This page sets out the English summaries of the research papers published by the Research Services. A link from the end of the summary will take you to the complete research paper in German.
Forecasts of labour-market developments in 2010
This issue of the Topical Term presents the most recent labour-market forecast produced by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), along with the Autumn 2009 joint report by the leading German economic research institutes, and the 2009/2010 annual report by the German Council of Economic Experts.
Foundation for Higher Education Admissions (SfH)
Since 1973, the Central Office for the Allocation of Study Places (ZVS) has allocated higher education places for specific subjects where standard entry requirements have been established at national level. The independent allocation of places by the higher education institutes results in organisational problems which lead to places not being filled. For this reason, there are plans for the ZVS to be turned into a Foundation for Higher Education Admissions (SfH) in the future, with the task of assisting all applicants in choosing a higher education place, and supporting higher education institutes in carrying out the admissions process. The German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and the heads of the higher education institutes are highly sceptical of the establishment of a foundation of this kind, fearing it would limit their autonomy. As an interim solution, the German Rectors’ Conference and the Länder (federal states) of Hamburg and Baden-Württemberg have set up online portals for available higher education places.
Legal requirements for wind turbines
The revised version of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EGG), which entered into force on 1 January 2009, has improved framework conditions for wind energy. Thus, in future, licensing processes for wind power plants will attract even greater interest than is currently the case. Complex legal frameworks have developed in this field over the last 20 years.
The Defence Committee as a committee of inquiry
On 2 December 2009, the Defence Committee voted to constitute itself as a committee of inquiry, in order to investigate the Federal Government's information policy regarding the events and consequences surrounding the bombing of two hijacked tankers in the Kunduz River on 4 September. This issue of the Topical Term, entitled "The Defence Committee as a committee of inquiry", examines the legal framework of the defence committee as a committee of inquiry, and the legal options open to it.
Methods for apportionment of seats in parliaments - mathematical systematics and current status of discussion
More than two centuries of discussion about the best ways to apportion parliamentary seats to regional units (in federal systems) and/or to parties (in proportional voting systems) have produced a variety of mathematical apportionment methods. Each of them has specific advantages and disadvantages, some of which are particularly pronounced in the case of electoral systems which are both proportionality-based and federally structured (such as Germany). In view of the upcoming debate on electoral system reform in Germany, this study provides an in-depth review of the multitude of existing apportionment methods, their mathematical systematics, the respective pros and cons, and some variants of formulation in a future electoral law.
Rights of airline passengers in cases of overbooking, delays and cancellation of flights
In cases of delayed air transportation - due to a delayed flight, or due to overbooking or cancellation - the question of the rights of such passengers to claim compensation from the airline and/or travel firm arises. The legal basis for such claims may be found not only in civil law, but also in international treaties or European Community regulations. The information bulletin provides an overview of the relevant legal norms, and then goes on to examine individual concrete situations – in order to allow readers to judge what rights they have and, where appropriate, to exercise these rights. The right to alternative means of travel and reimbursement of the costs of the air ticket, along with the fixed-rates of compensation, are likely to be of particular interest to airline passengers. The bulletin focuses in particular on the directly applicable European legal provisions.
Legal equality for registered same-sex partnerships: the impacts of the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court concerning pensions for surviving dependants
On 7 July 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that registered same-sex partnerships should be given legal equality regarding occupational pensions for surviving dependants. The study examines the extent to which legislators, public institutions and courts will also need to ensure legal equality for registered partnerships in other areas.
Cloning of livestock
According to the European Commission, cloning is on the verge of widespread commercial use. The Commission expects that, in particular, products - such as milk, sausages and cheese - derived from the offspring of cloned animals will be available to consumers before 2010. This issue of the Topical Term explains the significance of cloning in livestock agriculture and examines the political and ethical arguments.
Equal pay for men and women
If men’s and women’s incomes are compared, it is clear that there can be no talk of pay equality. On average, women earn 23% less than men, despite legislative provisions such as those set out in the General Equal Treatment Act. This is partly due to the fact that women are frequently engaged in occupations which are less well-paid and have traditionally been perceived as women’s jobs, and that women still take breaks from paid employment for family reasons more frequently than men. To change this, there are calls for it to be made easier to combine work and family life: for example, the availability of child care should be improved, and significant changes achieved in mental attitudes towards gender roles, to offer both sexes the opportunity to engage in employment without interruption.
