Exploring the practice of intergovernmental relations in Germany

Participants shared views at the German national roundtable on intergovernmental relations in Hamburg.

Informal lines and means of collaboration between Germany’s national government and its subnational governments are as important as the formal ones, according to participants at a recent Forum roundtable in Germany.

The participants, composed of federalism experts, members of government, political scientists and practitioners of federalism, came together in Hamburg, Germany, for a national roundtable on intergovernmental relations. The event was part of the Forum’s Global Dialogue on Federalism.

The issues addressed by the group included the following questions:
• How do informal modes of Intergovernmental relations affect a country’s transparency and responsibility?
• What role do social networks play in the conduct of intergovernmental relations and what is their basis?
• How does the European Union (EU) influence the political decision-making process in the established institutions of intergovernmental relations in Germany?

Practitioners exchanged views and insights into the functioning of intergovernmental relations in Germany. Most participants agreed that the old divide between the Communist Eastern Germany and the non-Communist Western Germany no longer has any bearing with regard to relations between Germany’s sub-national units, called Länder.

The topic that generated the most discussion was how Germany’s sub-national governments and legislatures go about influencing policy-making on the European level and their levels of success. The roundtable also debated how networks within and between levels of government influence the policy-making process.

The event was held on March 26, 2009 at the University of Hamburg, and co-ordinated by Roland Lhotta of the University of Hamburg, and Julia von Blumenthal of the University of Giessen.

Participants included Dr. Reinold Herber, Forum of Federations; Dr. Michael Wisser, Bundesrat (Germany’s upper chamber of the national legislature); Dr. Nicolai Dose, Technical University of Munich; Dr. Kai-Uwe Schnapp, University of Hamburg; Dr. Annegret Eppler, University of Tuebingen; Thorsten Augustin, Hanse Office Brussels; Dr. Martin Grosse Huettmann, University of Tuebingen; Rudolf Lepers, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology; Bodo Bahr, Parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommerania; Wolfgang Göke, Parliament of Lower Saxony; Dirk Schattschneider, Office of the Land North Rhine-Westfalia in Berlin; Dr. Erich Thies, Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Laender in the Federal Republic of Germany and Franziska Zahn, University of Giessen.

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