State of Defence (Germany)

The state of defence is the constitutional state of emergency in Germany if the country is "under attack by armed force or imminently threatened with such an attack". Established by a constitutional amendment in 1968 during the Cold War, this state of emergency gives the federal government extraordinary powers in wartime. It is laid down in the articles of the German Constitution. As of June 2020, Germany has never been in the state of defence.


According to article of the German Constitution, the State of Defence shall be declared if "the federal territory is under attack by armed force or imminently threatened with such an attack".
The normal procedure is that, upon request of the Federal Government, the Bundestag determines that the conditions of the State of Defence exist. That means that the Bundestag does not actually declare the State of Defence; instead, it just decides whether it exists or not. The determination requires at least two thirds of the votes of the Bundestag present at that time. It also has to be approved by the Bundesrat with more than half of its members, which, according to general Bundesrat protocol, is given in bundled form by each Land.
If the Bundestag or the Bundesrat is not able to convene in time or not able to reach a quorum, the Joint Committee decides on their behalf, but approval by the Bundestag and Bundesrat has to be achieved as quick as possible afterwards.
If Germany is under attack by armed force and the Bundestag, the Bundesrat and the Joint Committee are not able to determine the State of Defence immediately, "the determination shall be deemed to have been made and promulgated at the time the attack began". If, for example, an invasion started on January 4 at 4:17 a.m., Germany would be in the State of Defence from that time, and the government could react immediately.



According to Article GG, the Federal Chancellor becomes Commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Extension of federal legislative powers

According to Article GG, the federal government has extended legislative powers:
The normal legislative procedure is replaced by a faster one:
The Joint Committee consists of members of the Bundestag and members of the Bundesrat. Two thirds of the committee members are provided by the Bundestag, one third provided by the Bundesrat. The committee members of the Bundestag are designated by the Bundestag "in proportion to the relative strength of the various parliamentary groups". Every Land is represented by a Bundesrat member. The committee members of the Bundestag must not be members of the Cabinet, and the committee members of the Bundesrat are exceptionally "not bound by instructions". There are thus 16 members of the Bundesrat, and 32 members of the Bundestag, giving it a total number of 48 members. The members of the Joint Committee and their deputies are already designated during peacetime.
The Joint Committee takes over the tasks of both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat if, during the State of Defence, it determines, with a two-thirds majority of its vote, that either the Bundestag or the Bundesrat is not able to convene in time or reach a quorum. That majority must include at least a majority of all committee members. For example, if only 30 committee members could be reached, 20 votes would be a two-thirds majority, but at least 25 votes would be required for the determination. If the Joint Committee is not able to reach full strength, the Bundestag and/or the state governments designate new committee members.
The Joint Committee takes over any task normally dealt by the Bundestag and/or the Bundesrat. All decisions which would normally be made by the either the Bundestag, or the Bundesrat, or both of them, is made by the entire Joint Committee. However, there are some limitations to the power of the Joint Committee :
The Joint Committee is based on Articles ' and of the constitution, as well as on own .

Use of Federal Border Guard

According to article , paragraph, clause 1 GG, the Federal Government may employ the Federal Border Guard throughout the federal territory, everywhere in Germany. By law a Compulsory Border Guard Service is still in force, but will only be executed in the state of defence or if there are not enough volunteers joining the federal police.
When the Emergency Acts were passed, the Federal Border Guard was a paramilitary police force responsible only for the protection of West Germany's external land and sea borders. Over the decades, however, the role of the Federal Border Guard and even its name have changed to Federal Police. The Federal Police is also responsible for the security of the railway network, airport security and the protection of federal buildings. However, as the entire title has not been changed after it had been passed in 1968, the term Federal Border Guard is still used in the constitution.

Extended powers of instruction

According to article , paragraph, clause 2 GG, the federal government may issue instructions to state governments and state authorities.

Extended electoral terms

According to article GG, electoral terms that would expire during the State of Defence are extended:
In 2011, the German Conscription Act was changed to suspend - but not abolish - peacetime conscription. From July 1, conscripts may not be drafted except during a State of Tension or a State of Defence.


According to Article GG, the State of Defence ends when it is ended by the Bundestag "if the conditions for determining it no longer exist", such as after a peace treaty is signed.