The Foreign office

The Federal Foreign Office in Berlin (© dpa - Report)

What is actually the “Auswärtiges Amt”? Who are the people working here? And what do they actually do?

Get to know one of Germany’s most important national offices!

The Auswärtiges Amt is the German Federal Foreign Office. The name "Auswärtiges Amt" was coined at the time when Germany was still a monarchy and had a "Kaiser" (emperor) at it’s helm. That was about a hundred years ago. Much water has flown under the bridge since then and Germany has changed considerably - but the name “Auswärtiges Amt” has survived.

One boss and thousands of employees

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier Enlarge image German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (© Thomas Koehler/ photothek.net) The boss of the "Auswärtiges Amt" is the German Foreign Minister. And he has a lot of people to help him. In the headquarters in Berlin alone 2,200 people are at work, But that is not all. In the German missions abroad - in Embassies for example another 4,700 people are working. So one can claim that it is an impressive number!

The Foreign Minister needs his colleagues to help him with the practical side of his work leaving him the time and space to frame policies. Two state secretaries help him in this work. They manage the Foreign Service which includes the employees in the headquarters and missions abroad.

The Foreign Minister also has political support. Two Ministers of State, who are politicians themselves, represent him in the political scene, go for meetings or give a speech in the lower house of parliament, if the Foreign Minister is abroad. Together with the State Secretaries they are the senior most colleagues in the Foreign Office. But as we mentioned earlier there are 2,195 other employees as well. They are generally attached to one section or the other. Sections are special departments that work on special topics. And because there are so many of them many sections are put together into a department, making the organisation easier.

An interesting department is the Protocol Department. Now that’s a strange one, you would think. What do they do? The protocol department in the Foreign Office is responsible for planning the foreign trips of the Foreign Minister and the Federal Chancellor. It is this department that also ensures that all foreign heads of state are received with full military honours and a proper state banquet is organized. In the grand atmosphere created one can talk and negotiate better with each other. And that’s what politics is all about.

The crisis response centre at the Foreign Office Enlarge image The crisis response centre at the Foreign Office (© dpa) The country specific sections have a completely different mandate. They are part of the Political Department and look after different regions of the world. They are proper experts on these countries. They don’t only know that there is a country called the Republic of Palau, but that it consists of 230 islands in the North Pacific and has only 20,000 inhabitants. These sections collect such and much more information and data about their regions. This is important, because when one makes foreign policy, one should know who one is dealing with at the negotiating table.

In order to keep you updated on the results of these negotiations or what the Foreign Minister wants to achieve, the Foreign Office has a Press Section. This section is constantly busy making calls and sending mails - journalists always have a lot of questions on foreign policy. And they definitely cannot constantly call the Foreign Minister for his response to any and every policy matter. The boss of the Press Section. Is also the spokesman of the Foreign Minister. He briefs the press on his behalf and answers any queries the journalists may have. The employees of the Press Section also answer queries on matters that do not concern the Foreign Minister directly and arrange for meetings with the responsible person in the organization. And just for your information: This article was also written by someone in the Press Section!

If a German national goes missing abroad, the Legal Department helps trace him/her. If someone loses their passport while holidaying, they arrange for a substitute. If Germany signs agreements with other countries, it is the job of the legal department to check if it is as per the laws of the land. This is important, because if a mistake creeps into the agreement and nobody finds it, it can happen that the contract loses its validity.

And then there are a few hundred more sections in the ten departments. They are too many to mention here. But if you are interested in knowing more, you can click on the “real” page of the German Foreign Office.

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The Foreign Office

German Foreign Office in Berlin