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Protocol Office Article 2012.04.01 Or­der of prece­dence

The Federal Republic of Germany has no official list that definitively establishes the order of precedence in the area of domestic affairs.

Adherence to rigid precedence lists would not accommodate the wide variety of state functions. There are also other major nations that have no official precedence lists.

Over the years, however, the following official practice has emerged concerning the order of precedence among the representatives of the federal constitutional bodies:

  • Federal President
  • President of the German Bundestag
  • Federal Chancellor
  • President of the Bundesrat
  • President of the Federal Constitutional Court

At state functions, the guests of honour from the government, the political sphere and society are seated according to protocol. It is important to seek

  • a balance among the representatives of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government and the political parties represented in the German Bundestag (horizontal balance); and
  • an appropriate balance among the representatives of the federal, state and local governments (vertical balance).

But proper seating order also means paying attention to the overall context of the given function. For example, it is necessary to consider the following: Who is the host? On whose ‘territory’ (state, district, city, municipality, etc.) is the event taking place, what is the occasion and where is it being held? Seating must always consider the circumstances of the specific occasion. The order of precedence should be observed as a matter of principle, but it is not the only criterion. Other considerations include language skills (in the case of foreign guests), any existing personal acquaintances and any interests or preferences of the guests. Flexibility, a sense of proportion and tact are called for – not rigid adherence to rules.

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