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On October 3, 1990, the states of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) shed their last ties to their Soviet created structure and joined the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The 23rd article of West Germany's 1949 constitution, the Basic Law, had been drafted specifically to allow for such an arrival from the East. But as the 1980s drew to a close, few Germans on either side of the border expected it to be used in their lifetime. Yet, in less than a year the beginning of an upsurge of popular protest came together against the communist regime in East Germany and the formal unification of Germany on West German terms.
At a simple level, the constitution may be seen as a representation of the traditional German desire for clarity and order, applied to the rights and duties of the individual. It can also be described as a way of ensuring that the events of the 1930s, particularly the rise of facism and dictatorship, will never recur.
As a result of historical roots in West Germany and past abuses by central government, Germany is a federation. The powers of the states cannot be reduced. Each of the federal states and Berlin has its own constitution, a democratically elected Parliament, a government, administrative agencies and independant courts. However, states are binding to the federal constitution, the federal constitution is binding upon the states and the federal parliament is responsible for major legislation and policy. The state parliaments main responsibility is in two major policy areas: education, and law and order. Administration of federal legislation is mainly the responsibility of the states, allowing for greater consideration of local needs and issues. This system of government ia also intended to bring government closer to the people. In many cases, state powers are delegated further to local authorities.
A further area of responsibility for the states arives from the parliamentary structure. …
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