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Germany, Government

Maastricht Treaty, federal railway, parliamentary democracy, constitutional reform, Basic Law

After Germany was defeated in World War II, the Allied forces of France, Britain, the United States, and the USSR divided the country into four zones. In 1948 France, Britain, and the United States merged their zones into one region while the Soviet Union imposed Communist rule over its zone. In 1949 this division of Germany was perpetuated by the creation of East and West Germany.

In West Germany, a council composed of members of the state legislatures created the Basic Law, or constitution, in 1948 and 1949. It was approved by the state legislatures and by U.S., British, and French occupation authorities. The Basic Law established West Germany as a parliamentary democracy and a federation of states. It has been amended many times, most recently in the 1990s to help anchor the unification of East and West Germany in the constitution. At that point, Germany decided to reconstitute the five original states of East Germany and to admit them, one by one, into the federal union without changing the basic structure of the West German system. The Unity Treaty of 1990 permitted East Germany to retain some of its laws that conflicted with West German statutes until the all-German parliament could bring about a uniform settlement.

Between 1991 and 1993 a joint legislative commission on constitutional reform worked on a series of proposals, some of which have since been approved. One was a series of amendments anticipating the Maastricht Treaty and other linkages with the EU. Another proposed the privatization of the federal railway and postal systems. There was also a lengthy list of additional constitutional rights and guarantees, such as rights to a place of work and adequate housing, and a guarantee of state protection of the environment. Most of these are quite controversial and have not yet been enacted. A two-thirds vote of both houses of the parliament is necessary to amend the Basic Law.

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Article key phrases:

Maastricht Treaty, federal railway, parliamentary democracy, constitutional reform, Basic Law, division of Germany, federal union, Communist rule, privatization, state legislatures, USSR, West Germany, Soviet Union, World War, zones, parliament, basic structure, constitution, Britain, linkages, thirds, houses, laws, council, EU, United States, country, times, region, environment, place of work, members


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