Only a limited group of applicants may file applications for the abstract review of statutes. These proceedings involve the review of a statute’s constitutionality under all relevant aspects regardless of a specific legal dispute and of whether the applicant is affected. The proceedings are regulated in Art. 93 (1) no. 2 and no. 2a of the Basic Law and in §§ 76 et seq. of the Federal Constitutional Court Act.
Proceedings of this type may be recognised by their “BvF” file reference. Generally speaking, only very few proceedings for the judicial review of statutes are brought. However, almost all of these proceedings are of major importance.
Recent proceedings of this type were for instance the ones relating to the State Treaty concerning the ZDF broadcasting corporation and concerning the Aviation Security Act; earlier such proceedings include e.g. the ones concerning abortion, conscientious objection, financial equalisation among the Laender, and the Civil Partnership Act.
The application may only be filed by the Federal Government, a Land government, or one quarter of the Members of the Bundestag. Individuals are not entitled to file applications for this type of proceedings. The application is not subject to a time limit. Applicants are also not required to be violated in their own rights in order to be able to file an application.
All statutes under federal and Land law may be reviewed for their compatibility with the Basic Law in proceedings for the abstract review of statutes; moreover, Land law may be reviewed for its compatibility with other federal law. The Federal Constitutional Court reviews the challenged statute comprehensively; it is not restricted to the challenges made by the applicant. In most cases, applicants regard the statute as being unconstitutional and request the Federal Constitutional Court to declare it to be void. However, it is also possible that the applicant considers a statute to be valid and would like the Federal Constitutional Court to declare it as such after another state authority did not apply the statute considering it unconstitutional or incompatible with other federal law (known as proceedings for the confirmation of statutes).
The Federal Constitutional Court also reviews whether the delimitation of competences regarding concurrent legislative powers (Art. 72 (2) and Art. 74 of the Basic Law) was respected. The Bundesrat, a Land government or a Land parliament are entitled to file applications. Only formal federal laws may be the subject of such a review. There is no time limit for such an application.
If the application is unfounded, the statute is declared to be compatible with the Basic Law (or, as the case may be, with other federal law). If the application is well-founded, the Federal Constitutional Court declares the statute concerned to be void or incompatible with the Basic Law.