region into Hesse 14.3%
Hence, the two referendums in Lower Saxony were successful. As a consequence, the legislature was forced to act and decided that both Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe should remain part of Lower Saxony. The justification was that a reconstitution of Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe would contradict the objectives of paragraph 1. An appeal against the decision was rejected as inadmissible by the Federal Constitutional Court.
On 24 August 1976 the binding provision for a new delimitation of the federal territory was altered into a mere discretionary one. Paragraph 1 was rephrased, now putting the capacity to perform functions in the first place. The option for a referendum in the Federal Republic as a whole (paragraph 4) was abolished. Hence a territorial revision was no longer possible against the will of the population affected by it.
Reunited Germany 1990–present
The debate on territorial revision restarted shortly before German reunification. While academics (Rutz and others) and politicians (Gobrecht) suggested introducing only two, three, or four Länder in the GDR, legislation reintroduced the five Länder that had existed until 1952, however, with slightly changed boundaries.
Article 118a was introduced into the Basic Law and provided the possibility for Berlin and Brandenburg to merge without regard to the provisions of Article 29, by agreement between the two Länder with the participation of their inhabitants who are entitled to vote.
Article 29 was again modified and provided an option for the Länder to revise the division of their existing territory or parts of their territory by agreement without regard to the provisions of paragraphs (2) through (7).
The state treaty between Berlin and Brandenburg was approved in both parliaments with the necessary two-thirds majority, but in the popular referendum of 5 May 1996 about 63% voted against the merger.
|State||01. January 2005||01. January 2000|
|Number||Area in km²||Number||Area in km²|
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- Elections in Germany
- Federalism in Germany
- List of cities in Germany
- List of German states by GDP
- List of subnational entities
- For a list of German states prior to 1815 see List of states in the Holy Roman Empire
- New federal states
- State Police Landespolizei
- Composition of the German State Parliaments
- Terminological note: The loan word Land is written with a capital "L" and is used in the official English version of the Basic Law and in UK parliamentary proceedings. The word Bundesland ("federated state") is sometimes used informally in German to avoid confusion, since Land can also mean land or country in German. Although the term Land applies to all the states, each of the states of Bavaria, Saxony, and Thuringia describes itself as a Freistaat (free state). The expression is based on early 20th century attempts to create a genuinely German alternative for the loan word Republik and to express the end of the German monarchies.
- Christian Tomuschat, David P. Currie (April 2010). "Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany" (PDF). Deutscher Bundestag Public Relations Division. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- House of Commons of the United Kingdom (28 February 1991). "House of Commons debates (Welsh affairs)". UK parliament. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- Leonardy, Uwe (1999). "Länder Power-Sharing in International Relations and European Affairs". The institutional structures of German federalism. Working papers / Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, London Office (electronic ed.). Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
- Gunlicks, Arthur B.: German Federalism and Recent Reform Efforts, in: German Law Journal Vol. 06 No. 10, p. 1287
- Gunlicks, Arthur B.: German Federalism and Recent Reform Efforts, in: German Law Journal Vol. 06 No. 10, p. 1288
- Gunlicks, Arthur B.: German Federalism and Recent Reform Efforts, in: German Law Journal Vol. 06 No. 10, pp. 1287–88
- The states of Baden, Württemberg-Baden, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern were constituent states of the federation when it was formed in 1949. They united to form Baden-Württemberg in 1952.
- Berlin has only officially been a Bundesland since reunification, even though West Berlin was largely treated as a state of West Germany.
- "Results of the referendum on the Saar Statute (23 October 1955)". Saarländische Volkszeitung (Saarbrücken). October 24, 1955. p. 10. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
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