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Structural change and future prospects

Successful structural change

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

  • Pillar 1 "Bonn as a federal city"
  • Pillar 2 "Center for international cooperation"
  • Pillar 3 "Region of science and research"
  • Pillar 4 "Region of future-oriented economic structure"
  • Pillar 5 "Model of an environmentally compatible urban landscape and cultural region"

This strategic approach was laid down in the Berlin/Bonn Act in 1994 and a support program was implemented in the region. Between 1994 and 2004, financial resources totaling approximately 1.437 billion euros 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". Overall, the projects and measures have led to successful structural change. Bonn has a broader economic base with two DAX-listed corporations, the investments in science and research have led to extensive innovation potential with a highly qualified workforce structure, the relocation of UN institutions continues to assign Bonn an important international role in the field of sustainability and, ultimately, Bonn has remained the second political center in Germany.

Second political center

The permanent and fair division of labor between the federal capital Berlin and the federal city Bonn has been laid down in the Berlin/Bonn Act of 1994. According to this, the preservation and promotion of political functions in the federal city of Bonn is to 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
  • defense.

In addition, it was determined that federal ministries would be located in Berlin and Bonn, with federal ministries in Bonn having a (second) official residence in Berlin and federal ministries in Berlin having a (second) official residence 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 division between the government locations of Berlin and Bonn has developed over time to the disadvantage of the federal city of Bonn. In the federal government's 2021 division cost report, the ratio of ministerial jobs is given as around 70 percent (Berlin) to 30 percent (Bonn).

Supplementary agreement to the Berlin/Bonn Act

In their coalition agreement of December 7, 2021, the parties supporting the federal government agreed to conclude a supplementary agreement with the Bonn region on the Berlin/Bonn Act. The agreement states: "We stand by the Berlin/Bonn Act. To this end, the federal government will conclude a contractual supplementary agreement with the Bonn region and the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate." Against this background, the responsible Federal Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Construction (BMWSB), Klara Geywitz, visited the Bonn, Rhine-Sieg, Ahrweiler and Neuwied region in spring 2022 and held initial talks on the subject of the supplementary agreement.

On the basis of these talks, the Federal Minister asked the region and the state governments of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Palatinate (RLP) to first agree on thematic priorities in areas where the Bonn region has a unique selling point ahead of all other regions in Germany. In doing so, the region should outline where its main interests lie and which core competencies should be further strengthened in the interests of the federal states and the federal government.

The BMWSB is aiming to reach agreement with the Bonn region and the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate on key points for a supplementary agreement by the end of 2023.

In accordance with the BMWSB's request, the region has named initial priority topics in coordination with the states of NRW and RLP. These topics, in which the region objectively has outstanding unique selling points and core competencies, are to become the subject of the supplementary agreement. As already stated in the mission statement of 2019 "Federal City of Bonn - Competence Center for Germany", the region aims to further develop these unique selling points and competencies via the supplementary agreement and to secure them permanently in the overall interest of the Federal Republic of Germany. 

From the perspective of the region, it is in the interest of the Federal Republic of Germany if the core competencies bundled here in a unique way are complemented in a special way by the federal government and also used by the federal government itself. The federal government and the states of NRW and RLP, together with the region, should use the supplementary agreement to the Berlin/Bonn Act as an opportunity to further develop Bonn and the region into the German competence center for sustainability.

Against this background, the region, together with the federal states of NRW and RLP, has initially agreed at working level on the following key issues as a proposal for further negotiations:

  • Securing the permanent and fair division of labor between Berlin and Bonn with significant parts of the federal government remaining in Bonn with federal ministries and corresponding ministerial jobs.
  • Further development of the UN and sustainability location, new settlement of international organizations and institutions including the creation or provision of space reserves, strategic expansion of Bonn as an attractive location for international conferences, and targeted strengthening of Bonn's visibility as a United Nations location at home and abroad.
  • Expansion of the cyber security location. The nationally and internationally significant expertise of federal institutions (BSI, BfDI, Kommando CIR), companies (Telekom and medium-sized enterprises) and science, bundled in the Cyber Security Cluster Bonn, forms the prerequisite for the future-oriented further development of cyber security for society and the economy.
  • Bonn, as the birthplace of Beethoven, links the life and work as well as the liberal ideas of the great composer. Following on from the historical role of the Bonn Republic, democracy and parliamentarianism in particular are to be made tangible for national and international guests.
  • Securing the location of the federal government in the Bonn region with the maintenance and expansion of federal authorities and concentration of land requirements. Future-proof planning and use of the federal government's land for housing (including for federal employees) as well as for the above-mentioned focal points of the region, which require land for implementation. This also includes the sustainable improvement of transport connections between the city of Bonn and its neighboring regions.
  • The region as a location for sustainability research: The regional science location offers a unique "ecosystem" in the field of sustainability research with its universities, international organizations, federal ministries and authorities. The region is therefore predestined both as a research location and for the establishment of public science and documentation sites as well as "reallabs" in the areas affected by the flood in July 2021.

Translated with (free version)

Mr. Dr. Matthias Schönert