Noise from children
German courts frequently deal with complaints regarding noise from children. The current issue of the Topical Term takes the example of nurseries and explains the legal background and reforms currently under consideration.
The organisation of the courts and the Bundeswehr’s operations abroad
A discussion is currently taking place about whether the Bundeswehr’s operations abroad require a specialisation in the field of criminal justice. The advocates of reform state that the aim would be to reach more quickly a competent assessment under criminal law of actions taken by service personnel in the special circumstances of an operation abroad. In particular, it has been proposed during this discussion that a central public prosecution office responsible for such cases should be created by pooling local competences. A distinction must be made between a reform of this kind and the establishment of a court-martial system for service personnel engaged in operations abroad.
Rules of Engagement and the Soldiers’ Cards of the German Armed Forces
"Rules of engagement" (RoE) refer, in the military sphere, to the rules binding the armed forces on the use of force and coercive measures during an operation. They are used worldwide in national and multinational operations. This issue of the Topical Term sets out the way in which rules of engagement are drawn up at multinational level, and examines their substance and implementation at national level, which takes place in particular via what are known as "soldiers’ cards".
Internally displaced persons
The term "internally displaced persons" describes persons who have been forced to leave their homes, but remain within the borders of their own countries. The number of these persons has significantly increased over the last decades. This Topical Term sets out the international legal and institutional framework for the protection of internally displaced persons.
Since its foundation in 2001 the American organisation "Creative Commons" (CC) aims at simplifying and facilitating the publication of copyright protected digital content in the internet. By way of a modular system of six different CC-licences, copyright owners can flexibly choose the extent to which they want to protect their content. Today CC-licences have become widely used in all areas of creative production, increasingly also in Germany. However, under existing law copyright owners who are members of a German collecting society are not entitled to licence their work independently under a CC-licence. Supporters of Creative Commons hope that efforts at accommodating the two systems, which have already been successful in the Netherlands, will lead to a compromise in the near future.
International criminal courts
In view of the challenges involved in prosecuting piracy, the idea of establishing an international piracy court has been raised within the political debate. Against this background, this issue of the Topical Term examines the tasks and organisation of existing international criminal courts. These courts deal solely with particularly serious crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and civil war crimes.
The General Conference elected Irina Bokova of Bulgaria as the tenth Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO is a specialized agency of the United Nations established on 16 November 1945. Its stated purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the UN Charter.
DESERTEC – Solar power from the desert
The "DESERTEC" concept, or supplying Europe with electricity from the North African desert, is currently the subject of much political and public debate. It is intended to be achieved using solar thermal technology. This issue of the Topical Term provides an overview of the technology currently available and how achievable the DESERTEC concept is.
Bundeswehr operations: confirmation of parliamentary consent
In its judgement of 13 October 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled on the question of what conditions make it necessary for the Bundestag’s consent to be obtained again when the legal or other circumstances of an operation by the armed forces change after Parliament’s consent has been given. The ruling stipulates that the Bundestag’s consent only ceases to be valid in the following circumstances: after a certain period of time, if the Security Council’s mandate was for a specified duration; in the event of circumstances arising which the mandate for the operation specifically states should lead to the end of the mandate; or in the event of the UN Security Council passing a resolution explicitly repealing or replacing the mandate.
The Stability Council and the early warning system to prevent budget crises at federal and Land level
As early as 1992, the Federal Constitutional Court noted that no adequate regulations existed concerning how public budget crises should be dealt with. One of the measures passed as part of the second stage of the reform of Germany’s federal system was therefore the addition of Article 109a to the Basic Law (the German constitution); the article’s provisions are expanded on by the Stability Council Act of 10 August 2009. The Stability Council has the task of monitoring the current state of and developments in the budgets of the Federation and the Länder (federal states) and to take any remedial measures which are required. The aim is to identify the risk of a budget crisis at an early stage and, by taking remedial measures, to avert the potential crisis.
The European Commission’s notification procedure
Reform of the law on inheritance and gift tax
The Act to Reform the Law on Inheritance Tax and Valuation (Gesetz zur Reform des Erbschaftsteuer- und Bewertungsrechts), which entered into force on 1 January 2009, changed the tax rates and allowances enshrined in the Inheritance and Gift Tax Act (Erbschaft- und Schenkungsteuergesetz) and the valuation of business assets and property in the Valuation Act (Bewertungsgesetz). Tax rates were raised for certain tax brackets, while allowances were significantly increased. In addition, new rules on exemptions were implemented, in particular in cases where beneficiaries intend to continue living in a property or running a business.
