The essential tasks of the missions include:
reporting on issues which are of relevance to the various authorities of the Federation and the Länder,
helping German citizens in emergencies,
assisting German companies with their activities in the host country and generally enhancing mutual trade,
promoting cultural exchange,
educating the host country's public about our foreign policy and also about Germany, its society and culture in general,
preparing and escorting high-level visits from Germany.
The 226 German missions abroad are divided into
59 consulates-general and consulates,
12 permanent missions,
10 other missions.
Furthermore there are
356 unpaid honorary consuls.
Tasks of the Foreign Service
The Federal Foreign Office is responsible for maintaining relations with other states and with international and supranational organizations. This task falls within the remit of the Federation in accordance with Article 32 of the Basic Law. The competencies, mandate, tasks, organization and operation of the Foreign Service as well as the laws and regulations applicable to Foreign Service members and their families abroad are laid down in the Foreign Service Act of 30 August 1990.
Foreign relations includes the following elements:
- press and public relations
- science and technology
- development cooperation
- consular and international law
- environment and social affairs
Current developments keep confronting the Foreign Service with new challenges such as conflict prevention, North-South cooperation and collaboration with the countries in transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Involvement in the European Union and in international organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, the OSCE or the WEU is becoming increasingly important.
Policy-making is our business...
In the process, the Foreign Service must reconcile and pool many, and sometimes diverging, interests. The fact that it deals with cross-sector tasks enables the Federal Foreign Office to combine the many specialist positions and individual perspectives in a coherent German foreign and security policy through practical coordination.
The Foreign Service sees itself not only as a maker of foreign policy but also as a service outlet for citizens, the German business community, those involved in German cultural life as well as members of parliament and government at all levels. The range of services it offers has emerged as the second pillar of foreign policy in addition to classical diplomacy. Today, these services account for well over half of its activities. In this way, the Federal Foreign Office actively assists its "customers" worldwide with its know-how and contacts, thus doing justice to its role as a modern and outward-looking service institution.
In this connection, the legal and consular services it offers are of major importance, not least because of booming German tourism.
Promoting external trade is another key service we offer. This includes improving the framework conditions for German exports and investments abroad, as well as canvassing for foreign investment in Germany.
The Cultural Directorate-General at headquarters and the cultural sections at our missions abroad also fulfil a service function: by arranging contacts, promoting institutions and events in connection with cultural exchange and by exchanging personnel from every conceivable field, we wish to foster a global dialogue of cultures.
The German Bundestag and Federal Government delegations as well as the parliaments and governments of the 16 Federal Länder maintain a close network of contacts abroad at all levels and are taken care of by our foreign missions when they travel abroad. This includes the preparation and implementation of visits in terms of content, organization and protocol.
.... and opinion-making
Seeking to influence opinion-leaders and decision-makers in government, business and society in our partner countries continues to be a key objective of our diplomacy. A more recent field of activity for the German Foreign Service has been to address public opinion in our partner countries through the media, in interviews, discussions and publications.
The Foreign Service -a resilient and mobile forceapproximately
5100 German and non-German nationals who are recruited on site (locally employed staff) and
approximately 1200 staff members who have been temporarily seconded to the Foreign Office from other Federal Ministries, the Länder, the business community and other institutions.
The staff members are the Foreign Service's most important asset
The demands placed on the Foreign Service are high. Its tasks span the widest possible scope.
Foreign Service members are deployed all around the world. The regular staff are subject to so-called rotation. This requires personnel from all career tracks to change jobs every three to five years. They are transferred abroad from headquarters, or move from one foreign country to another, or return to headquarters from abroad. It is therefore not uncommon for members of the Foreign Service to move house more than a dozen times during the course of their professional life.
Foreign policy spans no less than the entire palette of government activity. Tasks which are performed at various levels domestically (Federation, Länder and municipalities) and by countless authorities are all the responsibility of the Foreign Service abroad and in relation to other countries and international organizations. Foreign Service members therefore have to assume a broad range of functions depending on their assignment at any given time.