After the Brexit Referendum there are a lot of discussions about the future of the EU and if and how we could work better together to meet the interests of the European Citizens without destroying their national identities and sovereignty. It seems to me that a lot of people are afraid exactly about that and it is leading to nationalist movements all across Europe and cumulating in the vote of 50 percent of the UK inhabitants wanting to leave the EU recently. But I think Germany is a positive example of federalism at work, so let’s take at look at the German system and see if it can be the answer to a future Europe.

Let’s take a look at Germany and its history
I don’t want to bore you too much with political theories or a lot of history; I want to talk about how great it is to live in a working federal system and how this could benefit Europe, too. So this is just a simple and short version to get some basic knowledge about German federalism. Germany has a long history of little separate kingdoms and duchies etc. that were at war with each other on a regular basis. Sounds familiar to you ? The same happened in the rest of Europe, too. Later on, the little kingdoms and duchies were united into larger ones and eventually became nations, but the wars and fighting never stopped.

The wars became more devastating every time and we all know how this ended – with WWI,  which Germany lost. So we kicked out our Kaiser, Wilhelm II, and for the first time became a republic  which, unfortunately, was managed by some fools, which led to the rise of Hitler and WWII which we lost too, fortunately. We had a political reboot and became a federal republic in our Western part with the help of Great Britain and the United States of America. The Eastern side unfortunately became a communist vassal to the USSR and had to wait 40 years before they could rejoin with us here in West Germany.

Brilliant concept if you ask me, as we were able to reunite without changing the whole organisation.

Germany today and how it’s working

Today we have 16 federal states (Bundesländer) in Germany and every one has its own parliament (Landtag) and own government at a local level that looks after the school system, infrastructure, culture and police and whatever is necessary right there where the locals are living. At the top, we have a parliament, elected by all German citizens, deciding the laws which are valid in all federal states and looking after the foreign policy, defence, social system and all issues which affect all citizens of Germany. To build a connection between the federal and local parliaments and to give a say to all federal states we have a chamber called Bundesrat, where the laws need to pass too, once the federal parliament (Bundestag) has decided on them. It can also suggest new laws to the parliament.

It’s a very effective system that works brilliantly, giving everyone a say and all regions can work on their own, but are working together at the same time. All regions or federal states keep their own identity, spoken languages and traditions, even different holidays, but all feel German and all regions have their say. And it is possible to add new states to the system, as the German reunification has shown.

We are united in diversity and it’s working great.


Is Germany a model for Europe ?

I know most people in Europe are a bit sceptical about everything that comes from Germany due to history. Some are even shouting today that Germany is ‘ruling’ the EU, which is utter nonsense knowing how the EU is working. But keep in mind that this ‘German’ federal system was installed with the help of the USA and Britain after WWII and that Germany’s success in economy and everywhere else is based on this system that is working. All nations in Europe would have their say, no one would lose their identity and all would be able to work with their own local parliament on local issues, but could have their say on the ‘big’ stage, too.

We could also find common rules for a common social system, common defence and foreign policy without losing control on the national level. And if you ask me as a German, this would bring unity in diversity to all Europeans without losing your national identity.

It’s great to be a Rheinland-Pfälzer, German, European.

Martina Brinkman
German businesswoman who studied political science, history and economy in Trier. Co Founder of Europa United.

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