In its election program “Good for Bavaria. Good for Germany”, the CSU announced that it would allow four shopping Sundays a year in the future – even for specific occasions previously required such as folk festivals or Even without a trade fair.
Unions and churches criticized it as a political shift and an attack on Sunday security. Stefan Koriot is Professor of Public Law, Canon Law and German State and Constitutional Law at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. He explains what protection Sundays provide in the Basic Law and what exemptions the federal states have.
Mr Corioth, Article 140 of the Basic Law states that Sundays are preserved as “a day of rest from work and spiritual zeal”. What does it all cover?
Stephen Corioth: Only Sundays are protected by the Constitution. On all other public holidays, countries that have closed their own shops since 2006 have room to maneuver. Since the 1990s, the question of when shops are allowed to open on Sundays has been a long-standing question. This is allowed, for example, for souvenir shops in holiday resorts, for grocery stores at train stations, or for petrol stations. If you want to allow general stores to open on all Sundays of the year, you must change Article 140.
Does the context of the occasion also fall under the substantive law?
Stephen Corioth: No, in my opinion it is within the discretion of the federal states. This is conceivable if one allows stores to be opened on four Sundays spread throughout the year without any specific religious context. Opening hours may clash with the basic law: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. would be too long, as it contradicts the phrase “rest day”. On the other hand, this idea has long been riddled with holes: many factories operate seven days, which is often impossible for organizational reasons.
Do you view Sunday’s fight as a battle to retreat?
Stephen Corioth: In a way yes. Take a look at Great Britain, the Netherlands, Poland: shops are open everywhere on Sundays, if the owners wish to. Whether this makes sense is another question. Even with us, we have to realize that uniform Sunday rest is a thing of the past. Still: Sunday protections are explicitly in the Constitution. The only question is how much do you allow on Sundays. The occasion could be the anniversary of the city as well as consolidating the retail trade. There is always something to be found there.
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