II. The Federation and the Länder
Article 20. [Constitutional principles – Right of resistance]
- The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state.
- 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.
- The legislature shall be bound by the constitutional order, the executive and the judiciary by law and justice.
- All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available.
Article 20a. [Protection of the natural foundations of life and animals]
Mindful also of its responsibility toward future generations, the state shall protect the natural foundations of life and animals by legislation and, in accordance with law and justice, by executive and judicial action, all within the framework of the constitutional order.
Article 21. [Political parties]
- Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people. They may be freely established. Their internal organisation must conform to democratic principles. They must publicly account for their assets and for the sources and use of their funds.
- Parties that, by reason of their aims or the behaviour of their adherents, seek to undermine or abolish the free democratic basic order or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be unconstitutional. The Federal Constitutional Court shall rule on the question of unconstitutionality.
- Details shall be regulated by federal laws.
Article 22. [Federal capital – Federal flag]
- Berlin is the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Federation shall be responsible for representing the nation as a whole in the capital. Details shall be regulated by federal law.
- The federal flag shall be black, red and gold.
Article 23. [European Union – Protection of basic rights – Principle of subsidiarity]
- With a view to establishing a united Europe, the Federal Republic of Germany shall participate in the development of the European Union that is committed to democratic, social and federal principles, to the rule of law, and to the principle of subsidiarity, and that guarantees a level of protection of basic rights essentially comparable to that afforded by this Basic Law. To this end the Federation may transfer sovereign powers by a law with the consent of the Bundesrat. The establishment of the European Union, as well as changes in its treaty foundations and comparable regulations that amend or supplement this Basic Law, or make such amendments or supplements possible, shall be subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) of Article 79.
- The Bundestag and the Bundesrat shall have the right to bring an action before the Court of Justice of the European Union to challenge a legislative act of the European Union for infringing the principle of subsidiarity. The Bundestag is obliged to initiate such an action at the request of one fourth of its Members. By a statute requiring the consent of the Bundesrat, exceptions from the first sentence of paragraph (2) of Article 42, and the first sentence of paragraph (2) of Article 52, may be authorised for the exercise of the rights granted to the Bundestag and the Bundesrat under the contractual foundations of the European Union.
- The Bundestag and, through the Bundesrat, the Länder shall participate in matters concerning the European Union. The Federal Government shall keep the Bundestag and the Bundesrat informed, comprehensively and at the earliest possible time.
- Before participating in legislative acts of the European Union, the Federal Government shall provide the Bundestag with an opportunity to state its position. The Federal Government shall take the position of the Bundestag into account during the negotiations. Details shall be regulated by a law.
- The Bundesrat shall participate in the decision-making process of the Federation insofar as it would have been competent to do so in a comparable domestic matter, or insofar as the subject falls within the domestic competence of the Länder.
- Insofar as, in an area within the exclusive competence of the Federation, interests of the Länder are affected, and in other matters, insofar as the Federation has legislative power, the Federal Government shall take the position of the Bundesrat into account. To the extent that the legislative powers of the Länder, the structure of Land authorities, or Land administrative procedures are primarily affected, the position of the Bundesrat shall be given the greatest possible respect in determining the Federation’s position consistent with the responsibility of the Federation for the nation as a whole. In matters that may result in increased expenditures or reduced revenues for the Federation, the consent of the Federal Government shall be required.
- When legislative powers exclusive to the Länder concerning matters of school education, culture or broadcasting are primarily affected, the exercise of the rights belonging to the Federal Republic of Germany as a member state of the European Union shall be delegated by the Federation to a representative of the Länder designated by the Bundesrat. These rights shall be exercised with the participation of, and in coordination with, the Federal Government; their exercise shall be consistent with the responsibility of the Federation for the nation as a whole.
- Details regarding paragraphs (4) to (6) of this Article shall be regulated by a law requiring the consent of the Bundesrat.
Article 24. [Transfer of sovereign powers – System of collective security]
- The Federation may by a law transfer sovereign powers to international organisations.
