European politics

In EU matters Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, together with the other German states act both at national and European level.

At the national level the Länder (federal states) are actively involved through the Bundesrat (Federal Council) and the conferences of specialised ministers, including the conference of Ministers for European Affairs.

Pursuant to art. 23 of the Grundgesetz the Länder participate in EU matters via the Bundesrat. The proceedings are regulated, in detail, in the “Act on the Exercise” by the Bundestag and Bundesrat of their Responsibility for Integration in Matters concerning the European Union (IntVG) and the new “Act on Cooperation“ between the Federal Government and the German Bundestag in Matters concerning the European Union (also known as the Cooperation Act – the EUZBLG) as well as the Federal-Länder agreement.

The Bundesrat’s Committee on European Union Affairs (hereafter referred to as the Committee) channels the discussions on EU policies, especially legislative proposals, communications as well as the European Commission’s Green and White papers. Following the deliberations in the expert committees involved, the Committee examines their proposals and recommendations with respect to European law and policy. This also includes verifying whether they comply with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The Committee has the opt to merely take note of a proposal or to recommend issuing an opinion. In the latter case, the question always arises as to whether the statement of the Bundesrat shall be duly considered by the Federal Government. The conditions for due consideration are listed in Article 23 of the Grundgesetz and Article  5 Section 2 EUZBLG. An important case of application exists if the EU-proposal’s focus mainly concerns the legislative powers of the Länder, e.g. in general education.

In addition to the Committee on European Union Affairs, a Europakammer (Europe Chamber) exists based on art. 52 par. 3a of the Basic Law. The Europakammer gets involved, if the topics discussed require confidentiality or a rapid response by the Bundesrat. The decisions of the Europakammer have the same legal effect as those of the Bundesrat plenary, i.e. these decisions are considered decisions of the Bundesrat.

Via the Bundesrat the Länder are also involved in the so-called subsidiarity early warning system, which was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty,and entered into force on 1 December 2009. Through this system, national parliaments – in Germany the Bundestag and Bundesrat – can object to proposals at the very start of EU legislative procedures if these breach the principle of subsidiarity. The federal state parliaments, for their part, participate in the subsidiarity control.

Participation at federal level

Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein are also involved in EU legislation through the Bundesrat (Federal Council), as the federal states contribute to the legislation and administration of the federal state and in EU matters according to Article 23, 50 of the German Grundgesetz, the Basic Law.

The plenary of the Bundesrat meets approx. 12 times a year. In addition, for urgent and confidential matters , a European Chamber can be called upon whose decisions in EU affairs stand for the decisions of the Bundesrat plenary. In principle, participation in European Union affairs takes place in the Committee on European Union Affairs. This committee leads the discussions for all EU legislative proposals. Hamburg’s First Mayor Dr Tschentscher and the Minister for European Affairs of Schleswig-Holstein, Dr. Claus Christian Claussen, are members of the European chamber in the Bundesrat and of the two committees for foreign affairs and European Union affairs.

Participation via the Standing Conference of the State Ministers for European Affairs 

Beyond the Bundesrat, the Länder coordinate their respective European policy interests in the  Konferenz der Europaminister der Länder [EMK] (Standing Conference of the State Ministers for European Affairs),to which every federal state sends their government officials. The European policy positions agreed upon by the Fachministerkonferenz (conference of specialised ministers) are presented to the Federal Government and the European Commission. The presidency of the conference is successively held in alphabetical order by each federal state for one year. Other conferences including specialised ministers also regularly position themselves on European policy.

At the moment, Hamburg’s interests at the Standing Conference are represented by State Secretary Almut Möller, whereas Schleswig-Holstein is represented by the Minister for European Affairs, Dr. Claus Christia

Participation at European level

At European Union level, the federal states participate in various ways. Participation takes place e.g. through secondment of official representatives of the Bundesrat to EU bodies, especially in Council working groups and Commission committees. Additionally, the Länderbeobachter (state observer) regularly informs the federal states on the state of negotiations in the European Council and at the same time provides them with discussion decision papers. The Länderbeobachter is a joint initiative of all 16 Länder, whose activities is based on an agreement from 1996.

Finally, the Länder can send seconded national experts to the European Commission and participate in comprehensive short- and long-term expert programmes.

Direct representation of interests by the Länder naturally also takes place through representative offices in Brussels, the members of the European Parliament and the members of the Committee of Regions.