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Americans mull Leipzig consulate closure

The Local · 20 Dec 2011, 11:25

Published: 20 Dec 2011 11:25 GMT+01:00

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While the audit report, compiled in September by the agency’s Office of Inspector General, singled out Ambassador Philip Murphy for high praise, it also said some US diplomats have “morale problems” and there have been serious allegations of sexual and racial harassment among staff members.

US Embassy spokesman Peter Claussen told The Local this week that senior officials in Washington, DC were deciding whether to close the Leipzig consulate or lay off local workers but no decisions have been made yet.

“It’ll be people pretty near the top of the operation who decide that,” Claussen said.

It’s also not clear how many employees might lose their jobs as part of the proposed reductions. Three Americans and 12 local staff are employed in the eastern German city of Leipzig, while eight Americans and 34 locals are employed at the Hamburg and Düsseldorf consulates – the other cities where reductions have been recommended.

Generally it is local staff, not American foreign service officers, whose jobs are eliminated when foreign missions are downsized.

It is also not yet clear how drawdowns could affect American citizens living in Germany. The three consulates perform only limited consular services and instead focus largely on promoting trade and public outreach. They do, however, help regular Americans in emergencies.

Inspectors mainly cited operating costs in recommending downsizing. Closing the consulate in Leipzig alone would save at least $2.7 million per year (€2 million), they said said. But the report also argued that Americans could easily take a train to the Berlin embassy from Leipzig when they need consular help and that some of the functions being performed in Hamburg and Düsseldorf were redundant.

The report also said that management needed to improve internal communication and do a better job of reigning in abusive employees.

One employee in Hamburg “had been engaging in verbal harassment, including racial epithets against co-workers for more than three years,” while supervisors ignored the problem, the report said.

There had also been complaints of sexual and sexual orientation harassment that had been ignored over time, inspectors wrote, although details appear to have been redacted in the report by government censors.

A failure to adequately monitor smaller outposts of the US Embassy in Germany, such as in Leipzig, had allowed a lack of morale to fester, the report said.

Embassy management was working on addressing many of the concerns brought up by inspectors, Claussen said. He declined to discuss the harassment complaints specifically but said as one move to improve staff morale, the ambassador has been paying more regular visits to the five consulates.

“These sorts of reports take place all the time all the way around the world,” Claussen said. “It’s a kind of internal self-check on things. The process is very important.”

The US’s diplomatic operations in Germany are among the largest in the world with about 750 US and 860 locally employed staff. Due to Germany’s central location in Europe and its status as a major transportation hub and economic centre, it often plays a key role in major Department of State operations, such as evacuations of Americans from dangerous countries in the Middle East.

Story continues below…

Moises Mendoza



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Your comments about this article

11:51 December 20, 2011 by Wrench
Close it! They don't really do anything anyway.
12:03 December 20, 2011 by DoubleDTown
Actually, they do handle passport renewals and it's a much easier, friendlier experience than schlepping to Berlin.

Also, it's a good pro-America outpost here in the wild East. If no other reason than continued pro-America propaganda I'd say it's worth the $2.7 million to keep it open.
12:23 December 20, 2011 by The Local Germany
Thanks for your comment. We've clarified the section on consular services provided.
13:06 December 20, 2011 by Beachrider
As an American taxpayer, this is in the domain of things that need to lower cost with the reduction of soldiers and support staff in Germany. I would much rather spend it on some charter-school in the USA...
13:28 December 20, 2011 by twisted
Back in the "70's the U.S. had the Embassy in Bonn and consulates in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Bremen, Munich, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf and the east was another country. What many folks don¦#39;t know (and most could care less about) is that embassies and consulates operate as bases for numerous government agencies, not only the State Department. Missions are staffed with agencies like FAA, FBI, Secret Service, Treasury, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, and the list goes on.

Now, because of the huge costs of operating enormous embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. government must reduce its presence in other countries and the article is correct, it is the locally employed staff members that get hit by the reductions, not the U.S. Government employees who can return to the U.S. or are rotated to other U.S Missions abroad.

Consulates in Germany that remain open will probably be determined more by the number of congressional visitors to a particular consulate district than the services offered to American and German citizens. After all, someone has to be available to cater to congressional needs when on ¦quot;official business¦quot; trips (also referred to as junkets) and obviously Leipzig is not a big draw for CODELS (Congressional Delegations in U.S. Government speak) like, say, Munich or Hamburg.
16:10 December 20, 2011 by dbert4
They could just transfer those people to Baghdad, they only have 10,000 employees. They could probably use a few more.

Hey "Beachrider" how many Charter Schools would closing the embassy there fund? Not counting the one billion dollars that was spent building it.
01:58 December 28, 2011 by Whipmanager
All BS aside, the service the Diplomatic corps provide, and the face of the American people is needed around the world. If we cold cut down on Aid given/wasted on SOme countries and concentrated, for a time, on those that matter, would it suprise anyone that Germany is one of the most important allies we have? Poland another. The UK is like family, so they -for teh European concerns, should be our top priorities.

We need to have places where people can go and see our flag and name. As the greatest Nation in the world, it helps us build bridges by showing we see a country/region important and a key ally.
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