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Government authorities(bodies) in Germany: legislative, executive, and judiciary authorities in Germany

This page contains information about political authorities at the levels of the Federation and federated states. Here you will find a description as to the duties and responsibilities of the Bundestag, the Bundesrat, the Federal Government, the Chancellor and the President of Germany, as well as information on the role and tasks of the Сonstitutional Сourt, the Federal Assembly and the Joint Committee of the country.

§ Federal and federated states authorities in Germany

In Germany, there is a two-tier system of state power with individual authorities at each level respectively: federal and regional (the one of a federated state or a land). The structure of the government in Germany is determined by the Constitution or the Basic Law of the country; in particular, at the federal level, 5 government bodies and 2 ad hoc committees temporarily created for a specific purpose are referred to as standing government bodies. All these bodies of authority are characterized further on the page.

Federal authorities in Germany

§ Bundestag, the German Federal Parliament

The Bundestag (in German: Bundestag) or the Federal Parliament is the legislative body of Germany, it consists of approximately 600-700 members elected by the citizens of the country for a term of 4 years. The Bundestag members are representatives of the people and freely decide when considering and passing laws. The Bundestag members having similar political goals and interests form parliamentary factions, groups or alliances. There are also standing committees, in the Bundestag that perform certain tasks, as well as committees of the Federal Ministries; each committee is headed by a committee chairperson. The Bundestag holds meetings to discuss and adopt new laws, which are passed by a majority vote. The Bundestag members elect the Bundestag President (in German: Präsident) and his/her Deputies. Discussions in the Bundestag are publicly available, everyone can watch them on TV, on the Internet or from the viewing stand in the building where the meetings are held. After the adoption of a new law or amendments to the law, the bill has to go through the Bundesrat, and also be signed by the Federal Chancellor, one of the Ministers and the President of Germany.

Name in German Bundestag
Type of power Legislature
Composition The President of the Bundestag, his/her Deputies, and approximately 700 Bundestag members representing the people
Scope and objectives
  • Discussion and adoption of draft laws and amendments to laws,
  • Electing the Federal Chancellor,
  • Electing the the country's President (together with the Bundesrat),
  • Monitoring the work of the Federal Government,
  • Discussion and adoption of the state budget proposed by the Government for the next year and subsequent monitoring of its implementation.
Seat The Reichstag (Reichstag), Berlin

§ Federal Government and the Chancellor of Germany

The Federal Government of Germany (in German: Bundesregierung) - consists of the Federal Chancellor, the head of the Government and Ministers. Each Federal Minister is the head of a Ministry of the country. The Federal Ministers are appointed by the President of the country on the proposal of the Federal Chancellor; the Ministers handle their matters independently within the framework of the Federal Chancellor's main policies. There are 14 Federal Ministries in the country.

The Federal Chancellor of Germany (in German: Bundeskanzler) is the country's most important political capacity; the Federal Chancellor determines the country's main policies and shall bear responsibility for them. The Federal Chancellor is elected by the Bundestag on the proposal of the President of Germany.

Name in German Bundesregierung, Bundeskabinett
Type of power Executive branch
Composition Federal Chancellor (head of the Government) and Ministers (who are heads of Federal Ministries)
Scope and objectives of the Federal Chancellor
  • Head of the Government,
  • cooperation with the coalition (alliance) of political parties,
  • nominating the Federal Ministers and his/her own Deputy or Vice Chancellor,
  • defining the focal points of the policy, scope and objectives of the Federal Government (guideline setting competence),
  • leadership of the armed forces, when the occasion requires to defend the nation,
  • filing a motion as to the confidence in him/ her and a motion to dissolve the Bundestag.
Scope and objectives of the Federal Government
  • Discussion of various political topics,
  • taking co-decisions with the Chancellor on a number of political issues,
  • proposal of bills for consideration by the Bundestag,
  • Federal Ministers shall be in charge of a specific range of tasks in compliance with the directives of the Chancellor.
Seat The Federal Chancellery building (Kanzleramtsgebäude), Berlin; Palais Schaumburg (Palais Schaumburg), Bonn

§ Bundesrat or the Federal Council of Germany, representation of the federated states

