Germany celebrates democracy

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Germany’s Basic Law at 75 Germany celebrates democracy

Our Basic Law has an impressive track record of seventy-five years of freedom, peace and democracy in Germany. To mark this anniversary, citizens gathered for a celebration of democracy in Berlin, and many of them spoke to the Federal Chancellor and the ministers.

Federal Chancellor Scholz during the Citizens’ Dialogue as part of the celebration of democracy.

Federal Chancellor Scholz during the Citizens’ Dialogue as part of the celebration of democracy: “We need optimism and cohesion, rather than division.”

Photo: Federal Government/Güngör

The Basic Law came into effect exactly 75 years ago. To mark this special anniversary, citizens gathered between the Reichstag, Chancellery and the river Spree for a three-day celebration of democracy. Many of those attending the event spoke to Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday morning.

What role does the Basic Law play in our country? This was the first question Scholz answered at the Citizens’ Dialogue. “The Basic Law was adopted just after the end of the Second World War,” Federal Chancellor Scholz said, adding that it was truly remarkable that an utterly destroyed Germany was able to establish a democracy, and that this democracy has been functioning for 75 years now, including close to 35 years in a re-united Germany.

Participants of the Citizens’ Dialogue were able to ask any questions they were interested in. Topics addressed included Europe, climate change, foreign policy and participation. A young woman spoke about her work for the youth group of the Agency for Technical Relief. “Thank you very much for your commitment,” the Federal Chancellor said. “This is the most important point: democracy is all about getting involved,” he pointed out, adding that he was glad there were so many dedicated people out there.

Germany celebrates democracy

Across a number of stages and pavilions, the Office of the Federal President, the federal ministries, all 16 federal states, the Bundestag, the Bundesrat, the Federal Constitutional Court, various federal agencies and a large number of civil society organisations offered a variety of games and activities for children and adults during the three-day event. 

Live music, acting and dancing: the festival was concluded with a final festive event on Sunday night, in which democracy was presented as a living process and a dialogue that allows for a strong society and enables us to grow together. Die Fantastischen Vier, Lena Meyer-Landrut, Sebastian Krumbiegel, Vanessa Mai and Zoe Wee were among those performing at the closing event. The two-hour programme ended with a fireworks displays accompanied by music played by DJ Alle Farben.

French President among the guests

German, French and European flags flew around the dialogue forum stage on Sunday afternoon. In summer-like weather, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and French President Emmanuel Macron conducted a dialogue. Macron’s current state visit to Berlin is the first one by a French President in 24 years. 

“We want to celebrate democracy together. The fact that the Macrons are here is also a sign of our German-French friendship,” said Steinmeier, referring to the celebration of democracy which both of them attended after the dialogue. “People keep saying that the German-French friendship is wavering, but this is not true, we keep making progress,” Macron stated.

“Our traditions and our history are different, but we have still found a way to come together,” the German President stressed. “Democracy is the best and most important tool for finding compromises with support from the people,” said Macron, adding that this meant it was essential to vote in the European elections on 9 June. 

Conversations with the leaders of the constitutional bodies

On the dialogue forum stage between the Chancellery and Paul-Löbe-Haus, visitors had the opportunity to engage in discussions with the leaders of the constitutional bodies, such as the President of the Bundestag Bärbel Bas, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Bundesrat President Manuela Schwesig, President of the Federal Constitutional Court Stephan Harbarth, and Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck.

In the tepee at the Chancellery, federal ministers discussed key issues of our times with guests from the areas of culture, academia and society, as well as with visitors. Further stages and activity areas were available for dialogue and cultural formats, as well as a wide range of activities for children. Talks, performances for the whole family and plenty of music were presented on the  360-degree stage.

The constitutional bodies also invited citizens to learn about their work. The Chancellery and the Bundestag were open for tours. “How much do you know about our constitution?” – in the Federal Constitutional Court’s pavilion, visitors could take part in a quiz about the festival of democracy and listen to talks given by judges. In the Federal President’s office visitors learned about the legislative process and had the opportunity to sit at the Federal President’s desk for a photo.

The federal ministries each had their own stands. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture provided information about food production and animal welfare, while the Federal Foreign Office had set up a desk for issuing diplomatic passports. The Federal Police Force invited people to sit inside a police car, and representatives of the Federal Armed Forces explained self-defence without weapons. In addition to informative conversation, many of the stands also offered hands-on activities, such as table football, handicrafts, goal shooting and puzzle games.

In the two activity areas in Spreebogenpark, visitors were able to enjoy presentations by various civil society organisations and a colourful programme of activities. Democracy and the Basic Law were explored in discussion events and workshops with the participation of various stakeholders, including Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, Federal Minister for Family Affairs Lisa Paus, Minister of State Anna Lührmann, the German Trade Union Confederation, representatives of religious communities, and the Federal Centre for Political Education. 

In an activity area dedicated to sports a diverse programme of activities was offered by UEFA EURO 2024 and the German Olympic Sports Confederation. Guests could view the European Football Championship trophy and meet the tournament mascot Albärt.

The anniversary of the Basic Law was also celebrated in the federal city of Bonn. “The Basic Law at 75. Democracy made in Bonn“ was the motto of a festival for citizens that took place on Saturday.

The Basic Law is Germany’s constitution

Germany’s Basic Law was presented to the public for the first time in 1949. Seventy-five years on, Article 1 has lost none of its validity and impact: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” Articles 1 to 19 focus on various fundamental rights, guaranteeing such rights as the freedom of expression and the media, the freedom of conscience and equality. Article 20 sets out the principles for the structure of the state. It begins with the words “The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state.”

The 146 articles of the Basic Law also include general regulations on Federal and Länder governments and the powers of the various constitutional bodies such as the Federal Government and the Bundestag.

Defending freedom and democracy

In a ceremony on 1 September 2023 to mark 75 years of the Parliamentary Council, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that “time and again we have striven to achieve freedom and democracy. What happened here actually made that a reality. That’s why it’s important that we should understand that the best democracy we’ve ever had in Germany is also one which we must defend.” He also expressed his gratitude for the words of the former Federal President Joachim Gauck. Gauck, Scholz said, had made it clear that democracy didn’t just live on the great articles of the constitution, but that we as citizens should uphold, protect and defend it against those seeking to undermine it from within.

“That’s why it’s so very important now that those who feel a sense of duty towards democracy and set their faces against populism should actively play their part in defending freedom and democracy,” the Federal Chancellor said.