Institute of Global Law

German Legal News - Administrative Law

On 27 January 2005 the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) approved a number of amendments to the Vocational Education Act. A key aim of the amended legislation is to adapt the structure of vocational education to reflect the increasing number of full-time students choosing the vocational option. An amendment has also been introduced to allow students to study accredited modules abroad.

A legal question has arisen in respect of ticketing arrangements for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which is to be hosted by Germany. Both the Federal Data Protection Commissioner (Bundesbeauftragter für den Datenschutz) and the State Government in Darmstadt, home of the headquarters of the German Football Association, have expressed concern at the amount of data being collected in order to issue so-called personalised tickets. Both institutions are concerned that imprints of ticketholders’ identity or passport numbers and electronic access controls (RFID) could be used to create profiles of fans, contravening data protection legislation (31.01.2005).

Following criticism from the European Commission, the Federal Government has simplified the Packaging Regulations (Verpackungsverordnung) by introducing a fixed deposit of € 0,25 for the return of bottles and streamlining the process for determining which products should be included in the scheme (03.11.2004). The Commission had criticised previous legislation for employing too many different solutions.

A number of new regulations will take effect from November 2004, including:

  • limited companies run by a single individual (so-called ‘Ich-Ags’) will be required to pass an evaluation test in order to be eligible for tax breaks; and
  • environmental standards for central-heating boilers will be tightened, with owners who exceed emission limits facing possible fines.

Expert organisations such as the German Red Cross and the German Hospital Organisation have maintained that the new Blood Transfusion Act, designed to implement EU regulations, exceeds EU requirements and is resulting in unnecessary bureaucracy and costs (25.10.2004). Legislation demands that the origin of blood can be traced back at least 30 years.

The Federal Government this month denied that it was planning to introduce an obligatory year of social service to replace the current system of alternative civilian service (Zivildienst) for those who do not wish to serve in the army (27.08.2004). Military service is currently under discussion because it is still tailored to meet the security needs of the Cold War era, but many social organisations would face severe difficulties if the alternative civilian service were to be abandoned. Defence Minister Peter Struck said that the reassessment of the current system was still in progress and that no decisions had yet been made.

The German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) passed the Federal Higher Education Act (Hochschulrahmengesetz) which will allow universities to select up to 60% of their students under their own admission procedures (02.07.2004). The Act offers universities a basket of different selection methods including interviews and admission tests. In spite of the increased autonomy granted to universities, the majority of the Bundestag still wants to ensure a certain level of uniformity across admission procedures.

The Federal Constitutional Court has confirmed the constitutionality of the Act dealing with shop opening hours (Ladenschlussgesetz), blocking an attempt by Kaufhof department store in Berlin to make use of the souvenir exemption by putting “souvenir” stickers on all products (09.06.2004). In spite of some political initiatives in support of new and more liberal legislation, courts have turned down appeals against the existing regulations, which restrict shop opening hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Administrative Court of Appeal in Zweibrücken approved an injunction of the administrative court, which prohibited a policeman from wearing a ponytail. In its ruling, the Court found that people would consider a policeman with a ponytail to be less trustworthy (04.06.2004).

A Berlin citizen failed in his attempt to obtain an injunction from the administrative court in Mainz to prevent public television station ZDF from broadcasting the wedding of the prince of Denmark instead of the news show “heute” and the lunchtime magazine. The judges held that a public television station was not violating its duty to inform the public by not broadcasting a specific programme. Moreover, the live broadcast was scheduled to commence at 2pm and hence left enough time for the lunchtime magazine (14.05.2004).

As a consequence of the Elbe flood in 2002, the Federal Government has proposed new legislation on flood prevention (03.03.2004). This legislation would restrict agricultural usage and building activity in potentially dangerous areas in order to prevent erosion.

The Administrative Court of Appeal in Koblenz ruled that both the first and second wives of an Iraqi citizen living in exile in Germany were entitled to reside in the country (01.04.2004). The court held that it would be illegal to deny marriage rights to one of the wives; however, it referred to the special circumstances of the individual case and made clear that it did not want to establish a new general principle. The decision has nevertheless been seen as a step towards a more open understanding of a spouse’s rights.

Finally, legislation has been enacted requiring GM foods to be clearly labelled. More products, including oils from GM seeds, must be clearly marked and fines of up to € 50,000 can be imposed for violating these rules. This legislation transposes the relevant EU directives into national law.

Helga Kühn-Mengel (MP) has been appointed the first ombudsman for patients (02.01.2004). This new position was created in order to increase the rights of patients vis-à-vis the traditionally well-organised medical professions by providing a central point of contact through which patients can articulate their complaints. These rights have become very relevant at a time when patients have to make increasing contributions to the health system.

Following positive results in the Netherlands, the Bundesrat promoted the introduction of so-called “accompanied driving”. In a byelaw, the states have been entitled to issue driving licenses to 16-year-old teenagers. Until the age of 18, however, these beginners will have to be accompanied by a license holder older than 30.

