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Structural change and future prospects

Successful structural change

In 1991, the German Bundestag decided to move the seat of parliament and parts of the Federal Government to Berlin. The so-called "five-pillar model" was developed in order to manage the structural change this triggered in the Bonn region:

  • Pillar 1 "Bonn as a Federal City"
  • Pillar 2 "Centre for International Cooperation
  • Pillar 3 "Region of science and research"
  • Pillar 4 "Region of future-oriented economic structure
  • Pillar 5 "Model of an environmentally sound urban landscape and cultural region"

This strategic approach was laid down in the Berlin/Bonn Act in 1994 and a support programme was implemented in the region. Between 1994 and 2004, financial resources totalling some EUR 1.437 billion were spent on 90 compensation projects and a further 210 individual measures. The majority of these funds were invested in the area of "science and research". All in all, the projects and measures have led to a successful structural change. Bonn is economically more broadly positioned with two DAX-listed companies, the investments in science and research have led to comprehensive innovation potential with a highly qualified workforce structure, the new settlements of UN institutions continue to assign Bonn an important international role in the field of sustainability, and finally Bonn has remained the second political centre in Germany.

Second political centre

The permanent and fair division of labour between the federal capital Berlin and the federal city of Bonn was laid down in the Berlin/Bonn Act of 1994. According to this law, the preservation and promotion of political functions in the Federal City of Bonn must be implemented in the following policy areas:

  • Education and science, culture, research and technology, telecommunications,
  • Environment and health,
  • Food, agriculture and forestry,
  • Development policy, national, international and supranational institutions and
  • Defence

In addition, it was determined that federal ministries would be located in Berlin and Bonn, with federal ministries in Bonn having a (second) duty station in Berlin and federal ministries in Berlin having a (second) duty station in Bonn. Today, six federal ministries have their first official seat in Bonn, which correspond to the policy areas defined at the time. These ministries in particular have close spatial links to existing or newly established institutions in Bonn. The Berlin/Bonn Act also stipulated that, overall, the greater part of ministerial jobs should be maintained in the city of Bonn. However, the majority of jobs have already been registered in Berlin since 2008. In this context, the ratio of the distribution between the government locations of Berlin and Bonn has developed over time to the disadvantage of the federal city of Bonn.

Bonn Agreement

On the initiative of the city of Bonn, a working group consisting of representatives from the city of Bonn, the Rhine-Sieg district, the Ahrweiler district and the Neuwied district, among others, as well as members of the European Parliament, the Bundestag and the state parliament has been working on the future prospects of the region since 2016. As a result, the working group was able to achieve that in the coalition agreement of the federal government of 2018 is noted as a work order: "We stand by the Bonn/Berlin Act. Bonn remains the second federal political center. The federal government will conclude a supplementary contractual agreement ("Bonn Agreement") with the Bonn region and the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate." 

The Bonn/Rhein-Sieg/Ahrweiler/Neuwied region presented a "mission statement" for the future development of the region for the negotiations on this "Bonn Treaty" in June 2019. The aim is to additionally strengthen Bonn and the region in the special function described by the Berlin/Bonn Act as a second federal political center, as a location for the United Nations, as a center for international cooperation and as a competence center for sustainable development and for science, for cyber security, information technology and data services, and for culture. The basis for the mission statement is the comprehensive position paper "Bundesstadt Bonn -Kompetenzzentrum für Deutschland, Position der Region Bonn/Rhein-Sieg/Ahrweiler zur Bonn/Berlin-Diskussion" (Federal City of Bonn - Center of Competence for Germany, Position of the Bonn/Rhein-Sieg/Ahrweiler Region on the Bonn/Berlin Discussion), which was jointly prepared by the working group (all documents available at www.bonn.de). 

Contrary to the promises made in the coalition agreement and the associated expectations in the region, the responsible Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Construction and Home Affairs (BMI) has to date not entered into negotiations with the region on a "Bonn Agreement". 

Regardless of this, in the course of talks with the federal government on the expansion of the international location of Bonn, it was possible to achieve that the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) applied with the Bonn location for the establishment of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). In December 2020, Bonn was able to prevail over several European locations in the competition and was awarded the contract. Detailed plans are currently being prepared for an ECMWF campus in Bad Godesberg-Nord on Ludwig-Erhard-Allee. The aim is to create the necessary planning law by 2022/23 so that, in a first step, the federal government can construct a new building for around 320 - 360 ECMWF employees by 2026. In September 2021, ECMWF will have started work in Bonn - with its headquarters in the Federal Ministry for the Environment - with the first employees.

Furthermore, in 2019 and 2020, the continuous reduction of ministerial jobs in Bonn could be stopped for the first time since the government relocation, even though the share is still only around 30 percent. As of June 30, 2021, 6,894 ministerial jobs are located in Bonn and 16,331 in Berlin.

BTHVN 2020

In 2020/2021, the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven was celebrated in Bonn. The national and international cultural location Bonn has thus gained enormously in radiance. The Federal Republic of Germany, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Rhine-Sieg district and the federal city of Bonn joined forces to coordinate this event, which was communicated under the umbrella brand BTHVN2020 by the non-profit Beethoven Jubiläums GmbH.

Mr. Dr. Matthias Schönert

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