The Bundesrat (in German: Bundesrat) or the Federal Council is a representation of the German federated states at the federal level of power, it consists of members of each federated state government. Thanks to this body, all the country’s federated states participate in exercising the legislative and executive powers of Germany. Approximately once a month, plenary sessions (or meetings of all the Council members) of the Bundesrat are held, and all the German federated states governments representatives come to these meetings. The Bundesrat shall elect their own Chair or President (in German: Bundesratspräsident) for a period of 1 year. The Federal Government shall keep the Bundesrat up to date on the current affairs. The Bundesrat checks and approves laws passed by the Bundestag; the laws relating to matters within the competence of the federated states cannot enter into force without the approval on the part of the Bundesrat. There are 16 committees in the Bundesrat made up of professionals in a specific field, such as finance, healthcare, defense, etc. These committees advise the Bundesrat members on the laws being discussed.

Name in German Bundesrat
Type of power Legislature
Composition President of the Bundesrat and 69 representatives of the governments of 16 German federated states
Scope and objectives
  • Discussing new laws and amendments to existing laws,
  • verification and approval of laws adopted by the Bundestag,
  • harmonizing the regulations of the Federal Government,
  • participation in matters relating to the European Union,
  • electing half of the judges of the Federal Constitutional Court,
  • legislative acts in cases of public emergency.
Seat The Bundesrat building (Bundesrats-Gebäude), Berlin

§ Federal President, Head of the State of Germany; the Federal President's Office

The Federal President of Germany (in German: Bundespräsident) is the head of the state of Germany. In contrast to many other countries, the Federal President is not the main politician of the country, their activity remains within the framework of everyday politics, as well as the performance of representative functions, such as receiving foreign politicians or representing the country abroad. The President of Germany approves the laws adopted by the Bundestag. The Federal President is elected by the Federal Assembly for a term of 5 years. His/ her Deputy, if necessary, shall be the President of the Bundesrat. In carrying out tasks, the President enjoys the support of their office, known as the Office of the Federal President (in German: Bundespräsidialamt). The Office provides consultations to the President, informs about political events, prepares his/ her trips and visits and fulfils various assignments of the President.

A German citizen over 40 years old can be elected President of Germany. S/he shall not be engaged in other work or have a different political capacity and actively participate in the activities of any political party.

Name in German Bundespräsident
Type of power Executive branch
Composition The Federal President; the Office of the Federal President
Scope and objectives
  • Represents the state in various situations within the country, for example: attending events, greetings, awards, giving speeches, supporting various organizations;
  • Represents their country abroad, and also hosts representatives of other countries;
  • Nominates a candidate to the Bundestag for appointment as the Federal Chancellor;
  • Appoints Ministers on the proposal of the Federal Chancellor;
  • Appoints Federal Judges and other officials;
  • Signs all laws passed by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat;
  • Accords permission to the ambassadors from other countries to stay and work in Germany.
Seat Bellevue Palace (Schloss Bellevue), Berlin
Hammerschmidt Villa (Villa Hammerschmidt), Bonn

§ Federal Assembly of Germany

The Federal Assembly (in German: Bundesversammlung) is a constitutional body whose sole task is to elect the Federal President. This Assembly consists of all the members of the Bundestag and the same number of representatives of all the federated states of Germany, elected by the Parliaments of each state. The Federal Assembly meets for the election of the President every 5 years, for which purpose new members of the Assembly are elected each time.

Name in German Bundesversammlung
Type of power Electoral body
Composition Members of the Bundestag and federated states representatives
Scope and objectives
  • Election of the President of Germany
Seat The Reichstag (Reichstag), Berlin

§ Joint Committee - a parliament created in a state of emergency

The Joint Committee (нем. Gemeinsamer Ausschuss) - (in German: Gemeinsamer Ausschuss) is a committee created in case of emergency when there is a need for a defensive war. This Committee is vested with the powers of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat and ascertains the fact of an attack and the need to pursue a defensive war. The Joint Committee embraces the members of the Bundestag (by two-thirds) and those of the Bundesrat (by one third).

