The historical background to the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany can be divided into five phases, which are discussed in this chapter. The unification of Germany as the Second Empire in 1871 is the first phase. The consolidation of the new German state and its involvement in the First World War is the second phase. The third phase is the foundation, development and downfall of the Weimar Republic. The fourth phase is the period of Nazi rule and the Second World War, and the fifth phase is the four-power occupation regime put in place following Germany's unconditional surrender in 1945. Even before the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945, the Soviet Union sent a group of German communists (who had spent the war in exile in Russia) into areas of eastern Germany to set up local administration and to prepare the way for the Soviet occupation regime.
This chapter offers a portrait of a European Union in 2013 wracked by mutual suspicions. Elites in that year dropped the pretence that further integration efforts could produce common benefits. The EU had devised such defective processes for managing high-level responsibilities that it remained paralysed when these low-grade forms of management spun large areas of the eurozone into crisis. Southern European political elites shrank from embracing bold remedies for the economic crisis. Most were seen as involving an abandonment of the euro or else a temporary suspension for some members, or a breaking up of the currency union into several workable parts. The EU will become an entity of secondary importance unless it can redesign itself as a force concerned to identify and defend a European common good. This involves burying the Cold War with national states who view a supra-national Europe as both threatening and unworkable.
This chapter describes the most important factors that have influenced the development of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. The factors are the Basic Law itself and the Federal Constitutional Court that is charged with the task of interpreting that Basic Law. The chapter considers the economy, the division of Germany and the 'cold war' and the political culture of the Federal Republic, as these played a role in countering any tendencies which might have led to a resurgence of extremism. Many of the decisions made by the Court have had direct significance for the institutions and processes of the political system. Political stability and the development of a democratic political system are held to depend upon a foundation of a prosperous economy. The political culture of the Federal Republic has of course influenced the development of the political system.
This chapter discusses the principles of the German electoral system, summarises the most important defining features of the German electoral system, and describes how this electoral system came into existence. The electoral system affects the type of government of the Federal Republic of Germany. The chapter discusses the effects of the electoral system on the party system and on government. The functions of the electoral system usually have been more concerned with adjusting the balances among the strengths of the parties than with changes of government. The chapter describes the two periods (1956 and 1966) when significant reform of the electoral system seemed likely to occur. It also examines the processes of electoral politics, including candidate selection and election campaigning, as well as German voting behaviour. The electoral system seems to have contributed to the stability and flexibility of democratic politics in Germany.
Cooperation and trust were increasingly scarce commodities in the inner councils of the EU. This book explores why the boldest initiative in the sixty-year quest to achieve a borderless Europe has exploded in the face of the EU. A close examination of each stage of the EU financial emergency that offers evidence that the European values that are supposed to provide solidarity within the twenty eight-member EU in good times and bad are flimsy and thinly distributed. The book aims to show that it is possible to view the difficulties of the EU as rooted in much longer-term decision-making. It begins with an exploration of the long-term preparations that were made to create a single currency encompassing a large part of the European Union. The book then examines the different ways in which the European Union seized the initiative from the European nation-state, from the formation of the Coal and Steel Community to the Maastricht Treaty. It focuses on the role of France and Germany in the EU. Difficulties that have arisen for the EU as it has tried to foster a new European consciousness are discussed next. The increasingly strained relationship between the EU and the democratic process is also examined. The book discusses the evolution of the crisis in the eurozone and the shortcomings which have impeded the EU from bringing it under control. It ends with a portrait of a European Union in 2013 wracked by mutual suspicions.
The name of the German state, the Federal Republic of Germany, indicates and emphasises one of its fundamental characteristics: its federal structure. This chapter describes the principal reasons for the development of the federal system in Germany. It discusses various Articles of the Basic Law that makes reference to the federal organisation of the political system. The most distinctive feature of the structure of German federalism, though, is the functional division which exists between the federal government and the Länder. To allow the political system to operate effectively in a federal state such as that of Germany, a network of institutions which foster co-ordination and co-operation is necessary. The chapter describes the functions of the most obvious institution of co-ordination, the Bundesrat, which participates influentially in the legislative process at the federal level. The reunification of Germany in 1990 offered a new opportunity to rationalise the federal structure.
A primary goal of the EU has been to promote a popular sense of European consciousness so as to enable allegiances to shift from individual nation-states to a European centre. This chapter examines the difficulties that have arisen for the EU as it has tried to foster a new European consciousness. The political system of the EU will be truly fortunate if it is able to devise institutions which possess a fraction of the legitimacy enjoyed by the various pillars of Swiss group identity. The EU's role as a collective sustainer of constructive nationalism appeared very threadbare as the post-2009 financial crisis gathered pace. The European cause found it hard to draw on the resources of allegiance and identity commonly available to many nations during periods of difficulty.
This chapter focuses on the role of France and Germany in the EU. Both states have often exercised dominance at key moments and have collaborated to drive the integration project forward. Converging Europe has been a story about how these two national giants determined the extent to which their core interests could be reconciled with advancing the European project. Konrad Adenauer had never been an enthusiastic German in the political sense even before the disastrous advent of Hitler. From Charles de Gaulle to Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, French strategy towards the European Union was too often based exclusively on ways of extracting national advantage from Europe or else promoting the personal agenda of a head of state enjoying semi-regal powers. The blows directed against the cause of building an EU with strong economic and political authority by France were harder ones than those mounted by any Eurosceptics.
This book offers an overview of the principal features of the German political system. It emphasises four important characteristics of the system: the way in which twentieth-century history shaped the post-Second World War political system; the stability and adaptability of that system; the unusual importance within the political system of legal rules; and the significance of Germany's association with European integration. The book surveys the Basic Law, designed in 1948-1949 as a direct response to the failure of Germany's first experiment with democracy: the regime of the Weimar Republic. The book describes the events of the fateful years 1989 and 1990, which led to reunification, in three phases: the downfall of the old regime in the German Democratic Republic; the period of adjustment and transition to a democratic regime in Germany; and the process and consequences of reunification itself. The book also examines the principal influences which have shaped the present-day political system, the electoral system and electoral behaviour of the Federal Republic, and the features of the 'party state'. It reviews the structure, operation and political effects of Germany's particular version of federalism and analyses the core institutions of government. The structure and powers of the legislative chambers, the legislative process, and the role of the elected representative are also discussed. Finally, the book charts the path taken by West Germany to develop links to 'Europe', and explores the ways in which membership of what has become the European Union impinges upon the domestic politics of the Federal Republic.
The majority of political institutions provided in the Basic Law, and the relations between them, have been profoundly affected by what the 'founding fathers' in Bonn perceived to be those flaws in the Weimar democracy which directly contributed to the rise of the Third Reich. The concept of 'combative democracy' exists in the Federal Republic of Germany precisely because of the causes of the rise of Hitler and the Second World War. Political education, the role of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the 'radicals decree' and other measures associated with 'combative democracy' are put in place to prevent the re-emergence of Nazism. From the 1970s onwards, the wave of 'new politics' activity increased in significance. Local and regional 'citizen initiative groups' took action to block projects likely to damage the local environment or to promote projects to provide better public amenities.