German legal history and legal development chapter 1 de

National law – DE – Legal system – module 1

The German legal system belongs to the European family of legal systems, broadly classified as civil law countries. The Basic Law (constitution) is the primary basis of the legal system, but the laws of the European Union and the international community also are taken into consideration.

Basic Law

Germany’s constitution, known as the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), was enacted on May 23, 1949.

The Basic Law recognizes fundamental human rights, such as the freedoms of speech and the press, the right of equality before the law, and the right of asylum. The constitution (“Grundgesetz”) is the basis of our community. The Grundgesetz is Germany’s national constitution. It contains our most important regulations. The Grundgesetz assures that your human dignity will be protected by laws and by the police, among others. It also includes you being able to freely give expression to your own personality, as long as you are not violating the rights of others.

Another important principle is that all people in Germany are equal, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, origin, religion or political beliefs. The police and judges are not allowed to treat you differently based on these attributes and discrimination is not permitted at work or in day-to-day life. These basic rights are legally binding and apply equally to the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.

Despite the fact that all German laws, at least in theory, habe an equitable with in a unified system of law, the German legal system has been influenced by the Roman legal system  with civil and public laws.

You can find a translation of the basic law in English language on this website:

  • Public laws are concerned with the legal relationships between the citizen and the state, or the manifestations of the state in the form of public authorities.

The public laws include:

  • Constitutional law
  • Administrative law
  • Administration, civil law
  • Criminal law
  • Civil laws refer to legal principles concerned with the regulation of civil life, namely the affairs between individuals as private individuals.

Law making

However, it is not just the Members of the German Bundestag who are able to initiate the bills that result in new acts of law. The Federal Government and the Bundesrat also have the right to introduce bills in the Bundestag.


The national parliament, which is called the “Bundestag” in Germany, votes for the Federal Chancellor (“Bundeskanzler”) and keeps a check on the government. The government can also be voted out. Laws are voted on in the Bundestag and the majority has the say. The minority must accept the decision.

  • The Bundestag is responsible for passing federal laws, which are then implemented by the government.
  • Principal legislative chamber
  • All legislation must be approved by the Bundestag
  • Directly elected every 4 years


  • Legislative authority is subordinate to that of the Bundestag.
  • Representation of the federal states
  • Members appointed by state governments (representatives of state governments, usually prime minister and other ministers).

Members of the Bundesrat are always Minister-Presidents or ministers in their respective federal states (or, in the case of the city states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg, Mayors and senators). State Secretaries may also be Bundesrat members if they have a seat and a vote in the cabinet of their federal state (Article 51, Sub-section 1, Basic Law).

If you want to get more information you can visite a plenary session . If you would like to visit the plenary session, you will need to book in advance with the visitor service. Find more information:

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