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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.
is also meant to facilitate improved continuation of family businesses.