The Act to Combat Tax Evasion (Steuerhinterziehungsbekämpfungsgesetz)
Each year, tax evasion costs the Federal Republic of Germany several billion euros in tax revenue. For this reason, the German Bundestag recently adopted the Act to Combat Tax Evasion to make cross-border tax evasion significantly more difficult. At the heart of the new law are special duties to cooperate and to submit records, which are imposed on persons liable to tax who have business connections with third parties in states or regions which do not recognize the international standards on the sharing of tax-related information. In addition, the law expands the investigatory powers of the fiscal authorities in tax cases with a foreign connection.
Ten years of Strategic Partnership between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)
Coalition negotiations - coalition agreement
Coalition agreements are the documents in which political parties define their conditions for electing the Federal Chancellor. They serve as the foundation for the parties’ joint work in government and in Parliament. They are binding more in the political than the legal sense.
The ruling of the European Court of Justice on the 'Riester' pension scheme
The electronic health card
The nationwide roll-out of the electronic health card began on 1 October 2009. It is intended to make a decisive contribution to improving data protection in the health system and strengthening patients’ rights to be involved in decision-making. Information-sharing between doctors, pharmacists and hospitals is to be made more transparent in order to enhance the quality and cost-effectiveness of medical treatment. The use of many of the cards’ new functions is voluntary. This allows insured people to decide for themselves whether to use these functions and what personal data should be stored on the card.
Parliamentary participation in affairs of the European Union in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Poland and the United Kingdom
This information bulletin examines national measures reflecting the reinforcement in the Lisbon Treaty of the rights of national parliaments in the European Union's Member States to participate in EU legislation and in the revision procedure for the Treaties. The bulletin sets out the current participatory rights of the national parliaments in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Poland and the United Kingdom. In addition, it describes the measures being implemented by these parliaments or their chambers to prepare for the reinforced participatory rights introduced by the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. As well as examining the simplified revision procedure for the Treaties, the application of bridge clauses and the "emergency brake mechanism", the bulletin also looks at the application of the new instruments of subsidiarity monitoring, with the use of the "subsidiarity objection" and "subsidiarity action".
In the political debate regarding the second economic stimulus package and in the run-up to the 2009 Bundestag elections, the problem of "fiscal drag" was repeatedly discussed. Fiscal drag is an effect caused by the combination of a progressive income tax and a rise in the cost of living (inflation). This issue of the Topical Term examines the causes and the impact of this effect.
60 years of the Petitions Committee
The Petitions Committee is celebrating its 60th anniversary. In the 60 years since its establishment, around 750,000 petitions have been processed by the Petitions Committee. With an online e-petitions portal and by opening meetings to the public, the Committee has also set the course for the future.
The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances
On 24 September 2009, the Federal Republic of Germany ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The Convention aims, on the one hand, to prevent enforced disappearances by requiring all states parties to take preventive measures, including a total ban on secret detention. On the other, it aims to combat impunity for this crime by recognizing the absolute right of any person not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and by obliging all states parties to incorporate the crime into their national legislation and by committing them to arrest on their territory and to surrender, extradite or prosecute those responsible for such practices. In addition, it affirms the right to truth and requires all States Parties to grant victims and their families the right to obtain justice and reparation. The Convention is endowed with its own treaty-monitoring body and includes an optional complaint system for individual and state complaints. The Convention will enter into force when it has been ratified by 20 countries.
The Minimum Wage Commission
The Minimum Wage Commission is the main committee established under the amended Minimum Employment Conditions Act (Mindestarbeitsbedingungengesetz). The Commission held its constituent meeting on 15 September 2009. The Minimum Employment Conditions Act supplements the provisions of the Act on the Posting of Workers (Arbeitnehmer-Entsendegesetz) and enables minimum wages to be set in economic sectors with few collective agreements. The study provides a brief overview of the content of the legislation and the composition of the committee.
The 90th anniversary of the Weimar Constitution: What is its legacy?
The 90th anniversary of the Weimar Constitution is an opportunity to focus on some of its central elements and highlight the similarities and key differences to the Basic Law.
