Constitutional Principles Act (1990)

After Die Wende, or the peaceful revolution which overthrew East Germany’s communist government in late 1989, the first and only free elections in the country’s history were held in March 1990. The victors were the Alliance for Germany, a coalition of parties led by Lothar de Maizière who ran on a platform of reunifying as quickly as possible with the West.

The country’s newly elected parliament faced a huge number of challenges. For decades the legal institutions in East Germany had been nothing more than rubber-stamps which approved without question every law proposed by the communists. Now, the German people’s elected representatives had to work to democratize the state in preparation for eventual re-unification with the West.

In June 1990, only a few short months before re-unification, the newly democratic East German parliament enacted a constitutional amendment to purge the country’s national charter of its communist character. The “amendment” in fact served to abrogate almost the entire East German constitution. The negative consequences of this were minimal, however. Over the next several months East Germany adopted West Germany’s laws and currency, and the two nations finally joined together again in October 1990.

Law Amending and Supplementing the Constitution of the German Democratic Republic

In recognition of the fact that a peaceful and democratic revolution took place in the German Democratic Republic in the autumn of 1989, and in anticipation of the early establishment of the state unity of Germany, the following constitutional principles are added to the Constitution of the German Democratic Republic for a transitional period. Contradictory constitutional principles shall no longer have legal validity.

Article 1: Basic order of freedom.

The German Democratic Republic is a liberal, democratic, federal, social and ecologically oriented constitutional state. With regard to the federal order, this shall apply in accordance with a special supplement to the Constitution and statutory provisions yet to be enacted. The State shall guarantee local self-government.

Provisions of the Constitution and other legal regulations shall be applied in accordance with this Constitutional Law. Provisions in legal regulations which commit the individual or organs of State authority to the socialist system of State and law, to the principle of democratic centralism, to socialist legality, to socialist legal consciousness, or to the views of individual groups of the population or parties shall be repealed.

The competent court may be called upon to review the constitutionality of laws and other legal acts. Further details shall be regulated by a law.

Article 2: Property.

Private property, including the acquisition of property and property-like rights in land and means of production, shall be guaranteed. This shall not affect the legal authorization of special forms of ownership for the participation of the public sector or other legal entities in economic transactions, nor shall it affect the review of existing ownership relationships in accordance with the rule of law. Its use shall at the same time serve the public welfare and the protection of the natural resources.

Article 3: Economic freedom of action.

Every natural and legal person shall have the right, within the limits of the law, to conclude contracts with others and, in particular, to engage in economic activity.

Foreign trade, including foreign trade and currency, may be regulated by law, but may not be monopolized by the State or otherwise.

Article 4: Collective bargaining parties.

Everyone shall have the right to form, join, withdraw from and stay away from associations for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting, in particular, the regulation of working and economic conditions.

Trade unions and employers' associations which are entitled to collective bargaining must be freely formed, organized on a supra-company basis and independent, and must recognize the right to industrial action and the applicable collective bargaining law as binding.

Article 5: Independent jurisdiction.

If a person’s rights are violated by public authority, legal recourse shall be open to him.

Judges shall be independent and subject only to the Constitution in accordance with this Constitutional Law and the law. In this respect, they shall not be subject to supervision by state or social organs. Direction of the jurisdiction of lower courts by higher courts shall not be permitted.

Article 6: Protection of the environment.

The protection of the natural environment shall be the duty of the State and of all citizens. It shall be guaranteed by laws.

Article 7: Protection of labor.

Labor shall be protected by the State. The State shall promote the right of individuals to lead a life of dignity in social justice and economic freedom through work, and shall create the necessary conditions for this purpose.

Article 8: Sovereign rights.

The German Democratic Republic may, by constitutional law, transfer sovereign rights to intergovernmental bodies and institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany or consent to the limitation of sovereign rights.

Article 9: Restatement.

Article 106 of the GDR Constitution shall be worded as follows:

“Article 106. The Constitution may be amended only by the People’s Chamber of the German Democratic Republic by means of a law expressly designated as a constitutional law. State treaties of the German Democratic Republic and other international treaties, insofar as constitutional subjects are affected by them, shall be confirmed by a law expressly designated as a constitutional law, which shall require the approval of two-thirds of the members of the People’s Chamber.”

Article 10 Final provision.

This Constitutional Law shall enter into force on June 17, 1990, and shall remain in force until the entry into force of a Basic Law.

The foregoing law, adopted by the People’s Chamber of the German Democratic Republic on the seventeenth day of June, nineteen hundred and ninety, is hereby promulgated.

Berlin, the seventeenth of June nineteen hundred and ninety

The President of the People’s Chamber of the German Democratic Republic