From June 11 to 17, 2019, the Sino-German Legal Cooperation Programme of GIZ organized and accompanied a fact-finding trip to Germany and Great Britain for six civil servants of the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) of the National People’s Congress. Led by Wu Zeng, Deputy Director of LAC (vice-minister level), the delegation visited institutions in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Berlin and London, and attended expert discussions on the law of local self-governance and constitutional review. The background to the trip is the widening development gap between the various Chinese provinces and the limited leeway for customized legislation at the province level due to numerous regulations and requirements of the central government.
In Frankfurt the delegation attended meetings with Prof. Volkmann of the Johan-Wolfgang von Goethe Universität Frankfurt and with Prof. Schwarz of the University of Würzburg. While Prof. Volkmann explained the relationship between the federal administration and the individual states, Prof. Schwarz gave an introduction to the system of local self-governance according to the German Basic Law and answered the questions on this that the delegation had forwarded in advance.
At the visit to the Hesse Ministry of the Interior and for Sport in Wiesbaden, the delegation met Matthias Graf, the Head of the Local Government Department and Thorsten Hardt, Head of the Department for Local Finances, Budget and the Economy, together with Dr Matthias Stork, a member of staff of the department. Referring to the situation in Hesse, the speakers explained how local constitutional law guarantees the self-administration of the municipalities, which duties and functions are performed by the local supervisory authority and how the financing of the municipalities is organized. At a subsequent meeting with the mayor of the city of Taunusstein, Mr Sandro Zehner, the delegation learned about the responsibilities and the organization of the city administration of a small municipality.
One of the highlights of the trip was a meeting with Prof. Hans-Jürgen Papier, former President of the Federal Constitutional Court. The delegation had a detailed discussion with Prof. Papier on the topic of constitutional review through the Federal Constitutional Court, after which they still had time to visit the Town Hall of the city of Frankfurt and to meet with city councilwoman Dr. Eskandari-Grünberg. Supplementing the presentation, the group was able to learn about municipal administration in a large German city as well as about the responsibilities of the municipal administration and the city council.
The German leg of the trip concluded with two appointments in Berlin. First of all, from their talk with Uwe Lübking – alderman for job market policy, education and the modernization of administration in the German Association of Cities and Boroughs – the delegates gained an overview of the responsibilities of a municipal umbrella organization. Following this, at a visit to the judicial review council at the Federal Chancellery, they became acquainted with the responsibilities and operating methods of the Judicial Review Council in a discussion with Dr. Bertil Sander.
In London, the delegation first paid a visit to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Following this, they took part in a roundtable discussion with experts from various authorities in order to share information on the subject of constitutional review and local self-administration in the United Kingdom. The meeting was held at the Great Britain-China Centre, which also co-organized the event. Among the participants of the discussion were: Graeme Cowie (House of Commons Library), Alison Evans (Scotland Office), Douglas Hall and Matthew Jolley (Law Commission), Murray Hunt (Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law), Ewan Smith (University of Oxford), Mark Binnington (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) as well as Kathryn Rand and Josh Toohey (Great Britain-China Centre).
The delegation further met with Mr. Bob Neill, Member of Parliament, for an exchange on the recent legislation regarding local self-governance. The delegates concluded their trip by discussing with Mr. Tom Middleton of the Greater London Authority the administrative structures of the city of London.