The "debt brake" in the Basic Law
As part of the modernization of Federation-Länder financial relations in Stage II of the Federalism Reform, the "debt brake" has been incorporated into the Basic Law. The aim is to curb the public debt burden and thus safeguard the long-term sustainability of public budgets. The centrepiece is the introduction of a new rule which prohibits borrowing to eliminate budget deficits. The new provisions will come into effect in the 2011 budget year. However, a transitional period is envisaged for the Federation to 2016 and for the Länder to 2020, during which deviations from the new debt rules are still permissible.
Incitement to hatred and violence (Volksverhetzung)
Incitement to hatred and violence (Volksverhetzung) is punishable under Section 130 of the German Criminal Code. The Topical Term provides a definition and explains which offences are covered by its scope of application.
Reform of law of succession
The article presents major aspects of the reform of the law of succession, which has included amendments to the law on compulsory portions of inheritance and to the statute-of-limitations provisions.
The Treaty of Lisbon: the 'accompanying laws' - Engl. Version of the Topical Term "Die Begleitgesetzgebung zum Vertrag von Lissabon"
On 8 September 2009, the German Bundestag adopted four "accompanying laws" regarding the Treaty of Lisbon. The reason for this legislative procedure was the Federal Constitutional Court's ruling of 30 June 2009, which declared the original accompanying law from 2008 to be partially unconstitutional, as it did not grant the Bundestag and Bundesrat sufficient rights of participation in the European Union' lawmaking and treaty amendment procedures. The new laws implement the requirements laid down in the ruling and grant the Bundestag and the Bundesrat a greater say in European Union affairs. Germany can ratify the Treaty of Lisbon once the accompanying laws have entered into force.
The 'accompanying laws' regarding the Treaty of Lisbon
On 8 September 2009, the German Bundestag adopted four ‘accompanying laws’ regarding the Treaty of Lisbon. The reason for this legislative procedure was the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling of 30 June 2009, which declared the original accompanying law from 2008 to be partially unconstitutional, as it did not grant the Bundestag and Bundesrat sufficient rights of participation in the European Union’s lawmaking and treaty amendment procedures. The new laws implement the requirements laid down in the ruling and grant the Bundestag and the Bundesrat a greater say in European Union affairs. Germany can ratify the Treaty of Lisbon once the accompanying laws have entered into force.
Seventy years after German troops invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, marking the start of the Second World War, the question of Germany’s sovereignty is still present. After the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht on 8 May 1945, there were several phases in the subsequent reorganisation of the German state before the achievement of full German sovereignty. This issue of the Topical Term provides an overview of these phases - the Occupation Statute, the Treaty of Moscow, and the Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany.
Inheritance and wealth tax in the EU Member States
This information bulletin offers a comparison of legal regulations in the field of inheritance tax and wealth tax in the EU Member States, Australia, Canada, Japan and the United States. It gives an overview of whether such taxes exist and what form they take. It examines the basis of assessment, the objects, subjects and rates of taxation, and exemptions.
Keeping of records on advice to investors
In order to reinforce the rights of private investors vis-à-vis banks or financial-service providers, the Act of 5 August 2009 to Revise the Legal Relationships in the Case of Bonds from an Entire Issue and to Achieve Improved Enforceability of Investor Claims Arising from Bad Advice (Federal Law Gazette I, pg. 2512) has been introduced, amending, amongst other things, the Securities Trading Act (WpHG) and the "ordinance on the rules of conduct and organisational requirements for providers of financial services" (WpDVerOV). The new rules enhance the rights of private investors in particular in cases where they have been badly advised.
The Federal Constitutional Court’s decision on the Federal Government’s answers to minor interpellations
In its decision of 1 July 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court delivered its opinion on the Federal Government’s answers to two minor interpellations submitted by the Alliance 90/The Greens parliamentary group in 2006. The judges ruled that the Federal Government had withheld the requested information for unconstitutional reasons. In its decision, the Court describes the limits to the Federal Government’s constitutional duty to answer minor interpellations.
The Federal Constitutional Court’s decision on the Committee of Inquiry into the activities of the Federal Intelligence Service
In a decision of 17 June 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court delivered its opinion on the Federal Government’s conduct towards the Committee of Inquiry set up to investigate the activities of the Federal Intelligence Service in the context of events relating to the Iraq War and combating international terrorism. The Court declared the Federal Government’s restrictions on the taking of evidence to be unconstitutional in many respects. The Court also elucidated the Bundestag’s rights of parliamentary oversight vis-à-vis the Federal Government.
