What is competitive federalism

Political scientist on corona easing"This is competitive federalism"

A few days before the new federal-state round, at which the further course of action in the corona crisis is to be coordinated, calls for further easing came from some federal states. For example, Saxony-Anhalt wants to allow meetings of up to five people in public and North Rhine-Westphalia is also threatening to open the daycare centers unilaterally. Political scientist Karl-Rudolf Korte from the University of Duisburg-Essen welcomes the fact that there are different views on how to proceed between the state governments and the federal government. This is a competition of ideas. Because he sees an advantage in this diversity, in the difference. That is competitive federalism. Societies are always resilient when they can deal with diversity, says Korte.
But this diversity must also be presented - in parliaments and the media. Korte warns not to repeat the 2015/2016 mistake made in the refugee dramaturgy, in which the media and parties agreed on the welcoming culture and the AfD was left with the counter-argument.

The full interview in full:

Jörg Münchenberg: Mr. Korte, is the consensus on the anti-corona crisis policy finally over?

Karl-Rudolf Korte: I see more of a corona creativity that is developing, unfolding further. It's about the moderation of impatience, without fixed standards, other than this large standard to protect the health of the citizens. In this respect, I see an expected situation here and nothing that indicates that something is getting out of hand.

(dpa / Ronny Hartmann) Haseloff (CDU) defends the "differentiated way" of Saxony-Anhalt
There have recently been so few new infections that further restrictions cannot be conveyed to people, said Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff in the Dlf.

Münchenberg: On the other hand, we have the issue: Saxony-Anhalt is loosening up unilaterally. North Rhine-Westphalia is also threatening to unilaterally open daycare centers. Does that sound like the federal states and the federal government are drifting further and further apart?

Korte: Yes, because first of all we have no formal possibility of governing the countries on this issue. The Infection Act regulation is initially suspended in the federal states and the federal government can only control it in general, relies on the sympathy of the coordination. In this respect, it would be a question in the legislature, perhaps also in the case of changes to the Basic Law for the future in the case of upcoming pandemics, to assume such possibilities for new coordination from the federal government, as we know it in the event of war or disaster.

But basically I see this diversity as an advantage. That is competitive federalism that we see here. Societies are always resilient when they can deal with diversity, with difference. In this respect, you have to pay special attention to regional characteristics and draw conclusions from them. Only a homogeneous view does not lead to resilience. Resilience, learning from these current experiences is only possible through diversity, not through a standard of a master plan.

"A gain from differences"

Münchenberg: In an international comparison with this extremely pronounced federal structure, Germany certainly has a special role in crisis management. But is this really such a success for the federal system? Of course you could react locally, but on the other hand we have a patchwork of different regulations.

Korte: I think that is good evidence of a distinctive quality of democracy. I see what you call a patchwork quilt as a competition under learning conditions. I know very little, or statistically we can probably get to know very few families in three-country corners where three children also go to three different schools. Most of them move at home under the conditions of a ban on contact anyway - we now have an attendance society - and not in different federal states.

In this respect, one is only oriented towards what the state government is saying and is not really interested in what is happening four federal states further east. I don't see the drama of diversity here, but the benefit of differences in learning from others.

(dpa / picture alliance / Fabian Sommer) Mayor of Berlin - don't forget restaurants and hotels
In the coming federal-state round, the relaxation of restaurants and hotels must also be discussed, said Berlin's Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD) in the Dlf. It is about predictability for the company.

Münchenberg: Nevertheless, I would like to give you another example: The back and forth about the mask requirement. Surely that was not a great moment for federalism?

Korte: No, that is right. In this respect, there are of course examples of how we can learn in perspective. Saving with direction - that would now also be the consideration of which direction one could deduce from this in the future for upcoming new viruses, which are sure to come. In this respect, I do believe that there are of course similarities along the guidelines that are to be agreed. That was always the purpose of the rounds with the Chancellor, although it has to be said that such a body is informally nice, but that is not what the legislator wants. This is a regulation government, but it apparently translates informally. In this respect, I am again relying on the parliaments in the state parliaments in polyphony, because it is now the legislature's hour to fill this moderation of impatience there with topics, content and arguments.