The Minister of Justice is currently planning not to reform the Stem Cells Act. This information transpired in response to rumours that the government was intending to give more leverage for biological research by playing down the relevance of human dignity in regard to in vitro experiments.

The Conscientious Objection Act (Kriegsdienstverweigerungsgesetz) ceases to require a compulsory personal hearing since 1 November 2003. A complete application explaining the objections is now sufficient.

A reform of the Regenerative Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz) will soon be proposed in order to intensify government aid for regenerative energies (12.11.2003). After the successful start, which is likely to increase the percentage of energy supplied by regenerative sources to 12,5 % in 2010, environmental secretary Jürgen Trittin plans to target a 20 % share in 2020. The government programme concentrates on wind and solar energy, but also offers assistance for other kinds of energy sources.

The cabinet decided in a meeting held on 31 October 2003 to amend the Air Safety Act in order to allow the air force to intervene in cases of hijacking. Plans of the Minister of Defence to clarify art. 35 Basic Law (dealing with disasters), however, have been turned down.

An intermediate report about the e-government initiative of the Federal Government has shown that 50% of all services of federal administration are currently provided online (29.10.2003). Until the end of 2005, 440 services of all branches of the federal administration are scheduled to be available online.

The Federal Government is planning to amend the German Pharmaceutical Act in order to increase pharmaceutical drug safety (21.10.2003). Main targets are piracy drugs and the introduction of special licences for drugs suitable for children.

The Federal Assembly (Bundesrat) requested the Federal Government to draft a decree banning wild animals from being kept in circuses. An incident with two elephants in summer 2003 drew public attention on the poor circumstances under which circus animals have to suffer. The resolution suggests a central register and a complete ban of elephants, apes and bears (20.10.2003).

The ban enacted against the Islamic association “Kalifatstaat” (khalifate state) has been confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court (02.10.2003). The court identified limits of the freedom of religion where this freedom is abused in an “active belligerent way” against the German state.

The implementation of the regulation concerning deposits on non-returnable beer and soft drink cans and bottles has reached a further stage (regulation on packaging). Limited implementation based on the promise of producers and retailers to establish a unified deposit system has phased out without success (01.10.2003). Now every shop is obliged to take back cans and bottles of the same size and shape as those that are sold in the shop.

In addition to new legislation against expensive service numbers, the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunication and Postal Services (Regulierungsbehörde für Telekommunikation und Post) is going to publish service numbers of registered dialers (01.10.2003). Consumers can check whether they have to pay bills for dialers on the webpage, because only registered dialers are entitled to charge customers.

A hearing performed by the financial committee of the German parliament (Bundestag) saw the German Bar Association criticising some provisions of the draft of an Act to encourage tax honesty (Steuerehrlichkeitsgesetz). Especially the provisions dealing with possible amnesties still lack clarity, the Association said (22.09.2003).

On the basis of a revised law concerning the documents of the state security service of the former German Democratic Republic (Stasi-Unterlagengesetz), the Administrative Court in Berlin ruled that files on former chancellor Helmut Kohl are to be made accessible to the media and other researchers (17.09.2003). The league commissioner for these documents, who had lost a similar case in July 2001, had embarked on an initiative to modify the law so as to allow publication of victims’ files.

The secret service of the military (Militärischer Abschirmdienst) may now also act abroad (17.09.2003). Draft legislation of the Federal Cabinet, enabling the deployment of this military secret service outside Germany due to the increased number of forces on duty in foreign countries has been introduced into parliament.

The Cologne Administrative Court ruled that the Islamist M. Kaplan cannot be deported to Turkey because he is not likely to receive a fair trial there. The decision provoked strong reactions by the Turkish government, which said it was based on prejudice. Turkey is expected to appeal against the decision (September 2003).

The federal cabinet will discuss in October the new Air Safety Act (Luftsicherheitsgesetz). Central issue is a provision which allows targeting hijacked aircrafts (15.09.2003). Drafting this statute in the aftermath of September 11 demanded intense coordination between different ministers, as it creates new tasks for the air force.

A suggestion of the Liberal Party (FDP) to limit the immigration of late repatriates into Germany by changing the Constitution has been rejected by the other parties. The ombudsman for late repatriates, Jochen Welt, said that integration (not limitation) should be the primary aim (29.08.2003).

The Federal Assembly (Bundesrat) has approved the Start-up Business Promotion Act (Kleinunternehmerförderungsgesetz). This act implements special rules concerning trade tax and accounting for start-up businesses (28.07.2003).

The government has decided (28.05.2003) to reform the master craftsman system in Germany. So far – against European trend – only licensed master craftsmen were allowed to perform numerous handicrafts. Now the number of professions that require a master craftsman will be reduced from 94 to 65. Besides, it will become easier for experienced trainees to pass the trade examination. This reform is also meant to facilitate improved continuation of family businesses.

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