In the Federal Republic of Germany, governmental functions and responsibilities are divided between the Federation and the Länder. This is due to the federal principle which is laid down in the Basic Law (Grundgesetz, Art. 20, paragraph 1). For the educational sector, there is no explicit and comprehensive attribution of competence to the Federation. Therefore, according to Article 70 of the Basic Law educational and cultural legislation is primarily the responsibility of the Länder (see also the article on main executive and legislative bodies). The Federation, on the other hand, is responsible for foreign affairs and thus for cultivating international relations in the field of education at the level of the state (Art. 73, paragraph 1 and Art. 32, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Basic Law). The responsibility of the Federation for foreign affairs, and the cultural sovereignty of the Länder have in the day-to-day routine established the necessity of a close cooperation based on partnership and mutual trust between the Federation and the Länder.
The rights of participation of the Länder in EU affairs are laid down in Article 23 of the Basic Law and in the Law on Cooperation between the Federation and the Länder in issues of the European Union of March 1993 (EUZBLG). Accordingly, the Federal Government has to take into account the statements of the Bundesrat on European Union issues when the legislative powers or administrative procedures of the Länder are affected by the proposals of the European Union (see also chapter 1.3.). When legislative powers exclusive to the Länder in school education, culture or broadcasting are primarily affected, the exercise of the rights belonging to the Federal Republic of Germany as a member state of the European Union is dele-gated to a representative of the Länder designated by the Bundesrat.
Cooperation through the Standing Conference
The extensive participation of the Länder in issues of foreign cultural policy, international cultural relations as well as European cooperation occurs through the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz). The coordinating committee for this area is the Committee for European and International Affairs (Kommission für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten – EuKiA). The Committee deals with EU cooperation regarding issues of education, culture and research as well as with the educational and cultural activities of the Council of Europe and other multilateral organisations. The committee develops common positions for all Länder which may be taken into account at an early stage in consultations by the Federation, other Länder conferences and the academic organisations. Furthermore, the Committee deals with basic questions of foreign cultural policy and coordinates the views of the Länder in order to achieve a joint statement. The members of the Committee discuss questions of bilateral foreign cultural policy, in which the Länder participate within the framework of cultural agreements as well as through other activities in the sphere of cultural exchange. In the multilateral sector, the Committee primarily deals with the participation of the Länder regarding issues of educational and cultural policy in the committees and specialist conferences of the UNESCO and the OECD. Within the framework of joint discussions, regular dialogue takes place with the Federation, particularly the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) and the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt).
According to a “Position paper of the Standing Conference on policies in the fields of education, science and culture with regard to projects of the European Union” (Positionspapier der Kultusministerkonferenz zur Bildungs-, Wissenschafts- und Kulturpolitik im Hinblick auf Vorhaben der Europäischen Union) of December 2007, the formation of opinion within the Standing Conference is geared to the following framework conditions:
- Quality assurance and quality development in the areas of school and higher education
- Furthering and securing mobility in teaching and learning
- Maintenance and promotion of cultural diversity in Germany
- Representation of Länder interests in national and international context
In its agreement, the Standing Conference expresses support for European cooperation in education, science and culture affairs in a Europe that safeguards its cultural wealth and the diversity of educational systems in line with the respective traditions of the Member States. Furthermore, it emphasises the significance of policies in the fields of education, science and culture as core elements of the sovereignty of the Länder, as well as the autonomy of cooperation in this area which cannot be subordinated to economic, social or employment policies.
Guidelines of foreign cultural and educational policy
The Federal Government regards foreign cultural and educational policy as the “third pillar” of German foreign policy alongside political and economic relationships. It is part of the peace policy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its aim is to create mutual understanding through international exchange of culture and education, to promote Germany and to enable international participation in social progress in culture, education and science.Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education