"Primacy of politics, not economy"

Münchenberg: Well, Professor Korte, in the beginning it was all about health protection. Now the argument of economic damage is also increasingly coming. That comes to the fore a bit. Is that a dangerous process, because maybe one is being played off against the other more and more, or is it quite normal in the course of the public debate, which also develops with what is happening?

Korte: It is normal as you describe it. Nevertheless, even as you suggest, I consider it dangerous. We had the virological imperative, which everyone initially followed. That is understandable. We have achieved a lot with it, obviously. But now it should continue to be about the primacy of politics, not the primacy of the economy.

The primacy of politics is to return freedoms. They were limited for a limited time, now they have to be returned, and there is a lot and much more to it than just purely economic interests, for each individual, and economic and economic conclusions can then be drawn from this. But it would be interesting to publish a curve in the evening showing how civil liberties are returned, not just data that speak of infected people.

Münchenberg: At the weekend, for example, several hundred people, even thousands, were demonstrating in Stuttgart, also for more freedom rights. Is this process of restoring civil liberties going fast enough?

Korte: It is difficult to judge because there is no master plan. We only have preliminary knowledge of what is happening. Science provides facts, but not decisions. Politicians have to support that and, above all, they have to legitimize every decision. It is accountable, it is subject to approval.

Therefore I would like to point out once again: It has to be discussed in Parliament. The parliaments must become an echo chamber for these demonstrations. They must also become a room of indignation for people who are not moving fast enough. You have to discuss it. You have to try to educate yourself without knowing that what you are ordering at the moment will also ensure the health of everyone in the end. You have to act in this uncertainty, but you have to deal with the resistance now, in an enlightening way, not in terms of conspiracy theory.

"Don't fall into the trap of 2015/16"

Münchenberg: But now there was also, for example, the accusation against the media themselves that they support the measures of politics too much and question them too little.

Korte: Yes, we have to be careful not to fall into the trap we experienced in 2015/16. That would actually be the learning consequence from the refugee dramaturgy at that time, in which there was also a culture of welcome, great unity, and then we no longer recognized the party difference, nor the difference in media reporting, but the counter-argument exclusively at the end of one party, the AfD have left, who also grew up with it.

That is why it would actually be a wish to see diversity, in the media as well as in the party difference. Every party has to find different reasons based on its own tradition as to why something is being relaxed or not. That must be feasible as a social democrat with different priorities than as an FDP. This is actually how I see the media in their different roles, although one has to say that if we also have short-time working for many journalists, how do we want to ensure the quality of journalism. This is also an important point that goes hand in hand with corona policy.

Overview on the subject of coronavirus (imago / Rob Engelaar / Hollandse Hoogte)

Münchenberg: Let us briefly take a look at the Chancellor’s crisis communication. She has always used different reference values ​​to make the drama of the situation clear and also to justify the requirements. How do you rate the Chancellor's communication?

Korte: First of all, we recognized a new communication structure in her. "The situation is serious," she said. She also wants to learn to be able to contact us directly. The TV address was unique in the constellation. It explains better, it gives reasons better, it appeals better. This is actually a new narrative Merkel that we did not know in this form before, and she could now actually use this instrument more effectively for the second further phase. That’s a little missing.

But at least with her I can see that she is breaking away from the data, the facts and would rather describe a state to which she comes back, to which she can refer - a state in which she can perhaps find out who is infected where and how , and that can then be tracked and no longer argues based on numbers. But it would also be helpful here to relive Merkel as she told stories and not just trying to hold on to numbers, because there are quickly contradictions. It becomes difficult to see a line.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt the statements of its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.