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Berlin Senate

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Title: Berlin Senate  
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Berlin Senate

Not to be confused with the Bundesrat of Germany, a national body based in Berlin and sometimes compared to the upper house or Senate of other national legislatures.

The Senate of Berlin is the executive body governing the city of Berlin, which at the same time is a state of Germany. According to the Constitution of Berlin the Senate consists of the Governing Mayor of Berlin and up to eight Senators appointed by the Governing Mayor, two of whom are appointed (Deputy) Mayors.[1] The Senate meets weekly at the Rotes Rathaus (Red Town Hall).[2]


The Brandenburg municipalities of Alt-Berlin and Cölln had received town privileges in the 13th century and from 1307 on shared a common administration. King Frederick I of Prussia by resolution finally had both towns merged and elevated to the "Royal Capital and Residence Berlin" as of 1 January 1710.

From the Prussian reforms of 1808 until 1933, Berlin (expanded to Greater Berlin in 1920) was governed by a Magistrat (compulsorily dissolved by Nazi act on 15 March 1933), which was the executive committee of the Stadtverordnetenversammlung (city council; last convened on 27 June 1933)[3] and was represented in each of the boroughs of Berlin by a local office (usually housed in the town hall of a formerly independent suburb).[4] The council was headed by a Lord Mayor, or Oberbürgermeister. Lord Mayor Heinrich Sahm, elected in 1931, remained in office, and joined the NSDAP in November 1933, but resigned in 1935. His power totally depended on Julius Lippert, on 25 March 1933 appointed as Prussian State Commissioner for Berlin. So Berlin was de facto under the ultimate governance of the Nazi regime.

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, Berlin was to be under the ultimate governance of the Allied Kommandatura. However, in the election of 20 October 1946, the city elected an SPD-majority Stadtverordnetenversammlung and an SPD mayor (Otto Ostrowski, resigned 1947). The second elected SPD mayor, the devoted anti-communist Ernst Reuter, was vetoed by the Soviet commander, so Louise Schroeder (SPD) officiated as only acting lord mayor. The Western allies permitted the Berlin SPD to hold a referendum on whether to merge with the Communist party to form a unified single party of the left, the Socialist Unity Party, as realised under pressure in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany, and the members voted against the merger.[5] This was unacceptable to the Soviets, who engineered the establishment of an alternative city council in the sector under their direct control.[6] Following the Berlin Blockade, the Soviet sector (which became known as East Berlin (and the capital of the German Democratic Republic as of 1949) and the three western sectors (British, French, and U.S.) were functionally separated following the Communist putsch in Berlin's city government in September 1948 (a situation formalised in the Four Power Agreement on Berlin of 1971).

Under the new constitution of West Berlin which came into force on 1 September 1950, Berlin was defined as a state of the Federal Republic of Germany; however, due to the Allied veto, its representatives in the federal parliament (and later in the European parliament) were not directly elected by the citizenry, but appointed by the Berlin parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus) and had no voting power, but a merely advisory vote in those parliaments.[7] On the model of the two Hanseatic city-states within the Federal Republic, Hamburg and Bremen,[8] the Berlin Senate, chosen by the parties represented in the Berlin parliament, was established to perform the functions of a state government,[9] with each of its members heading a department, equivalent to a state ministry, and a Regierender Bürgermeister (Governing or Executive Mayor) at its head and one Bürgermeister as his/her deputy. In the 1950 constitution the maximum number of senators was 16,[10][11] then each elected by the parliament, but the first Senate had 13.[12]

Thus, following the Hanseatic tradition, the lord mayor was only primus inter pares since he and all senators had an elective mandate, so the lord mayor could not dismiss any senator, but only the parliament could. Anyway until 1990 the elected candidates gained any legal power as lord mayor and the senators only after their confirmation by the western Allied commanders of West Berlin. Since both the building then used as the town hall of Berlin, the Altes Stadthaus, and the Rotes Rathaus which had been destroyed and was not rebuilt until 1956, were in East Berlin, the Senate met at the former town hall of Schöneberg, Rathaus Schöneberg.[13]

During the transition to a reunified Germany in 1990, a new Magistrat was elected in East Berlin and the Senate appointed in West Berlin, and they ruled jointly as a Landesregierung aus Senat und Magistrat (state government of Senate and Magistrat, known popularly as the MagiSenat),[14][15] which initially met in alternate weeks at the Schöneberg town hall and the Red Town Hall.[16] The Oberbürgermeister (East) and the Regierender Bürgermeister (West) similarly headed the government jointly.

With the completion of reunification on 3 October 1990, the MagiSenat became a unified Berlin Senate, not depending on Allied confirmation anymore, and which was reduced to a maximum of 8 members and senators are now appointed by the Governing Mayor (1995 amendment of the constitution); also, there are now two Deputy Mayors instead of one.[1] The senate meets in the room in the Red Town Hall which was originally created for the Magistrat in the 1950s.[2]


Currently, there are eight senators holding state minister positions and the head of state, the Governing Mayor. Each senator is presiding over a Senatsverwaltung agency (translated: 'Senate Administration' in the meaning of a government department):

Senate Chancellery

The Senate Chancellery (German: Senatskanzlei) staff coordinates the Senate's policies and supports the Governing Mayor. Since 2001, the Governing Mayor of Berlin is Klaus Wowereit. The Chief of the Senate Chancellery since 2011 is Björn Böhning.

Senate Administration for Employment, Desegregation and Women's Affairs

(Senatsverwaltung für Arbeit, Integration und Frauen)

Senate Administration for Education, Youth and Science

(Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Wissenschaft)

Senate Administration for Finance

(Senatsverwaltung für Finanzen)

Senate Administration for Social Affairs and Health

(Senatsverwaltung für Gesundheit und Soziales)

Senate Administration for the Interior and Sports

(Senatsverwaltung für Inneres und Sport)

Senate Administration for Justice and Consumer Protection

(Senatsverwaltung für Justiz und Verbraucherschutz)

Senate Administration for City Development and Environment

(Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt)

Senate Administration for Economic Affairs, Technology and Research

(Senatsverwaltung für Wirtschaft, Technologie und Forschung)


See also

External links

  • Senate meeting room
  • List of Senators since 1945
  • Constitution of Berlin. Section IV. The Government.
  • Rules of Procedures of the Senate(German)
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