Let’s not overlook this historic anniversary: ​​Thursday marked exactly 75 years since the day Germany’s post-war constitution, the so-called Basic Law (Grundgesetz), came into force. Federal German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a jurist himself, describes the Constitution as a “masterpiece”. This is not just a made-up legal sentence. It is the cohesive fabric of the Republic, the solid foundation – name and thing – for the longest period of democratic normality and institutional reconstruction that Germany has ever known.

All this is ensured by the balancing of powers, the decentralization of resources and responsibilities, the securing of a series of fundamental rights and the explicit assurance – already in the first sentence of the Constitution – that “human dignity is inviolable”. It is in itself a fundamental right, but it is also the basic principle from which all fundamental rights derive and in the light of which we must interpret them.

Constitutional tools to… export

What many do not know is that Germany’s post-war Constitution and its interpretation, either by legal scholarship or by the country’s Supreme Federal Constitutional Court, is a source of inspiration for the post-colonial Greek Constitution and its interpretation. This has been pointed out by eminent jurists in both countries, such as the former president of the European Court of Justice, Vasilios Skouris, and the former president of the Supreme Administrative Court in the state of Hesse, Wolfgang Reimers.

An example is the doctrine of “limits”, but also “limits of limits” (Schranken-Schranken) in the protection of fundamental rights. In simple words: There is no fundamental right without constitutional limits, not even the freedom of art or the right to life. In even simpler words: Democracy does not mean that I do what I want, how I want, because that limits the right of others to do what they want, how they want.

Other useful interpretative tools: The principle of proportionality in any manifestation of state violence or intervention (Verhältnismäßigkeitsgrundsatz). The “reservation of the possible” (Möglichkeitsvorbehalt) in the full guarantee of social rights on the part of the state. The theory of the trinity of fundamental rights in civil law (Drittwirkung der Grundrechte).

Protecting institutions

The “right to personality”, which derives from Article 2 of the German Constitution on the “free development of personality” has been extensively discussed in Germany and Greece. As a right in itself, but also as a “limit” for freedom of art or freedom of the press. In this context, the oldest monograph of Professor Ioannis Karakostas “The Law of Personality” is worth mentioning, which largely refers to German literature and jurisprudence.

The functioning of political parties, as enshrined in Article 21 of the German Constitution, has also inspired extensive literature. What is requested, among other things, is the institutional shielding and the separation between party and government, when a political party assumes governmental responsibility. The late professor Dimitris Tsatsos had a significant contribution to the study of the subject, even extending his research to the (theoretical, under formation) European political parties, but also to the political groups, as they are already active in the European Parliament.

The doctrine of “fighting democracy”, which may not have been incorporated into the Greek Constitution of 1975, but is often mentioned by respected jurists when discussing the proper treatment of political forces with extremist characteristics, is extremely relevant. In simple words, an answer is requested to the question: How much Democracy can the enemies of Democracy claim? (Not limitless, says this particular school of thought).

A personal testimony

Also interesting are the innovative ideas in legal science that arise every now and then on German soil. I remember as first-year law students listening to constitutional scholar Gunder Erbel explain to us how important full constitutional protection for animals, domestic and non-domestic, would be. At the time, the idea of ​​an animal going to court was met with snickers in the auditorium, perhaps combined with the more general bohemian style of this particular professor – extremely well-loved, it is true – who daily brought a distressed Scarab from the Law School to his studio , as in his spare time he had devoted himself to painting and collecting works of art.

And finally the late Gunder Erbel was vindicated, at least in theory. Because since 2002 the new article 20a of the Constitution expressly guarantees the protection of animals. Extensive jurisprudence does not yet exist. However, the Supreme Administrative Court of Germany (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) has made it clear that it does not see “narrow limits” in this particular constitutional requirement.