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.
European banking union and the single European banking supervision mechanism
In September 2012, alongside the "Roadmap towards a Banking Union", the European Commission presented two proposals for regulations on the establishment of a single European banking supervision mechanism. One was a proposal for a regulation conferring specific supervisory tasks on the ECB, the second a proposal to amend the regulation establishing a European Supervisory Authority. There was dissent on this subject during debates within the Council of the European Union and in the framework of the trialogue with the European Parliament. A political compromise has now been found. Due to the reservation lodged by the German government pending scrutiny by Parliament, the Council has yet to take a final decision. This Topical Term briefly explains the background to the proposals for regulations, lists the main points of contention and outlines the agreement reached at political level.
Visa-free entry for service recipients from Turkey? Opinion of Advocate General in Case C-221/11 (Demirkan)
The visa requirement for Turkish nationals is currently not only the subject of political discussions, but is also being examined by the European Court of Justice. In the Demirkan case, the Court of Justice has been asked to issue a preliminary ruling on the question of whether the EEC-Turkey Association Agreement is in conflict with a visa requirement for Turkish nationals wishing to enter Germany to visit relatives. On 11 April 2013, Advocate General Cruz Villalón delivered his Opinion. In this Opinion, he concludes that the visa requirement is in fact in line with association law.
The register of guarantees of origin for electricity from renewable sources
On 1 January 2013, the electronic register of guarantees of origin for electricity from renewable sources was launched by the Federal Environment Agency in Dessau. The current issue of the Topical Term begins by explaining what the register is, and goes on to discuss its purpose and significance, including with regard to electricity labelling. This is followed by an explanation of the legal background and an overview of how the register functions.
Energy-intensive businesses and the Renewable Energy Sources Act
The Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz, or EEG) ensures that producers who generate electricity from renewable sources and feed it into the grid receive a fixed price for it, generally for 20 years. The costs of making up the difference between the tariff payments for renewable electricity and the price obtained for the electricity at the energy exchange are subsequently shared among all electricity customers in line with their consumption levels via the EEG surcharge. In other words, the same amount has to paid as an EEG surcharge on each kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered to a final consumer (Section 37 (2) of the Renewable Energy Sources Act). However, Sections 40 et seq. of the Act set out a special equalisation scheme for energy-intensive manufacturing enterprises and rail operators. This assistance for energy-intensive businesses, which aims to "maintain their international and intermodal competitiveness", means that all other electricity customers have to pay a higher surcharge per KWh.
The sanctions regime in Myanmar under review
The process of political opening begun in March 2011 in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar (Burma) led to the suspension by the EU and USA of trade restrictions, entry bans and assets freezes and to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. By 30 April 2013, the EU will decide whether the regime of sanctions against Myanmar should be suspended for a further year or lifted completely. The condition for the lifting of sanctions by the Western community of states is the continuation of President Thein Sein’s reform course. So far, this reform course has led to the release of over 800 political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had previously spent 15 years under house arrest, together with the official abolition of press censorship. The holding of free presidential elections in 2015, sustained political participation of civil society groups and the successful resolution of serious conflicts with the minorities will be decisive for the democratic transformation process.
Equal Pay Day
21 March 2013 is Equal Pay Day in Germany. The alliance responsible for the initiation of this day seeks to highlight existing differences in pay between men and women. The abstract examines the causes and effects of the gender pay gap and mentions the particular focus of the 2013 Equal Pay Day, namely "wage determination in health professions".
