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Protocol Office Article 2012.04.01 Le­gal ba­sis for flag dis­plays

Article 22 (2) of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany states: “The federal flag shall be black, red and gold.” This gives the provision on the federal flag constitutional status. The second defining provision is the Directive concerning the German flags of 13 November 1996, issued by the Federal President and published in the Federal Law Gazette of 20 November 1996 (p. 1729), last amended on 22 November 2005 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 3181). 

The Federal Government Decree concerning flag displays at official federal buildings is the most important legal basis with the greatest practical relevance for flag displays at official buildings of all federal authorities and offices and at those of the public-law corporations, institutions and foundations under the supervision of federal authorities. The new version of the decree of 22 March 2005 was published in the Federal Gazette (no. 61, p. 4982) and entered into force on 2 April 2005. 

Three other relevant legal texts should be mentioned:

  • the Flag Act as promulgated on 26 October 1994 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 3140) last amended by Article 2 (6) of the Act of 25 June 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 1574);
  • the Directive of the Federal President on the Bundeswehr Naval Ensign of 25 May 1956 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 447); and
  • the Directive on the Donation of Organizational Flags for the Bundeswehr of 18 September 1964 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 817). 

The following law provides protective provisions:

  • Section 90a of the Criminal Code (StGB) as promulgated on 13 November 1998 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 3322), amended by Article 1 of the Act of 22 December 2010 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2300);
  • Section 124 of the Administrative Offences Act (OWiG) as promulgated on 19 February 1987 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 602), amended by Article 2 of the Act of 29 July 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2353);
  • Sections 15 and 16 of the Flag Act (FlaggenRG) as promulgated on 26 October 1994 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 3140), last amended by Article 2 (6) of the Act of 25 June 2009 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 1574);
  • Sections 8 and 145 of the Trade Mark Act (MarkenG) of 25 October 1994 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 3082; 1995 I, p. 156; 1996 I, p. 682), last amended by Article 17 of the Act of 22 December 2010 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 2248). 

Due to the federal structure of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Länder (states) have their own responsibilities regarding national symbols, including flags. For this reason, general and special directives on displaying flags which apply to the federal level are not binding for the Länder and local governments, although the latter are largely based on the federal provisions.

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