Germany is a federal republic consisting of sixteen federal states ((ドイツ語:Bundesland), or ドイツ語:''Land''). Since today's Germany was formed from an earlier collection of several states, it has a federal constitution, and the constituent states retain a measure of sovereignty.
With an emphasis on geographical conditions, Berlin and Hamburg are frequently called ドイツ語:''Stadtstaaten'' (city-states), as is the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, which in fact includes the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven. The remaining 13 states are called ドイツ語:''Flächenländer'' (literally: area states).
The creation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 was through the unification of the western states (which were previously under American, British, and French administration) created in the aftermath of World War II. Initially, in 1949, the states of the Federal Republic were Baden, Bavaria (in German: Bayern), Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse (Hessen), Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), North Rhine Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), Schleswig-Holstein, Württemberg-Baden, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern. West Berlin, while officially not part of the Federal Republic, was largely integrated and considered as a ''de facto'' state.
In 1952, following a referendum, Baden, Württemberg-Baden, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern merged into Baden-Württemberg. In 1957, the Saar Protectorate rejoined the Federal Republic as the Saarland. German reunification in 1990, in which the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) ascended into the Federal Republic, resulted in the addition of the re-established eastern states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (in German Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), Saxony (Sachsen), Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt), and Thuringia (Thüringen), as well as the reunification of West and East Berlin into Berlin and its establishment as a full and equal state. A regional referendum in 1996 to merge Berlin with surrounding Brandenburg as "Berlin-Brandenburg" failed to reach the necessary majority vote in Brandenburg, while a majority of Berliners voted in favour of the merger.
Federalism is one of the entrenched constitutional principles of Germany. According to the German constitution (called ''Grundgesetz'' or in English ''Basic Law''), some topics, such as foreign affairs and defense, are the exclusive responsibility of the federation (i.e. the federal level), while others fall under the shared authority of the states and the federation; the states retain residual legislative authority for all other areas, including "culture", which in Germany includes not only topics such as financial promotion of arts and sciences, but also most forms of education and job training. Though international relations including international treaties are primarily the responsibility of the federal level, the constituent states have certain limited powers in this area: in matters that affect them directly, the states defend their interests at the federal level through the ''Bundesrat'' (literally ''Federal Council'', the upper house of the German Federal Parliament) and in areas where they have legislative authority they have limited powers to conclude international treaties "with the consent of the federal government".
After 1945, new states were constituted in all four zones of occupation. In 1949, the states in the three western zones formed the Federal Republic of Germany. This is in contrast to the post-war development in Austria, where the ''Bund'' (federation) was constituted first, and then the individual states were created as units of a federal state.
The use of the term ''Länder'' (''Lands'') dates back to the Weimar Constitution of 1919. Before this time, the constituent states of the German Empire were called ''Staaten'' (''States''). Today, it is very common to use the term ''Bundesland'' (''Federal Land''). However, this term is not used officially, neither by the constitution of 1919 nor by the Basic Law (Constitution) of 1949. Three ''Länder'' call themselves ''Freistaaten'' (''Free States'', which is the old-fashioned German expression for ''Republic''), Bavaria (since 1919), Saxony (originally since 1919 and again since 1990), and Thuringia (since 1994). There is little continuity between the current states and their predecessors of the Weimar Republic with the exception of the three free states, and the two city-states of Hamburg and Bremen.
A new delimitation of the federal territory keeps being debated in Germany, though "Some scholars note that there are significant differences among the American states and regional governments in other federations without serious calls for territorial changes ...", as political scientist Arthur B. Gunlicks remarks.〔(Gunlicks, Arthur B.: ''German Federalism and Recent Reform Efforts'', in: German Law Journal Vol. 06 No. 10, p. 1287 )〕 He summarizes the main arguments for boundary reform in Germany: "... the German system of dual federalism requires strong ''Länder'' that have the administrative and fiscal capacity to implement legislation and pay for it from own source revenues. Too many ''Länder'' also make coordination among them and with the federation more complicated, ...".〔(Gunlicks, Arthur B.: ''German Federalism and Recent Reform Efforts'', in: German Law Journal Vol. 06 No. 10, p. 1288 )〕 But several proposals have failed so far; territorial reform remains a controversial topic in German politics and public perception.〔(Gunlicks, Arthur B.: ''German Federalism and Recent Reform Efforts'', in: German Law Journal Vol. 06 No. 10, pp. 1287–88 )〕
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