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About the Project

"Political cohesion under conditions of fiscal scarcity – German federalism in the time of COVID-19"

COVID-19 has posed serious challenges to social and political cohesion in societies across the globe. Federal systems, where multiple levels of government are involved in efforts to control the spread of the virus, face particular difficulties when it comes to coordinating coherent responses. Coping with the crisis requires both a holistic response and tailor-made regional and local measures. This project investigates how German federalism has been managing the containment of the virus, and how it is managing fiscal scarcity caused by the extensive support packages.

Focusing in on the German case, which serves as a prime example of cooperative federalism, this research proposal answers the following questions: How do governments at both federal levels employ the institutions of cooperative federalism in times of crisis? More specifically: To what extent do incumbents adopt opportunistic strategies in federal negotiations? How do they legitimate these strategies in public discourses? Which safeguards are needed to make federal democracy more resilient?

Against the background of increasing conflict, this project will review prevalent assumptions about the latent dysfunctionalities of federalism. Since federal elections and six Länder elections will be held in 2021, this year offers a unique opportunity to explore the problem of opportunism in times of fiscal scarcity. The database will comprise protocols of parliamentary debates on financing the support packages, propositions, etc. Beyond the analysis of political texts through qualitative and semi-qualitative approaches such as discursive network analysis (DNA), we aim to collect the data in machine-readable formats to enable subsequent analyses through text-as-data approaches.



Kropp, Sabine (2020): Zerreißprobe für den Flickenteppich?: Der deutsche Föderalismus in Zeiten von Covid-19, VerfBlog, 2020/5/26, https://verfassungsblog.de/zerreissprobe-fuer-den-flickenteppich/, DOI: 10.17176/20200526-133725-0.

Kropp, Sabine and Johanna Schnabel (2021): Germany’s Response to COVID-19: Federal Coordination and Executive Politics. In: Forum of Federations (ed.). COVID-19 & Federalisms Response. A comparative project covering 25 federal and devolved countries, to be published by Routledge 2021, forthcoming.


SFB 700