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
On 13 December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly in New York adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Germany was one of the first countries to sign the Convention on 30 March 2007. Germany has been bound by the Convention since 26 March 2009. The Federal Government Commissioner for Matters Relating to Disabled Persons launched the "All Inclusive!" initiative to identify the legislative and other needs for action in relation to the new UN Convention. The results were presented on 1 July 2009.
Easing the burden on the European Court of Human Rights with reforms of its organizational structure
The European Court of Human Rights offers legal protection to 800 million Europeans in 47 countries against violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols. Much of the Court’s capacity is taken up dealing with manifestly inadmissible or repetitive complaints. Reforms to the Court’s organizational structure are under way with a view to streamlining the Court’s procedures and minimizing, as far as possible, the personnel capacities taken up dealing with inadmissible, or admissible but straightforward, cases.
The low turnout at the European elections on 7 June 2009 has prompted a debate in Germany about the introduction of a legal obligation to vote. This issue of the Topical Term looks at whether the introduction of compulsory voting in Germany would be permissible under the Basic Law. It also provides an overview of compulsory voting in the European Union member states.
Synthetic biology refers to a field of research which seeks to create new life forms, primarily micro-organisms at the current time. In one approach, the "building blocks of life" are constructed from non-living matter and combined to form a living organism; this can be considered a bottom-up approach. In a top-down approach, scientists try to remove elements from natural organisms and replace them with others, in order to create artificial life forms in this way.
Employee Equity participation
The article presents information about the reforms introduced by the new law on employee equity participation.
Decoration clauses in rental contracts
This Topical Term summarises the detailed legal rulings made by the Federal Court of Justice on the decoration of rented flats. The law allocates responsibility for decorating rented accommodation to landlords and landladies. It is customary, however, to include a clause in the rental contract transferring this duty to the tenant. As agreements of this sort are often made in the form of General Business Conditions, the article explains the relevant law on General Business Conditions. In order to protect tenants from unacceptable negative consequences, the Federal Court of Justice has set out detailed restrictions on the transfer of decorating duties to tenants.
The swedish Presidency of the European Union
The health insurance reform in the Netherlands
In 2006, a new health insurance law came into force in the Netherlands. The most significant reform was the scrapping of the distinction between statutory health insurance and private health insurance, and the establishment of a uniform private system, created in such a way as to ensure strong competition. The reform triggered an intense price war amongst the insurance companies, forcing them to lower their premiums and leading to a marked reduction in the number of insurance providers.
High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC)
The power grid for electricity transmission and distribution is presently designed mainly for alternating current (AC). For future applications, however, especially in view of long-distance power transmission, it may be advantageous to use direct-current (DC) technology. High-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission is a mature technology with very low energy losses (on the order of 3% per 1000 km distance), which makes it possible to transmit electrical energy even over several thousand kilometres. This text explains the technical backgrounds, the historical developments, and possible future applications of HVDC transmission.
Adaptation to climate change: an element of climate protection policy
Adaptation is a strategy which is part of climate protection policy. The intention of this strategy is to mitigate those effects of global warming which are already being experienced or are now unavoidable. On 17 December 2008, the Federal Government presented a German Adaptation Strategy.
Judgement of the Federal Constitutional Court concerning the Treaty of Lisbon
The Federal Constitutional Court has with judgement of 30 June 2009 decided that the Act Approving the Treaty of Lisbon is compatible with the Basic Law. In contrast, the Act Extending and Strengthening the Rights of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat in European Union Matters infringes Article 38.1 in conjunction with Article 23.1 of the Basic Law insofar as the Bundestag and the Bundesrat have not been accorded sufficient rights of participation in European lawmaking procedures and treaty amendment procedures.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
In 2009, the office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its establishment. The Commissioner for Human Rights is an institution of the Council of Europe concerned solely with the protection of human rights. The Commissioner’s tasks include raising public awareness of human rights and helping to identify legal and practical problems regarding the protection of human rights in the member states.