Name in German Gemeinsamer Ausschuss
Composition 2/3 of the Committee – the Bundestag members, 1/3 of the Committee – the Bundesrat members
Scope and objectives
  • Ascertainment of the fact as to the need to pursue a defensive war

§ Federal Сonstitutional Сourt of Germany

The Federal Сonstitutional Сourt of Germany (in German:Bundesve rfassungsgericht) is the supreme judicial authority in the country. This Court deals with cases where the consistency of any German law with the Constitution of the country is called into question. Other courts of the country apply to the Сonstitutional Сourt to make sure that a particular law of the country is consistent with the Constitution. The Federal Government and the federated states governments can also request a compliance audit of a law. The Сonstitutional Сourt also deals with cases of disputes between authorities regarding their rights and obligations. Any German citizen can appeal to the Сonstitutional Сourt, should s/he consider that their constitutional rights have been violated; the violation may come from a court, law or any government agency. 16 judges of the Сonstitutional Сourt are elected by the Bundesrat and the Bundestag for a term of 12 years. The Сourt is divided into 2 parts, consisting of 2 senates (the senate for constitutional rights and the senate for disputes between authorities), the first one is chaired by the President of the Court, while the other is chaired by their Deputy, i.e. the Vice President.

Name in German Bundesverfassungsgericht
Type of power Judiciary
Composition 16 judges, the President of the Court and their Vice-President
Scope and objectives
  • Protecting the fundamental rights of people in Germany;
  • Making final decisions as to court cases;
  • Checking the laws of the country for compliance with the German Constitution.
Seat Karlsruhe Palace (Schloss Karlsruhe) in the City of Karlsruhe

§ German federated states parliaments

The federated state parliament or Landtag (in German: Landesparlament, Landtag) may also have different names, depending on the federated state. Deputies of the federated state parliament are elected by the people residing in the territory of this federated state. The parliament is the legislature; the key tasks of the parliament are legislation, control over the federated state government, as well as the approval of the local budget.

Name in German Landesparlament, Landtag
Type of power Legislature
Composition Landtag President, their (his/her) Deputies and members
Scope and objectives
  • Discussion and adoption of bills, amendments to the laws of the federated state;
  • Electing the federated state government head;
  • Control over the federated state government;
  • Approval of the federated state budget.
Seat As a rule, in the capital city of their federated state

§ German federated states governments

The federated state government (in German: Landesregierung) is the executive body of a federated state; depending on the state, it may have different names: Landesregierung, Landeskabinett, Staatsregierung, Ministerrat, Senat. The federated state government consists of the head of the government (in German: Regierungschefs), who may also be called differently, depending on the state, for example: Ministerpräsident, Regierender Bürgermeister, Präsident des Senats, and ministers (in German: Landesministern, Staatsministern, Senatoren). The head of the federated state government is elected by the federated state parliament, s/he appoints the ministers of their government, determines the focal points of the federated state policy and shall be responsible for it to the federated state parliament.

Name in German Landesregierung
Type of power Executive branch
Composition The head of the government and the cabinet of ministers
Scope and objectives
  • The head of the government determines the focal point of the policy, scope and objectives of the government,
  • cooperation with a coalition (alliance) of political parties,
  • discussion and decision-making regarding various political topics,
  • proposal of bills for consideration by the federated state parliament,
  • the Ministers shall be in charge of a specific range of tasks in compliance with the directives of the government head.
Seat As a rule, in the capital city of their federated state

§ Сonstitutional Сourts of the federated states of Germany

The Сonstitutional Сourts of the federated states of Germany (in German: Landesverfassungsgericht) have different names, depending on the federated state: Verfassungsgericht, Landesverfassungsgericht, Verfassungsgerichtshof. The Сonstitutional Сourts scope may differ in different federated states. These Courts resolve mainly constitutional disputes and do not deal with the affairs of private individuals; they adjudicate disputes between the federated states authorities regarding their duties and rights, deal with auditing the statutory compliance of the federated state legislation with the Constitution of the said state, etc.

Name in German Verfassungsgericht, Landesverfassungsgericht, Verfassungsgerichtshof
Type of power Judiciary
Composition The President of the Court, their Vice-President and several judges
Scope and objectives
  • Settlement of disputes between the federated state authorities,
  • auditing the statutory compliance of the federated state legislation with the Constitution of the said state.

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