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State Organisation in France and Germany between Territoriality and Functionality

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Опубликовано на портале: 31-12-2010
In the article the attempt is made to identify and to ‘compare’ some of the basic principles on which the intergovernmental and interorganisational setting of France and Germany has been traditionally built as well their recent development. A promising approach for such a discussion is seen in drawing on the ‘territory’/’territoriality’ and ‘function’/’functionality’ as underlying basic organisational principles and premises. In the constitutional and institutional design of the intergovernmental setting and arrangement of a country the concept of ‘territoriality’ focuses on the establishment, in the intergovernmental space, of territorially defined (horizontal) arenas to which a plurality of functions may be assigned and, inasmuch as these arenas are established as self-standing political and administrative entities, the actors may be put in charge of carrying out that plurality of functions. By  ontrast, the concept of ‘functionality’ focuses on single and specific tasks which are carried out in the intergovernmental setting by a single actor/institution or a vertical chain of actors/institutions. A key question is to what extent ‘territory’ and ‘function’ are still guiding principles, separately and combined, how these principles are operationalised, and what the main tendencies are within and between France and Germany. On the one hand, notwithstanding their different ‘starting conditions’ and their different constitutional and institutional contexts, France’s and Germany’s politico-administrative systems show a striking commonality and, in this sense, ‘convergence’ . This becomes visible particularly in that the (multi-functional)  territoriality’ principle has been strengthened and the (single-purpose) functionality principle has been concomitantly attenuated, particularly in order to ‘simplify’ the actor systems and to improve the ‘co-ordination’ capacity. On the other hand, however, the politico-administrative worlds of the two countries continue to exhibit conspicuous differences and (persisting) ‘divergence’ not least with regard to the question how strongly the ‘single purpose’or ‘limited purpose’ functionality remains in place. Firstly, France, it is true, has, through the 1999 Loi Chevènement, undertaken an important step to ‘simplify’ and ‘structure’ the institutionally mushrooming inter-municipal bodies (‘ intercommunalité’) by introducing essentially three types of intercommunal formations that are meant to serve as crucial territorial arenas. However, this process still stands at its beginning. Secondly, whereas  France has, in two rounds – following 1982 and 2003 – embarked upon, no doubt, secular measures to decentralise the previously highly centralised (‘Napoleonic’) State, thus transferring significant responsibilities particularly to the départementsas local government level (collectivité territoriale/locale), the traditional ‘dualism’ (‘dualisme’) has been essentially retained according to which central government and its sectoral ministries, continue to be organisationally and personnel-wise ‘present” at the regional and local levels through their vertically and hierarchically  organised sectoral (that means essentially ‘single-function’) administrative units. Hence, the decentralisation policy, has been accompanied (and marred) by the continuation of basically ‘single-function’ vertical administrative chains (‘silos’), all but epitomising the ‘functionality’ principle. This stands in glaring contrast with Germany’s State organisation where the central (that is federal) government is constitutionally forbidden to have field offices of its own on the regional and local levels, while the Länderhave restricted establishing and maintaining ‘single-purpose’ administrative units to a limited number of fields – with some of the Länderhaving begun to dissolve the relatively few hitherto existing ‘single-purpose’ field office of their own.
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