A German Miracle? Crisis Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic in a Multi-Level System

Markus B. Siewert, Stefan Wurster, Luca Messerschmidt, Cindy Cheng & Tim Büthe

Short news blurb
Germany has attracted much attention for its success in coping with the immediate health effects of the  COVID-19 pandemic , keeping the rate of infection and death from the virus low compared to most other large Western countries, such as the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. In this contribution to the PEX Special Report on the Coronavirus Outbreak, Presidents’ Responses, and Institutional Consequences, we discuss Germany’s “exceptional performance”, beginning with an overview of the policy responses of the German governments at the federal and state (Bundesland) level. We then ask: To what extent did the COVID-19 crisis in Germany shift power to the executive branch? And did the crisis lead to a centralization of decision making --- a shift from the state and local level to the national level? We see no evidence of centralization; if anything, state-level autonomy with respect to health policy, business regulation, and education policy became more apparent during the pandemic. Executive branch agencies have dominated the crisis response, but we see little evidence of lasting changes in the distribution of power.