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Cultural Federalism on the Defensive (April 20-21, 1978)

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It goes without question that the federal government possesses the authority to publish such a report on its own and without the participation of the federal states; nevertheless, the Conference of Ministers regrets that the federal government did not give the states a chance to issue a statement before the report was presented.

[ . . . ]

4. The Conference of Ministers concludes that the multi-faceted competition among the federal states for the best quality education system – a competition based on the federal system – has created a high degree of differentiation within the education system and has simultaneously preserved and encouraged cultural diversity. A host of difficulties faced by citizens in the education system cannot be resolved through legislation. It has now become apparent, however, that – irrespective of the diversity of organizational forms [both] within and among the individual federal states – certain basic parameters need to be guaranteed in all states.

5. According to rulings of the Constitutional Court, autonomy in educational and cultural affairs is the core element of the sovereignty of the federal states. Consequently, when examining the distribution of competencies in the educational and cultural sphere, special attention must be paid to whether the guarantee of state sovereignty stipulated in Art. 79, Sec. 3, of the Basic Law is affected. The Basic Law has been amended thirty-four times since its adoption. Twenty-nine of those amendments resulted in a shifting of competencies to the direct or indirect detriment of the federal states. As a result of the Enquête Commission on constitutional reform, the federal states’ substantive area of jurisdiction was basically reduced to the core area [of competency] already guaranteed by Art. 79, Sec. 3, of the Basic Law.*

Thus, every major measure involving a constitutional amendment to the detriment of state competency is of fundamental importance and must be judged against the backdrop of the federal system as a whole. [ . . . ]

6. The problems and difficulties to which the federal government refers [in its report] vary in terms of their importance. Not all of them are as significant as the report claims; rather, a differentiated analysis is called for. What is indisputable, however, is that, in view of the federal government’s basic requirements for freedom of movement and equal opportunity in the context of uniform living standards and in the transition from the education system to the employment system – all of which the Conference of Ministers supports without reservation – changes and improvements in the identified areas are necessary and should be implemented by the states as a matter of priority. The states are determined to resolve the existing difficulties, particularly within the framework of the Conference of Ministers and the Federal-State Commission for Educational Planning and Research Promotion.

[ . . . ]

* Report by the Enquête Commission on constitutional reform, Bundestag Publication 7/5924 of December 9, 1976, pp. 126-27.

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