Constitutional changes approved in Germany

7th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

7 July 2006, BERLIN - Amendments to Germany's constitution cleared their final legislative hurdle Friday, boosting the federal government's power by slashing the number of laws which must be approved by provincial governments.

7 July 2006

BERLIN - Amendments to Germany's constitution cleared their final legislative hurdle Friday, boosting the federal government's power by slashing the number of laws which must be approved by provincial governments.

The Bundesrat upper house voted through the 25 separate changes, one week after the Bundestag lower house had approved what is billed as the biggest reform to the German constitution since 1949 - the year the Federal Republic of Germany was established.

During Friday's debate, state premiers promised that a round of changes to the division of tax revenues among provincial governments would be negotiated this autumn. Richer states say they should not have to share so much revenue with poorer states.

Only one of the 16 states, Mecklenburg West Pomerania, voted against the changes Friday. One state abstained.

The reforms are scheduled to come into force in 2007. Legal experts say the reform will slash the number of federal laws which have to be approved by the Bundesrat, representing the 16 Laender or states, to 30 per cent from the current 60 per cent.

This means that many bills would be passed by parliament's popularly elected lower house only. At present most major legislation also requires a green light from the Bundesrat.

Other legislation approved in the Bundesrat brings German law against race and gender discrimination in line with EU rules, authorizes the extradition of Germans to other European Union nations and imposes sanctions on welfare beneficiaries who refuse work.

Germany's tough "store-closing law" - a federal regulation which determines at what time all shops must close - is a notable victim of the constitutional reform package.

Power to set store opening and closing hours will be handed over to the 16 Laender, most of which plan liberalization with the exception of a rule that specifies all stores remain shut on Sundays.

The city-states of Berlin and Hamburg are among those that plan to allow 24-hour-a-day opening.

Under the old trading-hours law from 1956, all stores must close by 8:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and remain shut on Sundays. Up until 1996 the closing time was 6:30 p.m. on workdays and 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

The law, which was aimed at protecting small shopkeepers and shopworkers from long hours, has long been a sacred cow to trade unionists - and a symbol of German inflexibility to reformers.

DPA

Subject: German news

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