On 3 September 2017, a two-week training course in German administrative law, organised by the Sino-German Legal Cooperation Programme, began in Berlin for 15 delegates from the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. The delegation was led by Deputy Division Director Mr Tian Xin. The training course was hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV). The program focused on administrative procedure and inter-agency cooperation and on the judicial, parliamentary and internal scrutiny of administrative decisions.
In the morning of 4 September 2017, the delegation was welcomed by Dr Lindner, Deputy Director of International Legal Cooperation, at the BMJV. Dr Schaefer and Mr Mavridis from the relevant sections then provided an introduction to basic aspects of German administrative law and the law of administrative procedure. For the Chinese participants, issues relating to the taking of evidence by administrative bodies and to consultation of the parties were of particular interest. The knowledge gained during this session was then deepened at a session on the administration’s decision-making scope and its legal limits with Professor Martin Eifert, Chair of Public Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Berlin’s Humboldt University, and his colleague Mr Gerberding.
At the German Institute for Construction Engineering (DIBt), the delegation met with the Vice President Dr Karsten Kathage and two Heads of Section, Ms Kerstin Abend and Ms Manuela Bernholz. Here, the discussion provided the delegates with insights into information-sharing between the various specialised authorities at national and European level, with particular reference to market surveillance. The establishment of a Europe-wide Rapid Alert System for Dangerous Non-Food Products (RAPEX) met with great interest from the delegates, as did the Institute’s testing and sanction procedures for hazardous substances.
The delegates also visited the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, where Mr Bünzow, Head of the Digital Administration Project Group, and Mr Haselbeck gave presentations on the latest Open Governance and Digital Administration projects. As digitalisation is also a highly relevant topic for China, which has carried out comprehensive modernisation programmes very rapidly in recent years, the delegates were particularly keen to find out why the introduction of a digital administration is a far more complex and protracted task in a much smaller country like Germany than in China.
After a guided tour through the historic Criminal Court building, the delegates listened to presentations from public prosecutors from various departments of Berlin’s Public Prosecution Service on information-sharing between the administrative and prosecution authorities. The visitors made use of the congenial atmosphere to discuss the types of cases in which social security and tax data may be requested, for example. Other subjects of interest included the transmission of information in criminal proceedings (MiStra) and – a very topical issue – the exchange of data on asylum-seekers for the purpose of crime prevention and anti-terrorism.
This was followed, over the course of the week, by other technical meetings on the law and practice of administrative enforcement with Professor Ramsauer and Mr Meinert from Berlin’s Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, on the privatisation of the administration with Professor Stephan Tomerius from the Berlin School of Economics and Law, and on public authorities and data protection law with Mr Peter Schaar, a former Federal Commissioner for Data Protection.
The second part of the programme began in Leipzig and focused on the law of administrative procedure and scrutiny of the administration. After a guided tour of the former Reichsgericht building, Professor Ingo Kraft and Dr Susanne Rublack, both of whom are judges at the Federal Administrative Court, explained appellate proceedings and the process of judicial review of legislation. The fact that it is possible not only to review but also to repeal sub-legislative provisions in judicial proceedings surprised the delegates, who raised a great many questions during the discussion.
Over the course of the next few days, the delegation attended meetings at Berlin’s Senate Department for Justice, Berlin House of Representatives and the law firm RAUE LLP. During this latter visit, lawyer Professor Wolfgang Kuhla gave a talk on provisional court relief in administrative proceedings and the associated problems from an attorney’s perspective. The discussion with Dr Gero Meinen, a Divisional Head in Berlin’s Senate Department for Justice, was of particular interest to the delegates. His presentation on the drafting and signing of administrative decisions revealed the differences between the German and the Chinese systems with particular clarity. The delegates were surprised to hear that it is not the head of department or director of an authority who appears as the originator and signatory of an injunction, but the member of staff who is actually dealing with the matter.
At Potsdam Administrative Court, the delegates met Dr Jan Bodanowitz (President of the Administrative Court), Dr Pflügner and Dr Kaufhold for a discussion of mediation and amicable dispute settlement in administrative proceedings. The discussion also addressed specific issues relating to interim court relief and the enforcement of information rights vis-à-vis the administration.
A meeting with Professor Kaiser from the Faculty of Law at Humboldt University on administrative appeal proceedings and self-regulation by the administration rounded off the programme. During this lively discussion, the delegates from the Administrative Appeal Proceedings Department of the Legislative Affairs Office were very critical of the fact that this form of procedure has been abolished to a large extent in Germany. The thematic component of the programme concluded with a meeting with Professor Dombert on the protection of subjective rights by the administration and a visit to Berlin House of Representatives with a discussion with members of the Committee on Internal Affairs. On 15 September, Dr Lindner from the BMJV met the delegation at the Ministry for a final review of the impressions and insights gained from the training course.