unizeit Schriftzug

Law for unity

New political currents in Parliament, discussions on military operations abroad, development of the East with the solidarity surcharge: German Unity, which came into force on 3 October 1990, has brought changes to numerous political and social spheres. And state law also always plays a central role in this.

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Grafik: pur.pur

"Nothing may happen that isn't covered by the Constitution," said Christoph Brüning, Vice-President of the Schleswig-Holstein State Constitutional Court and Professor of Public Law and Administrative Sciences at Kiel University, describing the general principle that always applies to the political order in this country and was particularly important on the path to unity. To mark the 30th anniversary of this merger, all the professors of state law at the university gathered to address the topic in a lecture series through the perspective of their discipline.

"But it only makes sense as an attendance event," said Professor Brüning, who has therefore agreed with the other participants to postpone the start of the lecture series until there is no longer anything standing in its way with regard to corona. "If necessary, it'll just have to be '31 years of Germany Unity reflected in the mirror of state law'."

Professor Brüning's own contribution to this series concerns a topic that is still emotionally and politically strong today. It is about the promise of "flowering landscapes" and uniform living conditions, and therefore about how the law copes with regional and social differences. Would it really be possible for a court to ultimately decide that the people of Lusatia should be as well off as those on Lake Tegernsee? It can't and it shouldn't, said Professor Brüning, and notes: "The Constitution wants more of a competition federalism that allows differences between the states, actually even requires them." So the federal government should only become active if the living conditions drift too far apart.

The constitutional lawyer from Kiel believes that such a somewhat restrained interpretation of the commandment of the "unity of living conditions" is appropriate simply "because the differences are by no means set in stone". The federal state of Bavaria, he notes, also benefited from the fiscal equalisation scheme until just a few years before reunification, before it became a donor state. Professor Brüning does not believe that a similar development for Schleswig-Holstein is beyond the realms of possibility. For him, this state is "totally favoured" because of its possibilities for renewable energy production, although he also considers the potential of tourism or the health industry to be far from exhausted.

Even if the state, on the other hand, were to give top priority to the uniformity of living conditions, Professor Brüning believes the matter would become a highly complex one. Starting with the fact that, 30 years after reunification, there would be talk of a north-south rather than an east-west divide. But above all, there is the question of exactly what could be done in order to achieve greater equality. Although plenty of new industrial estates, good roads and chic old towns have been created in East Germany, when it comes to well-paid (or even the existence of) jobs and subjectively coloured requirements for a better quality of life, it is the lawyer's opinion that the state's and legal options are limited. Desolate rural areas here, large cities bursting at the seams there – for Professor Brüning, challenges such as these are difficult to overcome with money-orientated instruments such as the fiscal equalisation scheme alone.

Perhaps, he thinks, methods "beyond the watering can" are called for; regional concepts that are tailored to the particular problems. As a small example, he cites an initiative by the neighbouring state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which has recently decided to make its latest generation of young legal talents civil servants with effect from the beginning of their legal internships. This, so Professor Brüning says, could be a "very clever idea" to counteract the push into the conurbations that is also widespread in his discipline.

Overall, the entire lecture series on state law and German unity is geared equally to current events as well as the required retrospective. Which is also evident in a lecture parliamentary director Utz Schliesky plans to give on the development of parliamentarianism over the past three decades. As already mentioned, it is not yet known when this will happen, but readers of unizeit will find out in plenty of time.

Author: Martin Geist