Federal Foreign Office Protocol is responsible for ensuring that visits by foreign guests as well as visits abroad by the Federal President, Federal Chancellor and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs pass off smoothly. It also organizes the participation of the Federal Chancellor and the Foreign Minister in conferences both in Germany and abroad. An important aim of protocol work is to create a setting and atmosphere conducive to successful political talks. Another important aspect of protocol work is liaising with diplomatic missions, consulates and international organizations in Germany. The five Protocol divisions all have different tasks.
The top Protocol official is the Chief of Protocol holding ambassadorial rank. He is supported by a Deputy Chief of Protocol and over 100 officials from different parts of the foreign service.
Organizing state visits
A state visit is a special visit by a head of state conducted with full ceremonial protocol. This includes a welcome with full military honours, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Neue Wache and a state banquet. The number of incoming state visits is normally no more than four a year.
In addition to organizing state visits, Protocol is responsible for official and working visits as well as visits with an official component by heads of state and government, foreign ministers as well as top officials of important international organizations such as the United Nations Secretary-General and the President of the European Commission.
Alongside these visits to Germany, Protocol is also responsible for organizing visits abroad by the Federal President, the Federal Chancellor and the Federal Foreign Minister. This involves everything from arranging and scheduling visits and trips, detailed programme planning and logistics to arrangements for meals and receptions, including guest lists, menus, flowers and musical entertainment. The experts in the Protocol Division select gifts, produce ornate menus, programmes and invitations and strive to meet all requests, however unusual.
Organizing international conferences
Foreign policy today is inconceivable without international conferences and multilateral meetings, a clear indication of the growing multilateralization of foreign policy. This trend has been reinforced both by the end of the bipolar world and the increasing importance of regional organizations and the United Nations.
Protocol is responsible for all arrangements for the Federal President, the Federal Chancellor and the Foreign Minister to participate in such conferences either at home or abroad. The spectrum ranges from large-scale events such as the OSCE Summit with over 50 delegations, the G8 World Economic Summits, the Conference on Anti-Semitism or the various Afghanistan conferences to bilateral intergovernmental consultations with France, Italy and other countries. Within the European Union there are four summit meetings a year for the heads of state and government as well as a host of foreign ministers meetings.
As far as conferences abroad are concerned, Protocol makes sure the German delegation has optimal working conditions. This involves booking hotel rooms, renting vehicles, ensuring access to conference proceedings, dealing with any security concerns and arranging bilateral talks on the fringes of conferences.
The organization of conferences in Germany involves planning and coordinating a whole range of measures to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Despite meticulous planning, flexibility is essential, as the dynamics of a conference may require changes to be made at short notice.
Organizing conferences nowadays also means ensuring the public is supplied with comprehensive and up-to-date information. This means providing journalists with optimal working conditions in well-equipped press centres.
Liaising with diplomatic missions in Germany
As the first contact point for currently 184 embassies (156 embassies in Berlin and 28 embassies abroad whose head holds dual accreditation), 179 career consular posts and 493 honorary consuls in Germany, Protocol obviously has a wide variety of tasks to deal with. These include, for example, updating the diplomatic and other relevant lists, issuing protocol ID cards, arranging for the accreditation of ambassadors and the granting of exequaturs for career and honorary consuls, issues relating to the protection of diplomatic missions and consular posts as well as to status and reciprocity and even mediation in cases involving claims.
Protocol is also involved in organizing events for the Diplomatic Corps such as the annual New Year reception given by the Federal President and the Summer reception given by the Federal Chancellor as well as the Day of German Unity celebrations.
Another part of its work is to assist the staff of diplomatic missions, consulates and international organizations in Germany as well as their families (some 20,000 people). It is also responsible for all issues relating to privileges and immunities under the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations.
Honours and decorations
Another Protocol task is to process proposals to confer official decorations on foreigners and Germans resident abroad and to arrange for the exchange of decorations in connection with state visits.