Dispute over amendment to the basic law: digital pact becomes a pledge

Will the digital pact be implemented soon? Baden-Wurttemberg’s education minister warns that it can only be implemented quickly without amending the Basic Law.

Decision on direction? Ties Rabe (left), Susanne Eisenmann and Anja Karliczek at the Conference of Education Ministers on Thursday. Rabe wants to go straight ahead, Eisenmann backwards and Karliczek is still thinking about it Photo: dpa

The multi-billion dollar digital pact for schools threatens to become a pawn for opponents and supporters of federalism reform in the constitution. Even as the education ministers demonstrated unity in a press conference on Thursday, stressing that they wanted the pact to be implemented quickly, cracks were opening up.

Specifically, the issue is the amendment to the Basic Law that is linked to the pact. Baden-Wurttemberg’s Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs, Susanne Eisenmann, CDU, emphasized on behalf of the CDU/CSU-led states the "fundamental rejection" of what is on the table: "We think the path via a Basic Law amendment is wrong." The pact could be implemented without such an amendment, he said. The federal government, he said, wants to use the digital pact to fundamentally call education federalism into question. Eisenmann spoke of "blackmail potential."

Hamburg’s School Senator Ties Rabe, SPD, on the other hand, believes that a moderate amendment to the Basic Law would be expedient. He considers the path taken to be the right one. "I refuse to turn back now."

Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek, CDU, who rushed in at the last minute, also advocated implementing the digital pact first on the basis of an amendment to the Basic Law. "If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to keep talking."

Complicated procedure expected

As a precondition for the federal government investing 5 billion euros in WLAN or tablets for schools, the coalition parties in the federal government have agreed to amend Article 104c. This will enable the federal government to support the states in investing in municipal education infrastructure. However, under pressure from SPD and CDU/CSU budget politicians in the Bundestag, the passage was included that in future the states must co-finance all federal investment projects to the same extent. Even advocates of amending the Basic Law did not want to support this.

Eisenmann said she expected a complicated mediation process.

The minister presidents of the federal states had declared on Wednesday that they would not approve the amendment to the Basic Law, which had already been passed by the Bundestag, and would appeal to the Mediation Committee on December 14.

Greens and FDP for more cooperation

There, representatives of the Bundestag and Bundesrat must negotiate a solution, which must then be approved by both chambers. A two-thirds majority is required to amend the Basic Law – and the coalition in the Bundestag also needs the votes of the FDP and the Greens.

Kai Gehring, the Green Party chairman of the Bundestag’s education committee, told the taz that it was essential to dare to cooperate more: "In other words, to amend our constitution and implement the digital pact as a first step." What the Bundestag has decided with the votes of all democratic factions, the states should not block, he said.

FDP education politician Marco Buschmann told Deutschlandfunk radio that the amendment to the Basic Law was important to allow the federal government to co-finance education. (with dpa)