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Transparency is decreased by the complexityof the system of fiscal federalism. The interdependent network of shared taxes,equalization transfers, expenditure responsibilities, and even decision-makinginstitutions makes it difficult for citizens to identify which government istaxing or spending for particular purposes. Given the interlocking of Germaninstitutions, however, it is difficult to see how this situation could beremedied. Nevertheless, the issue of improving transparency and accountabilityhas been receiving increased attention within Germany in recentyears.

If accountability requires clear mechanismsfor making executive action answerable to legislative control and supervision,then the German system cannot be said to exhibit high levels of accountability.The German system of legislative and administrative non-coincidence is astructural impediment to clarity in lines of accountability. As well, theevolution of the Federal Republic of Germany has reinforced the interlockedfeatures of the federation. While this has aided governments in the efficientcoordination of their activities, it has also further blurred the lines ofdemocratic accountability.

3. PoliticalCulture

Post-unification, German society remainsrelatively homogeneous, if less so than before, and the process ofintergovernmental relations and fiscal arrangements reflects and reinforcesthis characteristic.

The quest to create a common standard ofliving across the federation, ‘equivalence of living conditions’ in post-1994 constitutionalparlance, is emblematic of both the fact and the norm of homogeneity. It is inthe context of the drive to create what has been termed the unitary federalstate39 that the operation of a number of the features of the Germanfederal system are best understood. The division of legislative/administrativeresponsibilities, the wide area of concurrent legislative jurisdiction, and theconstitutional provision for federal framework legislation, together provide aconstitutional environment facilitative of uniformity. Federal frameworklegislation, for example, can provide a basic legislative standard across thecountry, while Land governments are allowed a certain latitude forcustomization of implementation via their administrative control.40

The extensive system of financialequalization between richer and poorer Länder has also had its philosophicalroots in the achievement of uniform living standards across the FederalRepublic of Germany. It is true that the degree of equalization which should bepursued is now a matter of dispute among Länder. However, the principle ofequalization payments as a means to achieve the goal of common living standardsremains a matter of consensus. Indeed, even the proposals for territorial reform and changes to the fiscal transfersystem are aimed not at undermining the goal of uniformity, but at facilitatingits achievement. Thus, the highly integrated and interdependent characteristicsof fiscal federalism in Germany largely grow out of and reflect its prevailingpolitical culture.


1 Daniel Elazar, Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook ofFedearl, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements (Harlow, Essex, UK: Longman,1991), 105

2 David P.Conradt, The GermanPolicy (5th ed.; New York: Longman, 1993), 183

3 Conradt, 181

4 Ronald L. Watts, Comparing FederalSystems (2nd ed.; Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999),37-39.

5 Ronald L. Watts, German Federalism in Comparative Perspective,in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting German Federalism:The Legacies of UnificationRecasting German Federalism: The Legacies ofUnification, (London: Pinter, 1999), 272

6 Uwe Leonardy, The InstitutionalStructires of German Federalism, in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting German Federalism: The Legacies ofUnification, (London: Pinter, 1999), 12.

7 Paul Bernd Spahn and Wolfgang Fottinger, Germany, in TeresaTer-Minassian, ed., Fiscal Federalism in Theory andPractice (Washington: International Monetary Fund,1997), 239.

8 Leonardy, Institutional Structures, 15.

9 Spahn and Fottinger, 229.

10 Ibid., 228

11 Ronald L. Watts, The Spending Power inFederal Systems: A Comparative Study (Kingston:Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, 1999),27.

12 Ibid., 25

13 Ibid.

14 Uwe Leonardy, German Federalism Towards 2000: To be Reformed orDeformed, in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting GermanFederalism: The Legacies of Unification, (London:Pinter, 1999), 297.

15 Hartmut Klatt, Forty Years of German Federalism: Past Trends andNew Developments, Publius19 (1986), 186-87.

16 Hans-Peter Schneider, German Unification and the Federal System:The Challenge of Reform, in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting German Federalism: The Legacies ofUnification, (London: Pinter, 1999),69-70.

17 Werner J. Patzelt, The Very Federal House: The GermanBundesrat, in Samuel C. Patterson and Anthony Mughan, eds., Senates: Bicameralism in the Contemporary World (Columbus Ohio, USA: Ohio State University Press, 1999),75-79.

18 Ibid., 78.

19 Philip Blair and Peter Cullen, Federalism, Legalism andPolitical Reality: The Record of the Federal Constitutional Court, in CharlieJeffery, ed., Recasting German Federalism: TheLegacies of Unification. (London: Pinter, 1999),132-33.

20 Leonardy, Institutional Structures, 20.

21 Blair and Cullen, 123.

22 Ibid., 120.

23 Leonardy, Institutional Structures, 20.

24 Fritz W. Scharpf, the Joint-Decision Trap: Lessons from GermanFederalism and European Integration, PublicAdministration 66 (1988), 246.

25 Roland Sturm, Pary Competition and the Federal System: TheLembruch Hypothesis Revisited, in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting German Federalism: The Legacies ofUnification, (London: Pinter, 1999), 201.

26 Uwe Leonardy, German Federalism Towards 2000: To be Reformed orDeformed, in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting GermanFederalism: The Legacies of Unification, (London:Pinter, 1999), 295.

27 The German Unity Fund is discussed in detail in section C,p. 38.

28 Prior to 1995, states with AFC less than 2% of ES were referredto as being in the dead zone—that is, they were not required to contribute to the equalizationpot.

29 Prior to 1995, states with AFC between 102% and 110% of ES wererequired to contribute 70% of the difference to the equalizationpot.

30 Prior to 1995, such states contributed 100% of the difference tothe equalization pot.

31 It was estimated that incorporating theformer east German states into the fiscal equalization scheme would haveincreased flows from DM5 billion per year to a staggering DM25 billion per year(see Spahn, Paul Bernd, Intergovernmental Transfers in Switzerland andGermany in Ehtisham Ahmad ed., FinancingDecentralized Expenditures: An International Comparison of Grants (Brookfield: Edward Elgar, 1997), 103.

32 Also, Type C grants are available to compensate western statesfor undue hardship from integrating the eastern states into horizontalequalization, grants-in-aid to eastern states to promote investment andeconomic growth, and additional grants to fiscally strapped states.

33 Uwe Leonardy, German Federalism Towards 2000: To be Reformed orDeformed, in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting GermanFederalism: The Legacies of Unification, (London:Pinter, 1999), 297.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid., 291.

36 Ibid., 287.

37 Mackenstein, Hans, and Charlie Jeffery, Financial Equalizationin the 1990s: On the Road Back to Karlsruhe, in Charlie Jeffery, ed.,Recasting German Federalism: The Legacies ofUnification, (London: Pinter, 1999), 169.

38 Leonardy, German Federalism Towards 2000, 296.

39 Hartmut Klatt, Centralizing Trends in West German Federalism,1949-89, in Charlie Jeffery, ed., Recasting GermanFederalism: The Legacies of Unification, (London:Pinter, 1999), 42.

40 Ibid.

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