Single European banking supervision mechanism From the Commission's proposals to political agreement in the Council
On 12 September 2012, the Commission presented a package of measures to create a single European supervision mechanism for banks under the responsibility of the European Central Bank (ECB), as a first step towards a European banking union. The package includes a proposal for a regulation conferring specific tasks on the European Central Bank regarding policies relating to the prudential supervision of credit institutions, a further proposed regulation amending the Regulation establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Banking Authority) and a communication setting out the roadmap towards a banking union. These proposals have been the subject of heated discussion amongst policymakers and academics: there was disagreement, for example, on the legal basis which should be used to create a single European banking supervisor under the auspices of the ECB, which institutes should be subject to this supervision by the ECB supervisory body, how possible conflicts between the ECB’s tasks in the area of monetary policy and its new supervisory tasks could be avoided and how the Member States who do not have the euro as their currency can be involved in the supervision mechanism. At the ECOFIN meeting of 13 December 2012, the finance ministers of the Member States finally reached a political agreement - which was welcomed by the European Council of Heads of State and Government on 14 December 2012. The next step is now the participation of the European Parliament. In order to make clear the legal impacts of the results of the negotiations, this factsheet begins by describing the financial supervision measures in existence since 2011, and then examines the content of the proposed regulations and the key elements of the political discussion.
Binding obligation on Member States to apply EU fundamental rights; ruling of the European Court of Justice in Case C-617/10
EU law applies in the Member States in different ways. It can replace or determine national law in substantive terms, insofar as the EU has taken advantage of the legislative powers transferred to it: national authorities implement regulations and, above all, legislators in the Member States transpose EU directives into national law. In addition, EU law has an impact via subjective rights derived from primary law: these function as a yardstick for the legality of national law in the framework of competences retained by the Member States or where the EU has not taken advantage of its legislative powers. In particular the fundamental freedoms of the Single Market in economically relevant areas, and the social-law aspects of freedom of movement (Article 21 (1) TFEU) have so far served as a check on the exercise of powers, in a similar way to nationally enshrined fundamental rights, and have especially limited the scope of national legislators. So far, the independent significance of EU fundamental rights in this context has been fairly limited. There is general recognition of the fact that EU fundamental rights not only protect citizens from the jurisdiction of the EU, but that they also (must) have binding effect on the Member States when they are "implementing" EU law (Article 51 (1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU) - i.e. in particular when they are implementing regulations or transposing directives. Yet there is disagreement on the extent to which Member States are bound by EU fundamental rights beyond this. Whilst the German Federal Constitutional Court has a more restrictive interpretation, tending to favour the application of national fundamental rights, the European Court of Justice has tended in its judgements to broaden the obligations on the Member States to apply EU fundamental rights. In line with this tendency, the European Court of Justice appears in its ruling on the Åkerberg v Fransson Case to add a new dimension to the Member States’ obligation to uphold these fundamental rights. It is currently not possible to say what the longer-term impacts of this ruling will be.
The situation of the Christians in Syria
Indications that the Christian minority in Syria is at risk are currently on the increase. Since the devastating bomb attack in February 2012, attacks on Christians have been more-or-less an everyday occurrence. Though the uprising against President Assad did not initially have religious undertones, this now appears to be changing. The consequences for Christians, at risk of becoming trapped between the rebels and the government troops, cannot yet be predicted. They are unlikely to be positive, however. A max exodus may take place. For this reason, Western states, including Germany, are currently considering a relaxation of conditions for the granting of asylum to Syrians.
The co-operation between regional African organizations and the United Nations in current peacekeeping missions
The current crisis in Mali demonstrates the necessity of cooperation between the United Nations and regional international organizations in peacekeeping operations. The article discusses the experiences with previous joint missions in Africa.
Ten years of "Agenda 2010" - taking stock of one of the biggest reforms of the century
The Agenda 2010 has been the most polarising of any set of reforms in recent history in Germany. Against the background of the 10-year anniversary of these reforms, this topical term analyses how they came about and how they have developed, as well as examining assessments of the reforms by policymakers and academics.
Health problems encountered later in life by thalidomide victims
On 1 February 2013, the Bundestag’s Committee on Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth held a hearing on a longitudinal study into the situation of people affected by tha-lidomide, conducted by Heidelberg University’s Institute of Gerontology. Around 150 people affected attended the hearing - making it probably the biggest ever meeting of thalidomide victims. In advance of the hearing, the coalition committee of Germany’s governing coalition had already decided to make an additional 120 million euros available for state benefits to ensure that thalidomide victims’ future needs are met. This was in response to the drastic health problems encountered by thalidomide victims which develop or are diagnosed later in life, comprehensively verified for the first time by the Heidelberg study. This issue of the Topical Term takes a look back at the thalidomide disaster between 1957 and 1962, and ex-plains and provides examples of the health problems encountered by thalidomide victims later in life.