- Insofar as the Länder are competent to exercise state powers and to perform state functions, they may, with the consent of the Federal Government, transfer sovereign powers to transfrontier institutions in neighbouring regions.
- With a view to maintaining peace, the Federation may enter into a system of mutual collective security; in doing so it shall consent to such limitations upon its sovereign powers as will bring about and secure a lasting peace in Europe and among the nations of the world.
- For the settlement of disputes between states, the Federation shall accede to agreements providing for general, comprehensive and compulsory international arbitration.
Article 25. [Primacy of international law]
The general rules of international law shall be an integral part of federal law. They shall take precedence over the laws and directly create rights and duties for the inhabitants of the federal territory.
Article 26. [Securing international peace]
- Acts tending to and undertaken with intent to disturb the peaceful relations between nations, especially to prepare for a war of aggression, shall be unconstitutional. They shall be made a criminal offence.
- Weapons designed for warfare may be manufactured, transported or marketed only with the permission of the Federal Government. Details shall be regulated by a federal law.
Article 27. [Merchant fleet]
All German merchant vessels shall constitute a unitary merchant fleet.
Article 28. [Land constitutions – Autonomy of municipalities]
- 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.
- Municipalities must be guaranteed the right to regulate all local affairs on their own responsibility, within the limits prescribed by the laws. Within the limits of their functions designated by a law, associations of municipalities shall also have the right of self-government according to the laws. The guarantee of self-government shall extend to the bases of financial autonomy; these bases shall include the right of municipalities to a source of tax revenues based upon economic ability and the right to establish the rates at which these sources shall be taxed.
- The Federation shall guarantee that the constitutional order of the Länder conforms to the basic rights and to the provisions of paragraphs (1) and (2) of this Article.
Article 29. [New delimitation of the federal territory]
- 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. Due regard shall be given in this connection to regional, historical and cultural ties, economic efficiency, and the requirements of local and regional planning.
- Revisions of the existing division into Länder shall be effected by a federal law, which must be confirmed by referendum. The affected Länder shall be afforded an opportunity to be heard.
- The referendum shall be held in the Länder from whose territories or parts of territories a new Land or a Land with redefined boundaries is to be established (affected Länder). The question to be voted on is whether the affected Länder are to remain as they are or whether the new Land or the Land with redefined boundaries should be established. The proposal to establish a new Land or a Land with redefined boundaries shall take effect if the change is approved by a majority in the future territory of such Land and by a majority in the territories or parts of territories of an affected Land taken together whose affiliation with a Land is to be changed in the same way. The proposal shall not take effect if within the territory of any of the affected Länder a majority reject the change; however, such rejection shall be of no consequence if in any part of the territory whose affiliation with the affected Land is to be changed a two-thirds majority approves the change, unless it is rejected by a two-thirds majority in the territory of the affected Land as a whole.
- If in any clearly defined and contiguous residential and economic area located in two or more Länder and having at least one million inhabitants one tenth of those entitled to vote in Bundestag elections petition for the inclusion of that area in a single Land, a federal law shall specify within two years whether the change shall be made in accordance with paragraph (2) of this Article or that an advisory referendum shall be held in the affected Länder.
- The advisory referendum shall establish whether the changes the law proposes meet with the voters’ approval. The law may put forward not more than two distinct proposals for consideration by the voters. If a majority approves a proposed change of the existing division into Länder, a federal law shall specify within two years whether the change shall be made in accordance with paragraph (2) of this Article. If a proposal is approved in accordance with the third and fourth sentences of paragraph (3) of this Article, a federal law providing for establishment of the proposed Land shall be enacted within two years after the advisory ballot, and confirmation by referendum shall no longer be required.
- A majority in a referendum or in an advisory referendum shall consist of a majority of the votes cast, provided that it amounts to at least one quarter of those entitled to vote in Bundestag elections. Other details concerning referenda, petitions and advisory referenda shall be regulated by a federal law, which may also provide that the same petition may not be filed more than once within a period of five years.
