Germany Table of Contents
Structural weaknesses of the German central government were deliberately crafted during the years of Allied occupation (1945-49) to preclude the possibility that extremists could once again return to government (see Constitutional Framework, ch. 7). The chancellor, the cabinet, and the legislature all contribute to the policy-making process. Moreover, power is divided between the federal and Land governments. Foreign policy is the prerogative of the federal government, but Lšnder are permitted to conclude agreements with foreign countries; such agreements in turn are subject to approval by the federal government.
Article 65 of the Basic Law stipulates that the federal chancellor is responsible for general policy, and the Federal Chancellery (the chancellor's office) serves as the center for policy review and coordination. The chancellor's direct executive role is limited, however. Although he or she has wide powers to name political appointees in government, the chancellor does not enjoy complete freedom in making appointments to cabinet posts. Political necessity demands, for instance, the guarantee of a number of cabinet posts to coalition partners. In 1995, for example, important portfolios, such as economics and foreign affairs, were controlled by the FDP, Helmut Kohl's junior coalition partner. The resulting diversity of views at the highest level of government accounts for sustained policy splits and a process in which it is at times difficult to resolve particularly contentious issues.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the central department for planning and implementing foreign policy. Like the United States, Germany has a corps of professional diplomats. Those wishing to join Germany's foreign service may file their application once a year. Successful candidates undergo a two-year training program. About one-third of Germany's diplomats are lawyers.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shares responsibility for foreign economic policy with the Ministry for Economics and the Ministry of Finance; security policy is coordinated with the Ministry of Defense. Although the executive branch generally takes the initiative in foreign affairs, the Bundestag (the lower house of parliament) and the Bundesrat (the upper house of parliament) are involved in the policy-making process. These bodies ratify foreign treaties and approve most legislation and budgetary provisions. Parliamentary groups (Fraktionen ; sing., Fraktion ) in the Bundestag and various committees pertaining to foreign affairs provide organizational structure for the policy-making process.
Data as of August 1995