The term "temporary" in the Act on Temporary Employment Businesses
The interpretation and legal consequences of the term "temporary", which was inserted without definition into Section 1 (1), second sentence, of the Act on Temporary Employment Businesses (Arbeitnehmerüberlassungsgesetz) with effect from 1 December 2011, are highly disputed in legal literature and court decisions. The higher courts have also taken very different approaches to this issue in their first decisions relating to it. It will now be up to the Federal Labour Court to clarify the questions that have emerged in this context, which have very important practical implications.
Gender quotas for supervisory boards
This issue of the Topical Term deals with the current under-representation of women on the supervisory boards of German companies. It sets out the legal situation at present, focusing on the recommendations of the German Corporate Governance Code, and discusses the Bundesrat’s bill of 21 September 2012 on the promotion of the equal participation of men and women in corporate boards, which provides for the introduction of a ‘rigid’ minimum quota for the appointment of women to positions on supervisory boards. Finally, this issue of the Topical Term introduces the 'flexible quota' strategy proposed by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, which involves a legal obligation for companies to commit to a self-defined target for the appointment of women to supervisory boards.
Decision of the Federal Constitutional Court on the quasi-retroactive application of tax legislation
In a judgment on 10 October 2012, the Federal Constitutional Court added to its decisions on quasi-retroactive tax legislation, i.e. legislation which applies retroactively to the current tax period. In future, stricter standards will have to be met with regard to the protection of legitimate expectations and the proportionality of the legislation. This issue of the Topical Term explains the essentials of the concept of retroactivity and the principle of the protection of legitimate interests, then goes on to examine the main aspects of the Federal Constitutional Court’s judgment and the reasons given for its changes to the standards which must be met for quasi-retroactive tax legislation to be admissible.
The banning of political parties under the Basic Law and the European Convention on Human Rights
On 14 December 2012, the Bundesrat decided to initiate proceedings to ban the far-right NPD party. This raises questions regarding the legal framework for these proceedings. The Basic Law, Germany’s constitution, guarantees and protects the existence of political parties, but it also allows them to be banned, as the last resort of a "vigilant democracy". In addition, the European Convention on Human Rights also establishes a yardstick for whether the banning of a political party is lawful, and this must be heeded if a ban imposed by the state is to be compatible with the Convention.
Programme of the Irish EU Presidency
On 1 January 2013, Ireland assumed the six-month presidency of the EU for the seventh time since its accession to the European Union in 1973. Ireland, as a country busy getting its economy back on track, intends to use the Council presidency to help get Europe’s economy back on track. The programme for the presidency is thus entitled "For Stability, Jobs and Growth".
Annual days of action and topic days: selection for 2013
This factsheet, which has been updated for the year 2013, presents a selection of national and international action and topic days, which are intended to draw attention to social, medical or environmental issues, provide an opportunity for reflection on national or global problems and prompt society and policymakers to take decisive action. The factsheet is intended to inform and support the work of the Members of the German Bundestag and its bodies, but is also addressed to interested members of the public beyond the German Bundestag.
Ten years of the Franco-German Parliamentary Prize
In 2003, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, the presidiums of the German Bundestag and the Assemblée nationale took the decision to establish a Franco-German Parliamentary Prize. The prize is awarded to works of a high standard which enhance, to a special degree, the two countries’ understanding of each other. The winner is chosen by a jury chaired by the presidents of the two parliaments and composed of two members of parliament and two academics from each country. The prizes are presented to the winners by the presidents of the two parliaments at an official ceremony. The two most recent prizes were awarded in 2010 to Anne Kwaschik for her biography of cultural historian Robert Minder, and to Evelyne and Victor Brandts for their book "Aujourd’hui l’Allemagne" (Germany today).