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The Saarland

Saarland in Europe

Commitment to Germany and Europe

The Treaty of Versailles: Separation from the German Reich
The Treaty of Versailles first created Saarland as an administrative unit on 10 January 1920: The industrial region alongside Saar and Blies was subjected by statute to the rule of the League of Nations. While economically Saarland was dominated by France as one of the victorious powers of World War I, politically, it was ruled by 5 members of a League of Nations governing commission.

A constitution under French influence
The first democratic constitution of Saarland was developed under French occupation after World War II. This constitution, dated December 17, 1947, established Saarland’s economic incorporation into France and separation from Germany while granting it limited political autonomy. On November 6, 1957, the constitution was passed with the great majority of votes of the newly elected Saarland parliament. However, only parties with French orientation were admitted to the election. All the same, a radical change in Saarland politics occurred when the "European Statute" was rejected by referendum and the thus necessary new elections brought a significant majority for parties oriented towards Germany.

1957: Adjustment to the German constitution
In the following, the constitution of Saarland was aligned to the provisions of the German constitution, so that Saarland could join the Federal Republic of Germany on January 1, 1957, thereby becoming its tenth Federal State. In its elementary Article 60 of the latest 1993 version, the constitution stipulates that "Saarland is a free democracy and a constitutional state within the Federal Republic of Germany" and that Saarland advocates "the contribution of independent regions to European decision-making".

Saarland’s public administration without regional councils
According to Saarland’s constitution, the ministries, who are the highest administrative agencies, form the heads of administration. Being the smallest country state (as opposed to the German city states), Saarland has no regional councils. On the administrative level of country districts, the district authority is entrusted with the functions of a lower administrative agency. On the local level, the mayors administer government tasks. In addition, special administrative needs are taken care of by specific administrative agencies of Saarland (e.g. Saarland Agency for Youth Welfare). Modernizing the state’s administration is on the top of the list of issues that Saarland’s government wants to tackle. About 2,300 (or 60 percent) of administrative rules and regulations have been abolished since 1999.

Municipal self-administration
Municipal self-administration is in the hands of the country-districts and municipalities. Since the land reform of 1974, Saarland is composed of five country-districts, the city-district of Saarbrücken, as well as 52 municipalities. While both countrydistricts and city-district have a district parliament and the head of district authority as organs, town councils, who then elect a mayor, represent municipalities. The town councils are elected for a period of five years, while the term of office for heads of district authorities and mayors, who both have to be elected with absolute majority, ends after eight years. Both town councils and the district parliaments have decision-making and supervising powers, whereas the mayors and heads of district authorities are in charge of executive functions. With the 1974 land reform, more than 400 formerly independent municipalities were turned into boroughs, which are represented by elected borough councils. In the capital Saarbrücken, those councils are called district councils.