As a lawyer in the Bundeswehr administration

A chat with Christian Frick, a lawyer from the Bundeswehr

With Dr. Franziska RingReading time: 6 minutes

In small talk, we ask lawyers what they do. Today: Christian Frick, lawyer in the Bundeswehr administration, on foreign missions in Mali and Kosovo – and semester breaks at military training grounds.

LTO: What do you do?

Oberregierungsrat Christian Frick: I am a civil servant in the Bundeswehr’s higher non-technical administration, currently at Eurocorps headquarters in Strasbourg. There are three career paths for lawyers in the Bundeswehr: as a legal advisor or disciplinary attorney, side entry as a soldier or as a Bundeswehr administration.

The headquarters is an international agency, staffed by the six framework countries from France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Poland, and the associated countries of Greece, Italy, Turkey, Romania and Austria. Our department is responsible for administration, contracts and the budget of the headquarters.

Christian Frick …

… is a government official in armed forces

… currently working in Strasbourg

… it was during the semester break military training grounds

… was on operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Mali

doctorate on the national implementations of the Bundeswehr in Germany and France

What are your specific tasks?

I am the Deputy Head of the Department of the G8 Department (Finance). We have to show that the budgets that the various countries make available to us are being used for the intended purposes.

We are responsible for the Eurocorps budget, which this year amounts to almost EUR 14.5 million and must be coordinated with the framework countries. We sit down with representatives of six nations and explain what projects and exercises are planned, what orders we have, for example for NATO, and what costs need to be planned in the budget.

As the Eurocorps, we are, so to speak, a link between nations. Due to our orders, we express a need and must respond to it, but we also demand the participation of the framework nations. Everyone supports the idea of ​​a common European defense, but as you know, friendship ends with money: These are difficult negotiations, often small amounts, but great negotiating skills are required.

Christian Frick, photo: EUTMMali

How many employees and what experiences does your department work with?

Our department employs 22 people from different countries and I am the only fully qualified lawyer. This is due to the different training of the national armed forces. My French and Belgian colleagues have completed the so-called career of a commissioner that would have taken place in our administration. You have completed several legal modules but did not complete your legal studies.

This is also because Germany, along with Sweden, is the only European country with a civilian military administration, while other countries have a military administration. Pursuant to Art. 87b of the Basic Law, the federal government directs the administration of the Bundeswehr within the federal administration. The armed forces do not take over the administration itself, but it is organizationally separate. Everything is in one hand with the other European armed forces. That is why I am in the military department as a “civilian”; most of my colleagues are soldiers.

“Soldiers have a different job than we do”

What skills and qualities do you need as a Bundeswehr official?

You need to be prepared to take responsibility – and represent your decisions convincingly. And you have to learn to get into the mind of the soldiers. We support them in the administration of the Bundeswehr and the Eurocorps. However, it must always be remembered that they have a different mission to us, namely a defensive mission.

You also have to be flexible and mobile: the Bundeswehr has many offices, such as here in Strasbourg or in the US. You can also be transferred within Germany. If you want to pursue a career, you must be willing to move frequently or commute to work on the weekends.

You need to be able to adapt quickly to new activities as you have different tasks with each new task. For example, the air force has completely different requirements than the military, navy, or cyber cannon.

How to imagine a typical working day?

I always try to practice before work to clear my head. Service and men have to keep fit – that’s why every barrack has very good sports facilities. The service starts at 7:30 am and ends at 5:00 pm.

I start by evaluating all the orders we received, then there are all staff meetings, but now they are mostly digital.

Then we deal with orders and purchases. For example, we recently discovered that some of our generators that we use for exercise are broken. We must then find suitable generators on the global market as soon as possible, which can be delivered as soon as possible so that soldiers can train with them.

“During the semester break I was on training grounds”

Did you find your job or did your job find you?

My job found me. I joined the Bundeswehr in 2007 for military service and that was crucial because without military service I would never have known this world. Then I studied law in Göttingen where I was a reserve officer and spent five weeks on training grounds or military courses during semester breaks. It was a good change from law and study.

I held an elective position in the advocate training at the Ministry of Defense. Since 2017, I have been a civil servant in the Bundeswehr, initially in Bonn with the higher federal authority of the Bundeswehr administration. I have been working in the Eurocorps in Strasbourg since 2020.

As a Bundeswehr official, you were also on various missions abroad, incl. in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Mali. What tasks did you undertake there?

I undertook administrative tasks that varied depending on the area of ​​the task. All the property in Kosovo was closed and we had to organize the dismantling. I studied the plans from 25 years ago – it was very interesting what this area looked like before.

Sourcing abroad is different than in Europe: you can get almost anything on the European market and tenders to find out which product is the best at the best price. Of course, this is not the case in crisis regions.

In Mali, I was responsible for a budget of almost EUR 44 million on behalf of the EU – for this I had to account in Brussels to 27 nations for the increase to almost EUR 59 million: Member States’ delegates want to know, for example, why soldiers are requesting more medical evacuation helicopters (MedEvAC) and flight hours. The answer was simple and convincing: otherwise, the wounded soldiers would not be able to reach the hospital on time (golden hour), and human life would be in danger.

In Mali we have huge areas to cover, routes from Vienna to Paris. There is no infrastructure like in Europe with highways, only helicopters can be used. If they cannot be provided militarily, we have to buy them externally.

How did you feel the situation in Mali and the cooperation with Malians?

In Mali, I was delighted with the openness of the people I worked with. Our contractors welcomed us friendly and openly, which made an impression on me. The population is very young and therefore completely different than, for example, in Germany. The Malians will go their own way and I am glad to be able to support them.

“Franco-German history lives in Alsace”

In addition, you are doing a doctorate at the Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law, European Law, Religious Constitutional Law and Comparative Law prof. dr. Edenharter at the Fern-Universität in Hagen. What is the topic of your dissertation?

My doctoral thesis is a legal comparison of Germany and France with regard to the deployment of armed forces in the country. In Germany, the constitution very rarely allows an army to be deployed in the country. On the other hand, if you go to the Strasbourg Christmas market you will see the military patrols. They are neighboring countries and we are only a few kilometers from the border, but the rules are fundamentally different. Strasbourg is a great location for my PhD thesis, Franco-German history lives here in Alsace.

Finally, we like to ask our interlocutors for book recommendations – do you have one for us?

Tak: “Le soldat méconnu” (German: forgotten soldier) by Bénédicte Chéron. The book describes the way French society views soldiers today. You have a very good reputation. From the German point of view, I found the book very interesting.

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