International economic and trade tribunals
The only global organisation dealing with the settlement of economic and trade disputes is the WTO’s dispute settlement system. This system is composed of three bodies. "Panels" deal with disputes in the first instance, while the permanent Appellate Body takes decisions on appeals by the parties to the dispute. The decisions and recommendations of this body are subject to the acceptance of the Dispute Settlement Body. In addition to the WTO’s dispute settlement system, a range of other arbitration tribunals exist which are either asked to take a decision on a dispute on an ad hoc basis, or are assigned responsibility for doing so in advance. And finally, many free-trade zones and economic communities have established courts to monitor compliance with their founding treaties and secondary law.
Reform of the EU fisheries policy
System of "standard service volume" - instrument used to calculate the remuneration of panel doctors
The controversial "standard service volume" system (Regelleistungssystem) introduced in the framework of the 2009 reform of doctors' fees, is based on Article 87 b of Book V of the German Social Code. The "standard service volume" represents the amount of panel-doctor services for which an individual doctor or doctor's practice is entitled to claim reimbursement over a set period of time; these services are reimbursed using a table of fees in euros (Euro-Gebührenordnung), which is produced pursuant to Article 87 (2) of Book V of the Social Code, and lists the prices which a doctor or doctor's practice is entitled to claim for specific services. The aim of the "standard service volume" system is to separate a certain volume of basic services from services going beyond this volume and which are not able to be fully financed and which, pursuant to Article 87 b (2), sentence 3 of Book V of the Social Code, can only be partially reimbursed. The aim of this provision is to prevent doctors and doctors' practices from providing an excessive volume of services (c.f. Article 87 (2), sentence 1 of Book V of the Social Code.
The second economic recovery package (Konjunkturpaket II) simplifies application requirements for short-time working and creates financial incentives for companies, in order to prevent job cuts as a result of the international financial crisis. In addition, the Federal Employment Agency is providing support to companies who use the working time freed up by the economic crisis to provide further training for their employees. According to preliminary estimates by the Federal Employment Agency, 4.1 million workers were working on the basis of such short-time working measures in April.
Against the background of numerous representative studies which tend to confirm that youth violence is actually on the decrease, the debate on violence which takes place each year can be seen as exaggerated. Youth violence is predominantly the problem of young males; those attending lower secondary school and young people with an immigrant background are disproportionately represented. In addition, factors like delinquent friends, truancy, alcohol and drug consumption, domestic violence and violent media also play a role.
Amendments to the Basic Law since 1949
This study documents all amendments to the Basic Law (the German constitution) since it was signed on 23 May 1949. An overview is provided of the official titles, initiators and main content of the amending legislation. The study also provides a synopsis of all amendments to the text, including amendments made as part of the 2006 reform of Germany’s federal system.
15 years of the European Economic Area: "EC-light" or precursor to EU membership?
Europeana is an internet service funded by the European Commission under the eContentplus programme, as part of the i2010 policy. Originally known as the European digital library network - EDLnet - it is a partnership of 100 representatives of heritage and knowledge organisations and IT experts from throughout Europe. Europeana offers access to the resources of 47 European national libraries. The resources, both digital and non-digital, include books, magazines, journals, audio recordings and other material.
Referendums in the Member States of the European Union
Discussions take place at regular intervals in Germany on the subject of referendums at federal level. This issue of the Topical Term examines the legal situation in other EU Member States and compares this with the provisions contained in the Basic Law, the German constitution.
The Eastern Partnership
Restructuring measures in US insolvency law
In the current financial and economic crisis, the possibilities offered by national insolvency law for the restructuring and preservation of insolvent companies are of particular interest. A comparison of restructuring instruments in US and German insolvency law shows that while the main structures are broadly similar, important differences exist.
Elite Sport of Persons with a Disability
During recent years awareness and acceptance of persons with a disability have grown in all areas of society, including physical education and sport. World-wide the interest and participation of individuals with a disability in sport at all levels are continually growing. Remarkable developments can be identified, especially as far as the level of excellence in sport is concerned: Paralympic Games have become a highlight in the world of sport and already the world's second largest sport event after the Olympic Games. World-wide the interest and participation of individuals with a disability in sport at all levels are continually growing. Remarkable developments can be identified, especially as far as the level of excellence in sport is concerned. While some sports organisations are economically self-sufficient, most of them are dependent on public funding. Public sector support can take many different forms. The main issue faced by a number of countries is how to achieve a successful financing model for giving public support to paralympic sport.
