Foreign service

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Subjects of international law , usually states and international organizations , have been using diplomatic and consular representations abroad to maintain their intergovernmental relations since around the 18th century in order to assert their interests in the host country in accordance with the rules of international law. The personnel posted to the missions abroad, together with the officials of the Foreign Ministry in their home country, form the foreign service of the sending country.


The term foreign service should not be confused with the term diplomatic corps , which refers to all foreign diplomats in a host country.

Legal relations between the host states and the foreign diplomats accredited there are regulated by legation law; this grants foreign diplomats certain privileges of a tax nature and in particular protection against enforcement measures (" immunities ") that are related to their official (official) activity.

Originally designed as a voluntary activity, assuming the office of a diplomat (e.g. as an envoy) abroad required that the applicant had substantial income that would allow him to maintain a representative residence abroad. In addition, there was necessarily a personal relationship of trust with the constitutional head of the sending state, i.e. usually with a king or emperor . This history of origins explains why the nobility was not only numerically represented in diplomacy well into the 20th century , but also enjoyed certain career privileges. The earlier z. Some of the upper-class, but today mostly imperfectly adopted by career officials, manners in diplomacy stem from the feudal history of the origins of the foreign service, as well as the accusation of patronage that is always attached to it .



Consular and diplomatic careers were strictly separated in the foreign service . After the First World War , this separation was abandoned. A third career in the Foreign Service was the training and employment of dragomaniacs . Today there are the following employment groups: employees and blue-collar workers (very often local staff abroad) as well as civil servants with the following career groups:

  • Officials in the middle foreign service
  • Officials in the higher-level foreign service
  • Officials in the higher foreign service
Senior Foreign Service

To be employed in the preparatory service, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • legal requirements for the appointment as federal civil servant
  • general suitability for the duties of the service
  • a university degree with at least a master’s degree or equivalent
  • Broad general education (basic knowledge and interest in current political, economic, social and cultural topics, in law, in business and in recent history are particularly important)
  • Have an oral and written command of English and French (French can be replaced by any other official language of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, Russian or Spanish). In this case, however, the applicant must prove that he has a basic knowledge of French, as this language is available in Preparatory service is taught and the applicant must be able to follow the lessons.)
  • health suitability (usually tropical suitability )

The general suitability is determined by a written and oral selection procedure, in which the general education is examined in particular. The selection test is carried out and assessed by the selection committee. It consists of the following members:

  • the head of the training and further education center of the Federal Foreign Office,
  • the head of the personnel department for the higher foreign service,
  • the head of the personnel department for the senior foreign service,
  • the head of training for the higher foreign service,
  • a junior officer of the personnel department for the higher service,
  • a senior civil servant and
  • a civil servant.

The selection committee then notifies the responsible state secretary of the results; this is responsible for the settings in the preparatory service. Applicants are hired as attaché or as attachée if they pass the health exam.

Foreign Service Inspector

Section 8 of the Foreign Service Act of August 30, 1990 regulates: “The inspectors regularly review the fulfillment of tasks, the organization and equipment of the missions abroad, compliance with the organizational, service and labor law regulations and the living conditions of the employees at the missions abroad. They ensure that the personnel and material resources are used appropriately and advise the diplomatic missions abroad on management and cooperation issues. "



European Union

The Lisbon Treaty provides for the creation of a European External Action Service (EEAS), which is to increasingly represent the European Union vis-à-vis third countries and bundle competencies. There are no plans to abolish the diplomatic missions of the individual member states. This service is to build on the delegations of the European Commission in third countries, which are supplemented by staff from the EU Council Secretariat and the national diplomatic services.

Individual evidence

  1. Patronage of offices in the personnel policy of the Foreign Office , in: Welt Online from May 23, 2001
  2. Information from the Foreign Office, Political Archive