- Other changes concerning the territory of the Länder may be effected by agreements between the Länder concerned or by a federal law with the consent of the Bundesrat, if the territory that is to be the subject of the change has no more than 50,000 inhabitants. Details shall be regulated by a federal law requiring the consent of the Bundesrat and of a majority of the Members of the Bundestag. The law must provide affected municipalities and counties with an opportunity to be heard.
- Länder may revise the division of their existing territory or parts of their territory by agreement without regard to the provisions of paragraphs (2) to (7) of this Article. Affected municipalities and counties shall be afforded an opportunity to be heard. The agreement shall require confirmation by referendum in each of the Länder concerned. If the revision affects only part of a Land’s territory, the referendum may be confined to the areas affected; the second clause of the fifth sentence shall not apply. In a referendum under this paragraph a majority of the votes cast shall be decisive, provided it amounts to at least one quarter of those entitled to vote in Bundestag elections; details shall be regulated by a federal law. The agreement shall require the consent of the Bundestag.
Article 30. [Sovereign powers of the Länder]
Except as otherwise provided or permitted by this Basic Law, the exercise of state powers and the discharge of state functions is a matter for the Länder.
Article 31. [Supremacy of federal law]
Federal law shall take precedence over Land law.
Article 32. [Foreign relations]
- Relations with foreign states shall be conducted by the Federation.
- Before the conclusion of a treaty affecting the special circumstances of a Land, that Land shall be consulted in timely fashion.
- Insofar as the Länder have power to legislate, they may conclude treaties with foreign states with the consent of the Federal Government.
Article 33. [Equal citizenship – Public service]
- Every German shall have in every Land the same political rights and duties.
- Every German shall be equally eligible for any public office according to his aptitude, qualifications and professional achievements.
- Neither the enjoyment of civil and political rights, nor eligibility for public office, nor rights acquired in the public service shall be dependent upon religious affiliation. No one may be disadvantaged by reason of adherence or non-adherence to a particular religious denomination or philosophical creed.
- The exercise of sovereign authority on a regular basis shall, as a rule, be entrusted to members of the public service who stand in a relationship of service and loyalty defined by public law.
- The law governing the public service shall be regulated and developed with due regard to the traditional principles of the professional civil service.
Article 34. [Liability for violation of official duty]
If any person, in the exercise of a public office entrusted to him, violates his official duty to a third party, liability shall rest principally with the state or public body that employs him. In the event of intentional wrongdoing or gross negligence, the right of recourse against the individual officer shall be preserved. The ordinary courts shall not be closed to claims for compensation or indemnity.
Article 35. [Legal and administrative assistance and assistance during disasters]
- All federal and Land authorities shall render legal and administrative assistance to one another.
- In order to maintain or restore public security or order, a Land in particularly serious cases may call upon personnel and facilities of the Federal Border Police to assist its police when without such assistance the police could not fulfil their responsibilities, or could do so only with great difficulty. In order to respond to a grave accident or a natural disaster, a Land may call for the assistance of police forces of other Länder or of personnel and facilities of other administrative authorities, of the Armed Forces, or of the Federal Border Police.
- If the natural disaster or accident endangers the territory of more than one Land, the Federal Government, insofar as is necessary to combat the danger, may instruct the Land governments to place police forces at the disposal of other Länder, and may deploy units of the Federal Border Police or the Armed Forces to support the police. Measures taken by the Federal Government pursuant to the first sentence of this paragraph shall be rescinded at any time at the demand of the Bundesrat, and in any event as soon as the danger is removed.
Article 36. [Personnel of federal authorities]
- Civil servants employed by the highest federal authorities shall be drawn from all Länder in appropriate proportion. Persons employed by other federal authorities shall, as a rule, be drawn from the Land in which they serve.
- Laws regarding military service shall also take into account both the division of the Federation into Länder and the regional loyalties of their people.
Article 37. [Federal execution]
- If a Land fails to comply with its obligations under this Basic Law or other federal laws, the Federal Government, with the consent of the Bundesrat, may take the necessary steps to compel the Land to comply with its duties.
- For the purpose of implementing such coercive measures, the Federal Government or its representative shall have the right to issue instructions to all Länder and their authorities.