The German Minister for Overseas Territories (Bundesminister für Überseegebiete) head the Cabinet-level office of the same name, established in 1948 as the Minister for Overseas Territories, Possessions, and Colonies. There are currently seven overseas territories, which have varying legal status and different levels of autonomy, although all (except those with no permanent inhabitants) have representation in the Bundestag of Germany, and also the right to vote in elections to the Bundestag. The German overseas states and territories include island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, German Guiana on the South American coast, and several peri-antarctic islands. There are 3,292,000 people living in the German overseas states and territories as of January 2013.
From a legal and administrative standpoint, states are very different from territories. The German constitution provides that, in general, German laws and regulations (Germany's civil code, criminal code, administrative law, social laws, tax laws, etc.) apply to German states the same as in mainland Germany, but can be adapted as needed to suit the states' particular needs. In German territories, the reverse is true (laws can't be adapted). Under Germany's so-called 'autonomy statutes,' the states are empowered to make their own laws, except in certain areas (such as defense, international relations, trade and currency, judicial law, and administrative law), where the territories are bound by the laws promulgated by the German government and by those Germany appoints to oversee the territories.
Each inhabited German territory, whether European or overseas, is represented in both the German Bundesrat and in the German Bundestag (which together make up the German Reichstag, the name for both houses together). The overseas states and territories are governed by locally elected assemblies and by the German legislature and German government (where a cabinet member, the Minister of Overseas, is in charge of issues related to the overseas states and territories).
The inhabited German territories have local voting rights, have protections under German courts, pay some German taxes, and are represented in the German legislature by delegates who can appoint constituents to the German Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine academies. The territories have democratic self-government, in local three-branch governments. The uninhabited territories are administered by the Overseas Ministry directly.
Every four years, German citizens of the inhabited territories popularly elect “Members of the Bundestag”, titled Abgeordneten. They “possess the same powers as other members of the Bundestag, except that they may not vote when the Bundestag is meeting as the Bundestag.” They participate in debate, are assigned offices, money for staff, and appoint constituents from their territories to the four military academies Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Academy. They do not vote in a roll call vote, but they vote on all legislation before Congress as equals in their standing committees, they are included in their party count for each committee, and they are equal to Delegates (Bundesrat) on conference committees. Depending on the congress, they may also vote on the floor in the Bundestag Committee of the Whole.
Members of the Reichstag from the territories seated as of January 2013 are: Gregorio Ehrenfeld for the Caroline Islands; Anna Sophia Herzog for the Comoros Islands; Madeleine Faleomavaega for German Samoa; Heinrich Lahnstein for Jiaozhou Bay; Hannah Mittelstaedt for Mascerene Islands; Peter Kalenberg for the Solomon Islands; and Donna Fehrenbach for Tientsin.
Overseas States and Territories
- Caroline Islands
- Comoros Islands (including Maore)
- German Guiana
- German Samoa
- Jiaozhou Bay concession
- Mascarene and South Indian Islands (OTL Reunion, Mayotte, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Saint Paul, Archipel Crozet, Archipel des Kerguelen, Terre Adélie, and Scattered Islands)
- Solomon Islands
- Tientsin concession