The quest to divine the post-reunification future of the German federal system was a growth industry among academic commentators in the early 1990s. Unusually, the prognosis was remarkably consistent: reunification posed an ‘acid test’ (Benz, 1991; Gunlicks and Voigt, 1991; Hesse and Renzsch, 1990; Klatt, 1993) that the federal system was unlikely to pass unscathed. The task of integrating the new Länder of eastern Germany would strain and, in all likelihood, rupture the consensualism that had shaped relations between the Länder in West Germany prior to reunification and guaranteed their role as a counterweight to the Federal Republic’s central political institutions, in particular the federal government. Moreover the prognosis was made bleaker by the concurrent problems posed by deepening European integration, which in the run-up to Maastricht threatened to erode Länder competences without offering them adequate compensatory input into the European-level policy process. The federal government, secure in its seat in the Council of Ministers, again stood to gain at Länder expense.
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