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Any discussion of federalism necessarily runs headlong into concepts of sovereignty, with both terms being subject to Tocqueville's statement that, in discussing federalism, "the human understanding more easily invents new things than new words." Thus, just as systems previously considered to have been "federal" at the dawn of the United States of America were something much different from what was developed for our nation at that time, so is the "federal" system of today's United States different from anything to which we make comparisons.

This article reviews a paper by Professor Peter Tettinger's, and extends his analysis. As Professor Tettinger indicates, the German Basic Law incorporates both divisions of competence internally and opportunities for granting competence externally that set it apart from most other systems. In particular, the role of Germany in the European Union ("ED") and the resulting opportunity for consideration of levels of federalism provide special grist for discussion.

From the provisions of the German Basic Law, we can make helpful comparisons with federalism in the United States, as well as with each other countries. This chapter provides specific focus on some specific aspects of the allocation of competence for internal "sovereign" functions within Germany, and external sovereign functions on behalf of the German people.