Patents and licences in insolvency
In view of the crisis at the US carmaker General Motors (GM), there are reports that the carmaker Opel has ‘ceded’ its patents to GM and now pays licence fees for every car sold. The possibility of one or both of these companies becoming insolvent raises the fundamental legal question of what regulations patents or any licence agreements are subject to in a situation of this kind.
Against the backdrop of the current financial and economic crisis insolvencies are presently being controversially discussed in politics and the media. The article gives a short overview of purpose and conditions of the insolvency proceedings according to the German Insolvenzord-nung (Insolvency Code).
Orbital debris are increasingly posing a threat to manned and unmanned space flights. This text briefly reviews the nature and origin of debris objects, discusses options for reducing the danger of collisions, and presents the framework of discussions on cooperative countermeasures at the international level.
Committees of inquiry
The opposition parties have reached agreement on the establishment of a new committee of inquiry, the second in the Bundestag’s current electoral term. This issue of the Topical Term sets out the legal basis for the work of committees of inquiry.
The microblogging service Twitter lately has become increasingly popular in Germany. Twitter was founded and is still most widely used as a social platform. The advantages of this new tool for spreading news and communicating with a large and mainly young audience have also been discovered in politics and business as well as marketing and the service sector. Whereas some journalists have started to use twitter for the rapid acquisition of information, the tool has turned out to be of limited use for deeper journalistic research.
Plea bargaining in criminal proceedings
Plea bargaining in criminal proceedings – in other words, an agreement being reached between the parties with the aim of speeding up or potentially ending the proceedings - is currently not regulated by the German law of criminal procedure. A number of new bills seek to regulate this issue.
Legislation affecting only a single case
From time to time, the public perceives and criticises legislation as affecting only a single case, instead of applying generally. This issue of the Topical Term examines the constitutional provisions banning legislation of this kind, with reference to selected rulings by the Federal Constitutional Court.
The Safer Internet Programme
The internet and the use of web services are gaining in popularity among children and young people. Yet alongside its obvious advantages, the increasingly complex online world also has many darker sides, such as cyber-bullying and cyber-grooming. The European Union's Safer Internet Programme aims to draw attention to online risks and in particular to raise young people's awareness of how to use the internet safely.
Negative voting weights and the reform of the German federal electoral law
The federal constitutional court ruled in July 2008 that the current electoral law violates the constitutional principles of direct and equal elections, and therefore needs to be amended by June 2011 at the latest. The reason why the electoral law is unconstitutional is the effect of "negative voting weights" which occurs in special situations due to the particular combination of majority vote and proportional representation implemented in the German electoral system. This document briefly reviews the current electoral system in Germany, explains in detail the mechanism behind the occurrence of negative voting weights, and discusses the effects and side-effects of alternative solutions to the problem.
The reorientation of labour-market policy instruments
This issue of the Topical Term sets out the main substance of the Act on the Reorientation of Labour-Market Policy Instruments (Gesetz zur Neuausrichtung der arbeitsmarktpolitischen Instrumente), which entered into force on 1 January 2009.
The German Ethics Council
This issue of the Topical Term presents the German Ethics Council: an autonomous and interdisciplinary group of experts. The Ethics Council is tasked with preparing its own opinions on ethical, societal, scientific, medical and legal questions arising from developments in the area of the life sciences. The Ethics Council was set up by means of the Ethics Council Act adopted by the German Bundestag. Like the Advisory Council on Ethics at the German Bun-destag, which is intended to provide parliamentary oversight and support, it has been in exis-tence since April 2008.
State immunity is one of the basic principles of international law. The fundamental importance of this principle for international relations between states was recently demonstrated once again by the law suit against Italy launched by Germany on 23 December 2008 at the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ). The principle of immunity under international law has developed over time from the legal practice of states and today is generally regarded as unwritten customary international law. According to the theory of restricted state immunity which is today very much the prevailing legal opinion, the question of state immunity depends on whether a foreign state's jurisdiction is to be applied to an area of sovereign action ("acta iure imperii") or to a non-sovereign area ("acta iure gestionis") - especially commercial activities.
ECJ ruling on the directive on data retention
Commission's Annual Policy Strategy for 2010
The Federal Chancellor's power to determine the general guidelines of policy
The first sentence of Article 65 of the Basic Law (the German constitution) states that "The Federal Chancellor shall determine and be responsible for the general guidelines of policy." Guidelines can be understood here as referring to general principles or fundamental policy decisions; in other words, the Federal Chancellor determines the general direction of government policy, without dictating every detail. Regarding the work of the federal ministers, the principle of ministerial autonomy (Article 65, second sentence) means that the affairs of each department (or ministry) are conducted independently by the ministers. The article also assigns the role of a collective decision-making body to the Federal Government (third sentence); this is known as the 'cabinet principle'.
