Functions and duties of the President and Presidium
The President and the Vice-Presidents form the Presidium of the Bundestag, which is elected for the duration of the electoral term. A member of the Presidium cannot be removed from office by a resolution of the Bundestag.
“The President shall represent the Bundestag”
The Presidium meets regularly in sitting weeks to discuss matters relating to the management of Parliament. Among other things, it is also involved when personnel decisions within the Administration of the Bundestag have to be taken, or when important contracts are concluded. The items of business it discusses also include Parliament’s public relations work.
The President of the German Bundestag represents the Bundestag and, therefore, the legislative branch in Germany. In protocol terms, they occupy the second highest office of state after the Federal President – superior in rank to the Federal Chancellor and the President of the Bundesrat. The President’s duties are detailed in the Bundestag’s Rules of Procedure: "The President shall represent the Bundestag and conduct its business. He or she shall uphold the dignity and rights of the Bundestag, further its work, conduct its debates fairly and impartially, and maintain order in the Bundestag."
Conduct of parliamentary sittings
One of the central duties performed by the President of the German Bundestag, and probably the best known, is the conduct of parliamentary sittings. The President opens and closes sittings, calls items of business and grants Members leave to speak.
Overall, the President ensures the maintenance of parliamentary order during sittings. For example, they may warn Members who have spoken too long, direct them to discontinue speaking and even exclude them from plenary sittings and committee meetings for up to 30 sitting days.
When plenary sittings are being conducted, the President and Vice-Presidents usually alternate in the Chair every two hours. The power to conduct sittings and the power to maintain order pass to the new President in the Chair at each changeover.
Head of the Bundestag Administration
The duties of the President of the German Bundestag go far beyond the neutral and impartial conduct of plenary sittings. As the representative of the whole Parliament, they also act as an ambassador for the Bundestag in the public domain. They are invited to state receptions, hold speeches on important political and social occasions, preserve the dignity of the Bundestag and defend the rights of its Members.
Furthermore, the President is the head of the Administration of the German Bundestag. Its approximately 3,000 members of staff are subject to the supreme authority of the President, who also exercises police powers and proprietary powers in the premises of Parliament. Besides that, each year the President determines the rate of public funds allocated to the political parties, an executive task conferred upon the office by the Political Parties Act.
Supporting role of the Presidium and the Council of Elders
The President of the Bundestag is supported in their work by the other members of the Presidium, which meets regularly in sitting weeks to discuss matters relating to the management of Parliament. These meetings are also attended by the Secretary-General of the German Bundestag, who is in charge of the Administration of the German Bundestag.
Matters addressed include personnel decisions that affect the senior tenured civil servants and salaried employees of the Administration. The Presidium is also involved when important contracts are concluded. In addition, items of business frequently include Parliament’s public relations work.
Furthermore, the members of the Presidium all sit on the Council of Elders. This is the most important coordinating body within the Bundestag and supports the President in the management of parliamentary business.