Lea Bosch, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
In some of the German Länder, there are even third-tier (first-tier: municipality, second-tier: counties) local governments, e.g. districts (Bezirke). This is for example the case in Bavaria. These units vary depending on in which Land and thus under which laws they have been created and they have only few things in common. They ‘are created as public corporations formed by their member cities to fulfil local public tasks; (…) and they are nowadays mostly charged with responsibilities of a social and cultural nature, such as youth and disabled welfare or museum maintenance’. Hereinafter the focus lies within the Bavarian districts.
These districts are an amalgamation of several counties and independent municipalities (kreisfreie Städte) and thus self-governing bodies. The District Code (Bezirksordnung für den Freistaat Bayern) regulates further details. They assume special tasks on the part of the local level, which the individual administrative units could independently or on their own not perform. These tasks extend beyond the competence and capacity of the independent towns and administrative districts. Therefore, the district provides comprehensive and joint task management for rural local government (RLG) and urban local government (ULG) and thus improves the cooperation between the different entities. The tasks include in particular the creation of social, economic and cultural institutions (e.g. the districts are responsible for psychiatric and neurological hospitals, special clinics, specialist and special schools and open-air museums). They are also supra-local providers of social assistance. There is a district council, which organically steers the district and is elected by the people.
Districts (Bezirke) are not to be confused with administrative districts (Regierungsbezirke) – although both are geographically identical and constitutionally linked. The Bavarian State Government, responsible for the entire Freistaat of Bavaria, sets up a government in the seven sub-areas (ie, administrative district) in order to be able to better implement policies of the Land (state central authorities).
There are currently seven districts and seven administrative districts in Bavaria. On the part of the Bavarian State Government, there are efforts to create another, eighth administrative district: Munich. Firstly, many jobs can be transferred from the Munich conurbation to rural areas (the cost of living there is much lower for civil servants and the rapidly growing city is relieved in terms of housing demand and infrastructure). Secondly, it could lead to improved cooperation between the Land government and urban local government (ULG). Thirdly, the metropolitan character is to be strengthened so that competencies are enhanced and Munich is upgraded. With this structural policy of reconstitution and relocation of authorities, the Bavarian Government is trying to counteract unequal developments in the federal state. In this way, urban regions could be relieved and rural ones promoted.
The creation of a new administrative district would probably also have to lead to the establishment of a new district according to Article 10 of the Bavarian Constitution. Especially here, factual and legal questions arise: Should the district comprise the City of Munich or the County of Munich (Landkreis München) or even further counties? Here, special attention has to be paid to how the relationship between the ULGs of the City of Munich or rural local governments (RLGs) of the counties and a possibly separate new District of Munich should function. It arises the question whether a close collaboration of municipalities (different local governments (LGs)) in a metropolitan region is aspired or a very strong ULG.
The advantage of considering only the City of Munich to form the new district would be that the corresponding administrative structures already exist – the city council could, theoretically, also take over the tasks of the district council. Thus, no new administrative structures would have to be created. This is however not mandated, so there is also the possibility that a parallel structure could be established, although this would duplicate administrative units and institutions. The City of Munich currently pays EUR 500 million as a district levy – it is not yet certain how financing issues will then be resolved.
Legal issues that can be assessed very differently may emerge due to the Bavarian Constitution: Firstly, the question arises, if the Bavarian Constitution (BC) would have to be amended. Because of Article 185 BC, that says the administrative districts have the same division as before 1933, it is disputed, whether Munich can be a separate administrative district or will have to stay part of Upper Bavaria. Such constitutional change in the Freistaat would only work through a referendum of all citizens, second sentence of Article 75(2) BC. Secondly, according to the third sentence of Article 8(2) District Code, the citizens of Munich may also have to be asked whether they would like to change their district affiliation. Thirdly, there is the question of whether the city council can simply become a district council as well; otherwise a separate district council would have to exist alongside the city council.
The main criticism of these projects is that they would not improve the current problems with which the City of Munich as an ULG is struggling. The order of competences remains unchanged and the reasons why traffic, mobility and housing are among the greatest challenges of ULGs, and the reasons why projects take a long time and cost issues are difficult, would remain the same. Especially when concentrating the district on the city area, an exclusion of the neighboring municipalities may occur – even though city and neighboring municipalities share the same problems in infrastructural and housing topics. Thus, a high political interest is, to strengthen the cooperation between ULGs and neighboring RLGs in financial regards of these projects, which will not be improved by creating the district of the City of Munich. Political reservations against such institutions originate from those institutions that may lose influence – it is a classic form of ‘interorganizational jealousies’. A further problem is that ‘the concern has been raised that the establishment of such “mixed administration” leads to problems of legitimacy, transparency, and above all, accountability. Another point made is the danger of weakening the power of the local authorities, as well as local civil-society projects. However, the competences of these regional entities are still few, and their legal status remains mostly unclear. Legally, as well as politically, large cities and counties, therefore, continue to play the predominant role within those regional areas’.
