The Basic Law

Enlarge image German Basic Law (© picture-alliance/dpa)

The Basic Law is the legal and political foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany. 

After it had been approved by the Parliamentary Council, the Basic Law came into force on May 23, 1949. The Basic Law was originally thought of as a temporary solution and provisional arrangement until such time as a constitution for the whole of Germany could be drawn up. When the GDR acceded to the area of validity of the Basic Law on October 3, 1990 it became the constitution of the whole of Germany.

The Basic Law ties the legislative process to the constitutional order and binds state administration to uphold the law. Section 1 of the Basic Law is of particular relevance. It stipulates that respect for human dignity is the most important aspect of the constitution: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” Among other things, the other basic rights guarantee the freedom to act within the law, equality before the law, freedom of the press and media, freedom of association and protection of the family.

In determining that it is the people who exercise power through special bodies, the Basic Law lays down representative democracy as the form of rulership. Furthermore, it determines that Germany is a constitutional state: All state authorities are subject to judicial control. Another principle of the constitution is that Germany is a Federal state, in other words the ruling authorities are divided up into a number of member states and the central state.

In conclusion, the Basic Law defines Germany as a Welfare state. The welfare state requires the political system to take precautions such that people are guaranteed a decent standard of material well-being in case of unemployment, disability, illness and in old age. One particular feature of the Basic Law is the so-called “eternal character” of these governing constitutional principles. Subsequent alterations to the Basic Law or a completely new constitution cannot encroach on the basic rights, the democratization of sovereignty, the federal state and the welfare state. 

The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe , Germany's supreme court, has the monopoly on interpretation of the constitution with regard to all jurisdiction.

Source: "Facts about Germany"