EU Cultural Policy 2009
In the field of culture the European Union encourages co-operation between Member States and complements their actions, while respecting their national and regional diversity. And as European cultural policy evolves, a specific European Agenda for Culture has been developed. In addition the open method of coordination will be used as a new way of cooperation in the field of culture that provides a flexible and non-binding framework and fosters exchanges of best practices. The new strategy has three main objectives: to promote cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue; to utilise culture as a catalyst for creativity and innovation in the context of the Lisbon Strategy to transform Europe into the most competitive knowledge-based society in the world; and to ensure that culture becomes an important component in the EU's external relations.
IRENA – The International Renewable Energy Agency
On 26 January 2009, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was established. Membership is open to all UN members; the agency is intended to focus exclusively on renewable energy. IRENA aims to bring together political, scientific, research and economic interests and to highlight and strengthen the potential of renewable energy sources.
Overfishing of the world's seas
This issue of the Topical Term on "overfishing of the world's seas" examines the problem of excessive depletion of fish stocks. In 2005, three quarters of worldwide stocks were overfished or depleted to the limits of their regenerative capacity. This has resulted in the threatened collapse of most commercially fished stocks. This is very worrying, since fish is an important source of nutrition for many people and often also their only source of income. This problem has been known about for decades. In the framework of its Common Fisheries Policy, the EU has been taking countermeasures since 1983. This Topical Term examines these measures and other possible alternatives.
The Health Fund: functioning, expectations and criticism
On 1 January 2009, the Health Fund was introduced in Germany, placing the statutory health insurance system on a new financial footing. Expectations of the restructuring vary widely, as does the criticism expressed of the new system.
Unlike many other industrialised countries, Germany does not have specific legal regulations to protect whistleblowers. This issue of the Topical Term sets out the current legal situation and legal rulings, and explains attempts to solve the problem in the area of legislation on public service employment and labour legislation.
Strategic gas reserves in Germany
The disruption in the supply of gas from Russia via Ukrainian pipelines in January 2009 has now, for the second time in a few years (the first being the crisis in the winter of 2006), drawn the attention of policy-makers and the general public to the security of gas supplies to Germany and Europe. Currently, around 35% of Germany’s gas is supplied by Russia. This proportion will rise further in the short and medium term, as the output of the other foreign sources (Norway 26%, the Netherlands 19%, the UK 5%, Denmark 5%) and domestic production (15%) are declining. Regarding the use of global sources of liquefied natural gas (LNG) - which must be transported by tankers rather than pipelines – the necessary infrastructure is not yet in place. As it is impossible to rule out the possibility of further disruptions to gas supplies from Russia in the coming years, the question is how well-prepared Germany is for such a situation. One important point in this context is building up strategic reserves of gas which can be used to compensate for temporary disruptions in supply.
Resistance to antibiotics
Improper use of antibiotics and insufficient use of measures to prevent infection have led to an increase in resistances to antibiotics, meaning that increasing numbers of pathogens no longer react to the standard antibiotics used. The presence of multi-resistant bacteria represents a grave health problem, particularly in intensive care units of hospitals. The European Antibiotic Resistance Day on 18 November is intended to focus public attention once a year on the need for responsible use of these medicines. The recently presented German antibiotic resistance strategy (DART) is a comprehensive plan, encompassing all affected areas, aimed at combating a further spread of resistance.
The law does not state whether a living will is binding on the doctors and carers of a seriously ill or dying person who is no longer able to give consent to medical treatment. Three cross-party bills have now been tabled in the Bundestag with the aim of establishing in law the scope of such an ‘advance directive’, or living will. This issue of the Topical Term sets out the contents of these bills and the main differences between them.
Changes in the European Union in 2009
The czech Presidency of the European Union
Annual days of action, topic days and days of remembrance: selection for 2009
Days of remembrance, topic days and days of action are intended to commemorate important national or international societal, religious or historical events or draw attention to major issues or problems in society or in the social, medical or environmental sphere. In order to raise worldwide awareness of important topics, the United Nations in particular has established international days, years or decades dedicated to particular issues.