East Germany Table of Contents
The Council of Ministers is the government of East Germany and the highest organ of the state apparatus. Its position in the system of government and its functions and tasks are specified in the Constitution as amended in 1974 as well as in the Law on the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic of October 1972. Whereas earlier the Council of Ministers had been described as the "executive organ of the People's Chamber," the 1972 statute defined the council as the "government." According to the new law, the Council of Ministers was to "carry out the decisions of the party of the working class on the basis of the laws and decisions of the People's Chamber." The Constitution as amended in 1974 significantly expanded the functions of the Council of Ministers at the expense of the Council of State.
In 1987 the Council of Ministers consisted of a chairman, two first deputy chairmen, and nine deputy chairmen, all of whom constituted an inner circle called the Presidium of the Council of Ministers. The chairman of the Council of Ministers, Willi Stoph, was head of the government (prime minister). Stoph, a representative of the old guard and a Politburo member since 1953, was again appointed council chairman in 1986. Unlike the nine deputy chairmen, the two first deputy chairmen, Politburo members Werner Krolikowski and Alfred Neumann, generally had not been responsible for specific ministerial portfolios.
In 1987 four of the nine deputy chairmen represented the four non-SED political parties allowed to operate in East Germany: the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich-Demokratische Union--CDU); the Democratic Peasants' Party of Germany (Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands--DBD); the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany (Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands--LDPD); and the National Democratic Party of Germany (National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands--NDPD). The four non-SED deputy chairmen were the minister of post and telecommunications, Rudolf Schulze of the CDU; the minister of environmental protection and water management, Hans Reichelt of the DBD; the minister of justice, Hans- Joachim Heusinger of the LDPD; and the chairman of the State Contract Court, Manfred Flegel of the NDPD. The other five positions held by deputy chairman on the Presidium of the Council of Ministers were occupied by members of the Central Committee of the SED. Two of the appointees, Günther Kleiber and Gerhard Schürer, a candidate member, were also Politburo members. Of the thirty-three regular members on the council, including both ministers and nonministers, nineteen were concurrently members of the Central Committee of the SED, and two were also Politburo members. The latter were Erich Mielke, minister of state security, and Hans Joachim Böhme, minister of university and technical affairs.
According to the Constitution, all members of the Council of Ministers are formally selected to their posts by the People's Chamber for a five-year term. In fact these decisions probably emanate from the Politburo and the Central Committee of the SED. The Council of Ministers is required to work closely with the People's Chamber, and according to its administrative guidelines the council must have all its legal drafts and decisions approved by the People's Chamber before they become law. In practice, the converse is true; the People's Chamber is obliged to approve those actions that are undertaken by the council and then routinely submitted to the legislature. Similarly, the People's Chamber is given the formal responsibility of selecting the membership of the council; in practice such personnel decisions are made by the Politburo of the SED. The legislature is then expected to approve the selections.
As the de jure government, the Council of Ministers is responsible for providing the People's Chamber with the major legal drafts and decisions that subsequently are to be published in the name of the state. The work style of the Council of Ministers is a collective one. It normally meets on a weekly basis to discuss problems and plans put forward by individual ministers. It also confirms decisions that already have been made by the Presidium. The Presidium is of special importance because of its responsibility for handling the affairs of the council when the full body is not in session.
Specific functional responsibilities of the Council of Ministers include directing and planning the national economy; solving problems growing out of membership in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon--see Appendix B); coordinating and implementing social policy decisions that have been agreed upon with the support and concurrence of the Free German Trade Union Federation (Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund--FDGB); instructing and controlling subordinate levels of government, that is, the councils at district, county, and community levels that implement the laws and decisions of the central government; improving the functioning of the system of "democratic centralism" within the state apparatus; and carrying out the basic foreign policy principles of the socialist state.
Data as of July 1987
East Germany Table of Contents