Germany′s Basic Law is a flexible yet stable constitution | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.05.2017
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Law

Germany's Basic Law is a flexible yet stable constitution

The German constitution was originally intended to be a provisional text. But Germany's top Supreme Court judge, Andreas Vosskuhle, says it has served the country well over the last 68 years.

The constitution - or Basic Law - is the foundation of our democratic state.

In the post-war years of 1948 and 1949, when the Parliamentary Council drafted West Germany's Basic Law, the country was divided into East and West. Then-Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was keen to stress that this Basic Law was no more than a provisional text, as politicians wanted to avoid anything that would cement the German partition. That is also why it was called Grundgesetz (Basic Law) rather than Verfassung (constitution).

With German reunification in 1990 the text was stripped of its provisional nature and became the German constitution.

It has remained valid despite several changes and amendments - such as the creation of the Bundeswehr, the armed forces, or the introduction of compulsory military service. The Basic Law is well respected nationally and internationally. According to a survey in 2014, the German people have a lot of faith in the constitution and in its guardians, the Supreme Court judges.

The introduction of the German constitution was described by the US american law professor Peter E. Quint as "one of the most brilliant success stories of democracy in the past-war world."

Prof.Dr.Andreas Vosskuhle (Klaus Lorenz)

Andreas Vosskuhle

Not just a 'fair-weather' constitution

We are living in tumultuous times, and we wonder at the developments that the future will bring. The world is increasingly interconnected, vast streams of data are being collected and evaluated, humans could become completely transparent.

Then there are the financial markets, and many nations have still not completely recovered from the effects of the financial crisis. International terrorism is putting pressure on our basic order; new security lawsdecrease civil liberties.

The European Union - the guarantor of peace and prosperity in recent decades - is hardly in its best shape. More and more member states are putting the ax to the state of law and are displaying a dubious understanding of democracy. One gets the impression that crisis has become the new normal. Societies cannot function in crisis mode for the long term, however.

Therefore, we must reflect on the rule of law as the basic principle of our coexistence and remain vigilant against all attempts to undermine this basic principle. The German Basic Law is at the center of this. It is modern, adaptable, resilient and thoroughly protective - not some mere fair-weather constitution. In this manner, we will be prepared for the challenges of the future.

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