How does a constitution affect a country?
The Basic Law defines the most important rights of the individual in relation to the state and organizes state action. The equality of all before the law is one of the most important basic rights and is laid down in Article 3 of the Basic Law. Man or woman, child or adult, people with or without disabilities - it doesn't matter. Origin, descent, language, religion and political worldview also have no influence on the rights or obligations of people in Germany.
This is stipulated in the fundamental rights (Articles 1 to 19). First and foremost is human dignity (Article 1). It is the duty of all state authorities to respect and protect them. The fundamental rights form the basis for peaceful coexistence and give everyone in Germany the right to freely develop their personality (Article 2), to be free in belief and conscience (Article 4) and to be able to express their opinion freely (Article 5) . The focus is on the individual. The basic rights are also referred to as the citizens' rights to defend themselves against the state.
On May 23, 1949, the Basic Law was passed by the Parliamentary Council in Bonn. It consists of a preamble, a fundamental rights section and an organizational section.
The Basic Law has been in existence for 70 years, but a constitution always moves with the times. So things are changing: the Basic Law has already been changed 63 times, often after controversial discussions - always with a two-thirds majority in the Bundesrat and Bundestag.
How laws are made
Political projects of a government are specified in laws in order to put them into practice with a legal basis. Cabinet members meet on Wednesdays for their weekly meeting. There they discuss new regulations and political plans. In order for a bill to become a law, the Bundestag and, if necessary, the Bundesrat must agree. Until it comes into force, it is a long way, deliberately balanced by the Basic Law.
The legislative process
As soon as a desire for change arises among citizens and is taken up by politicians, either the Bundestag, the Federal Government or the Bundesrat can make use of their right of initiative and introduce a bill.
From the initiative to the entry into force
If, for example, the federal government - i.e. the Federal Chancellor and her ministers - wants to get a law off the ground, the bill is first forwarded to the Federal Council. The latter takes a position and forwards it to the Bundestag, where it is discussed in three readings.
After afirst reading the draft law is forwarded to the relevant specialist committees of the Bundestag. With their comments and possible amendments, the draft then enters the second and third reading. The advice of external experts is also occasionally consulted. At the end of the third reading, the members of the Bundestag vote on the bill. If it is approved, it is passed on to the Federal Council as a resolution.
Crucial for that Participation of the Federal Council what matters in the legislative process is whether, according to the Basic Law, it is a consent or objection law.
Consent laws only come about if the Bundesrat and Bundestag are in agreement. If the Bundesrat rejects a draft law passed by the Bundestag, the mediation committee can be called upon. If there is no agreement there either, the proposed law has failed.
At Opposition laws however, the influence of the Federal Council is less. His objection can be overruled by the Bundestag. Such laws can therefore also come into being without the consent of the Federal Council.
If a bill finds the required majority, it is approved by the Federal Presidentsigned (copy) before the new law is published in the Federal Law Gazette and can come into force.
How does the federal government work?
Five constitutional organs are defined in the Basic Law: Bundestag, Federal Government, Bundesrat, Federal President and Federal Constitutional Court. They are all significantly involved in political and state processes. The Basic Law regulates what role they play.
The federal government controls political and state affairs, but also has the right of initiative for laws. The parties involved in a government - the coalition partners - are guided by the coalition agreement. So the program that was agreed upon when the government was formed. Domestic and foreign policy measures and laws are put in place during the period of government until the next federal election - the legislative period of four years.
The Basic Law only specifies five federal ministries: Justice, Interior, Defense, Foreign and Finance Ministry. Each federal government can determine which ministries should also exist. In 2018, for example, the Chancellor decided to assign the Federal Ministry of the Interior the business areas of Construction and Home.
The Federal Chancellor and her Federal Ministers form the government: the cabinet. Its members also include the head of the Federal Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Tasks, Helge Braun. According to Article 64, the Chancellor has the authority to issue guidelines. So it determines the guidelines of politics and is responsible for them.
What are actually doing ...
The Bundesrat is the joint organ of the 16 states at federal level and is supposed to represent the interests of the states in the Federal Republic. Its central tasks are described in Article 50. According to this, the states participate in federal legislation and administration and in matters of the European Union. Many laws can only come into force with the consent of the Federal Council.
The Federal President is the head of state of Germany. Its powers and tasks are summarized in Articles 54 to 61 of the Basic Law. This includes the appointment of the Federal Chancellor and the signing of laws. The Federal President is represented by the President of the Federal Council.
Federal Constitutional Court
The Federal Constitutional Court is the guardian of the constitution and thus monitors compliance with the Basic Law - in particular the enforcement of fundamental rights. In the event of a dispute, the court can be called upon. The judgment of the Karlsruhe judges is final. According to Article 94, the judges are elected by the Bundesrat and Bundestag.
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