Other regions of Germany have made very different and individual decisions in similar cases, and thus put new concepts to the test. It lays within the competence of the Länder, hence, quite diverse and heterogeneous forms occur. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the regional administrations (Regierungspräsidien) have been reformed ‘where new service centres organised according to functions have replaced the traditional administration organised on a territorial basis. Similar structural changes can be observed in Saxony-Anhalt (…)’. However, specific metropolitan policy reforms have also taken place. For example in Baden-Württemberg, the state capital Stuttgart and neighboring counties have merged to the so called ‘Region Stuttgart’, obviously without relinquishment of sovereignty. The Landtag of Baden-Württemberg passed the legislation for this merging in 1994. It is an association with a wide catalogue of tasks and has therefore an own local parliament. This parliament aims to increasing decision-making between the City of Stuttgart and the neighboring counties. Another comparable example is the Region Hanover. The regions of Stuttgart and Hanover have in common, that ‘new administrative entities have been established to cope more effectively with specific problems arising from the relationship between large cities and their surrounding areas’. A third example is the Regionalverband Ruhr, which is the largest conurbation of Germany including Duisburg, Essen, Bochum, and Dortmund. It is part of the even greater metropolitan Rhine-Rhur region (additionally including Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Bonn).
All these new concepts could ‘represent an “institutional nucleus” for an unconventional model of regional administration for a metropolitan region. (…) [And thus] represent a model of how to create a strong shared public governmental institution and might give impetus to the further creation of such shared public service agencies with possibly broader competences’. The political decision if Munich will be an independent district and how is still pending. By choosing the city region as a district region, local intergovernmental relations to neighboring municipalities are being ignored. The comparisons made here suggest that the concepts of ‘Regions’ seem more sustainable at least for the cooperation of ULG and RLG.
Benz A and Meineck A, ‘Sub-National Government and Regional Governance in Germany’ in Vincent Hoffmann-Martinot and Hellmut Wollmann (eds), State and Local Government Reforms in France and Germany (Springer VS 2006)
Burgi M, ‘Federal Republic of Germany’ in Nico Steytler (ed), Local Government and Metropolitan Regions in Federal Systems (McGill-Queen’s University Press 2009)
Stroh K, ‘Was an Söders Reformidee schwierig ist‘ (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23 January 2020) <https://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/bayern-muenchen-regierungsbezirk-probleme-1.4767073>
Wittl W, ‘Söder will München zum achten Regierungsbezirk in Bayern machen‘ (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15 January 2020) <https://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/bayern-behoerderverlagerung-soeder-regierungsbezirke-1.4757610>
 Further examples of this third-tier structure in Germany: Rhineland-Palatinate (Bezirksverband Pfalz) or the ‘Region Stuttgart’ in Baden-Württemberg, in a broader sense (Höherer Kommunalverband, i.e., higher level associations of municipalities) also in Lower Saxony and in North Rhine-Westphalia as well as in Hesse and Saxony.
 Martin Burgi, ‘Federal Republic of Germany’ in Nico Steytler (ed), Local Government and Metropolitan Regions in Federal Systems (McGill-Queen’s University Press 2009) 140-142.
 Wolfgang Wittl, ‘Söder will München zum achten Regierungsbezirk in Bayern machen‘ (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15 January 2020) <https://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/bayern-behoerderverlagerung-soeder-regierungsbezirke-1.4757610> accessed 5 March 2020.
 Kassian Stroh, ‘Was an Söders Reformidee schwierig ist‘ (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23 January 2020) <https://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/bayern-muenchen-regierungsbezirk-probleme-1.4767073> accessed 5 March 2020.
 See also Martin Burgi in ‘Viele Fragezeichen zur Trennung von München und Oberbayern‘ (BR24, 16 January 2020) <https://www.br.de/nachrichten/bayern/viele-fragezeichen-zur-trennung-von-muenchen-und-oberbayern,RnlDXRp?UTM_Name=Web-Share&UTM_Source=E-Mail&UTM_Medium=Link> accessed 15 April 2020.
 Burgi, ‘Federal Republic of Germany’ 140-142.
 Arthur Benz and Anna Meineck, ‘Sub-National Government and Regional Governance in Germany’ in Vincent Hoffmann-Martinot and Hellmut Wollmann (eds), State and Local Government Reforms in France and Germany (Springer VS 2006) 65.
 ibid 69.
 See more, ‘179 Kommunen, ein starker Standort’ (Region Stuttgart) <https://www.region-stuttgart.de/die-region-stuttgart.html> accessed 28 February 2020.
 See more, ‘Die Region Hannover stellt sich vor’ (HANNOVER.DE) < https://www.hannover.de/Leben-in-der-Region-Hannover/Verwaltungen-Kommunen/Die-Verwaltung-der-Region-Hannover/Stellt-sich-vor> accessed 28 February 2020.
 Burgi, ‘Federal Republic of Germany’, above, 140-142.
 See more, ‘Verbandsleitung und Organisation’ (Regionalverband Ruhr) <https://www.rvr.ruhr/politik-regionalverband/ueber-uns/start-organisation/> accessed 28 February 2020.
 Burgi, ‘Federal Republic of Germany’, above, 160, endnote 18.
 ibid 140-142.