represent the lowest level in the three-tiered administrative structure. The Federation and the Länder allocate tasks and the corresponding funding to the municipalities. In addition, within the framework of self-administration, they take on board their own and voluntary activities, at their own discretion and within their financial means.
Municipalities' Own Activities
Municipalities' own activities are the original activities of each municipality; they are part of the municipalities' "own circle of responsibility". These may be voluntary or they may be prescribed by the State as obligatory. In such cases, the State does not interfere in the implementation of such activities nor does it issue instructions.
However, the municipalities must also fulfil many tasks which have been allocated to them by the State and these form part of the "circle of allocated responsibilities". The State makes use of official municipal organisations and supervises the implementation of allocated responsibilities by means of instructions, so that these can be carried out uniformly throughout the country.
Voluntary activities are fulfilled by the municipality at their own discretion and within their financial means. The municipality decides, for example, whether to build a new swimming pool, buy new buses, set up a local history museum, as well as deciding which subsidies to give town theatres and local associations.
- Obligatory activities which are not directed from above are, for example, waste disposal, provision of electricity, gas and water, and the construction of schools and nurseries. The municipality is free to decide how it deals with such matters. These activities are increasingly being outsourced to private businesses.
- Obligatory activities which are directed from above must be carried out by the municipalities in accordance with state regulations; these include, for instance, the payment of social benefits and rent subsidies, maintenance of a fire service, rescue and disaster protection services and the organising of municipal elections.
Activities Commissioned by the State
Activities commissioned by the State are carried out by the municipal administration in its area, as the lowest official body in the state hierarchy. Such activities are, for example, organising a census of the population, the registration of persons liable for military service and the organisation of parliamentary and regional elections.
In the federal system of the Federal Republic of Germany, the municipalities represent the lowest level in the three-tiered governmental system, below the Federation (Bund) and the Länder. As part of their self-administration, they have their own responsibilities and deal with their own finances. In the system of state law, however, they are on the same level as the Länder. The Länder parliaments determine the constitutions and the borders of the municipalities. The Federation and the Länder commission the municipalities with certain activities and decide what financial means they are entitled to. The Länder Governments (Landesregierungen) supervise the local administrations. The local authorities do not have representations with far-reaching constitutional legal rights of participation, and so cannot be compared to those of the Länder in the Bundesrat.