Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Germany: Parliament Changes Rules of Procedure to Ensure Functioning During COVID-19 Pandemic

(Apr. 15, 2020) On April 9, 2020, changes to the Rules of Procedure of the German Bundestag (parliament) that amend the quorum requirements and allow for remote participation in certain cases (Amendment) were published in the Federal Law Gazette. The changes are meant to keep the Bundestag functioning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They will remain in effect until September 30, 2020, unless the Bundestag decides to repeal them earlier.

The Amendment inserts a new section 126a into the Rules of Procedure (BTGO). In general, there must be a quorum in the Bundestag, meaning more than half of the members physically present, to adopt a law or make any other decision. (BTGO § 45.) A quorum is currently more than 355 members. Likewise, committees must have a majority of their members present. (§ 67.) The Amendment states that, in derogation from the general rules, the Bundestag may adopt decisions when more than a quarter of its members are present. (§ 126a, para. 1.) According to the amendment, committees have a quorum when more than a quarter of their members are either physically present or participate remotely through electronic means. (§126a, para. 2.)

Furthermore, committees may vote remotely by using electronic means in derogation from the rule that voting takes place in person either by a show of hands or by standing up or remaining seated. (§ 126a, para. 3; § 48, para. 1.) The amendment also states that committee deliberations and hearing sessions that are open to the public may ensure public participation by providing access through electronic means only. (§ 126a, para. 4.)

Finally, the amendment allows measures restricting individual freedoms of members of the Bundestag according to the Epidemics Act if necessary to avoid the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. (Amendment, no. 2; Basic Law, art. 46, para. 3.)