According to the Constitution Germany is a federal republic. The Lander (States) participate in the Federation by means of their delegates at the Bundesrat. The Länder designate and can recall at any moment their delegates at the Bundesrat.
Organization of Länder
A State's government must "conform to the principles of republican, democratic and social government, based on the rule of law". The federal government can exercise authority only in those areas specified in the Constitution, in the rest of to the areas the Länder have authority. However, federal law superseded or nullified Länder law in the event of a conflict. Conflicts between the Länder and the federal government are jurisdiction of the Federal Constitutional Court.
Usually the government of a state consists
- a Minister-President (State-President in Baden, Baden-Wurttemberg, Hessen, Chief State Minister in Thuringia, Senatspräsident in Bremen and Hansestädte, Erster Bürgermeister in Hamburg and Lübeck, and Regierender Bürgermeister in Greater Berlin) named or appointed by the elected legislative assembly and political responsibly before it.
- a Governing Council, usually called State or General Ministries (Staatsinisterium or Gesamtministerium). Called Senate in Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck, Hansestädte and Greater Berlin. Its members (2 to 6 members) are appointed by the Minister-President and are also politically responsibly to the legislative assembly.
- an elected legislative assembly (Landtag) Called Bürgerschaft in Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck and Hansestädte or Abgeordnetenhaus in Greater Berlin. The State of Prussia as a bicameral legislature (a Staatsrat - State Council - integrated by elected representatives of the provinces and a Landtag). The legislatures are popularly elected every four or five years (depending on the state), and the Minister-President is then chosen by a majority vote among the Landtag's members.
Administratively the Länder are subdivided in Districts (Landkreise or Kreise) and municipalities (Gemeinden). The municipalities are ruled by elected councils and by an executive, the mayor, who is chosen either by the council or directly by the people.
However Prussia is subdivide in three provinces (14 until 1935). The provinces are bodies combining regional home rule through representatives delegated from each rural and urban county. The First President (Oberpräsident) is appointed by the Interior Ministry and is at the head of the provincial administration as the authority of the general state administration. The Provincial Council, First President and five members elected by the Provincial Committee. The County Assembly (Provinziallandtag) is elected for four years, the number of members depends on the population of the province. The provinces send representatives to the Bundesrat and the Prussian Staatsrat.
The Constitution states that the division of the federal territory into Länder .. may be revised to ensure that each Land be of a size and capacity to perform its functions effectively. The creation or merger of new states can be done by federal legislation (as it happened with the creation of Thuringia and break up of Prussian and territorial consolidation of the Länder), by referendum (like the union of Baden-Wurttemberg, Meklenburg, Schleswig-Holstein and others) or Länder agreement (Freie Hansestädte and Rhein-Ruhr).
The territorial evolution has been:
- 1920 Thuringia created from the merger of the former Thuringian States (Federal Law for the creation of Thuringia),
- 1921 Mecklenburg, by Lander referedum that approved the union of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz states
- 1921 Schleswig-Holstein, by provincial referendum that approved its separation from Prussia;
- 1929 Baden-Wurttemberg, by Länder referendum that approved the union of Baden and Wurttemberg.
- 1930 Federal Law for the reorganization of Prussia and Berlin. Creates five new Länder and makes territorial adjustments to eliminate exclaves;
- 1931 Free Hanseatic Cities, after approval of Länder agreement by Burgerschafts of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck
- 1945 Rhein-Rhur, after approval of Länder agreement between Rheinland-Pflaz and Westfalen