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18 March 2018

The Fi­nance Min­istry at the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion

In light of the challenges currently threatening international security, the areas of security and defence policy are playing an increasingly important role. Christian Widmaier’s responsibilities include dealing with budget-related issues surrounding the civilian contributions to operations and missions. This is an opportunity as much as it is a responsibility – that of making an active contribution to ensuring peace and security around the world.

Worldmap with Highlight on Brussels
Source:  iStock/Fotolia

The German Delegation to NATO focuses on international security and defence policy. Germany also has a military representation to NATO. 

Christian Widmaier works for the Delegation’s civilian budget division, where he focuses on the construction of the new NATO headquarters and NATO-specific public service law.

The division represents Germany in entities such as the civilian budget committee. The civilian budget is the Secretary General’s political budget: It reflects all of NATO’s political activities and includes all activities of the civilian NATO headquarters, for example personnel and pension costs, the cost of operating the two headquarters, investments, programmes, and civilian contributions to operations and missions. The financing and cost control for the construction of the new NATO headquarters is another important task within the unit that Mr Widmaier works in.

In light of the tensions currently threatening international security, security and defence policy play an increasingly important role. This applies not only at the operational level, i.e. with regard to NATO activities, missions and operations, but also at the financial level, since NATO has decided to up its defence spending. Christian Widmaier plays an active role in shaping this development within his area of responsibility as part of his work for the German Delegation to NATO.

Interview with Christian Widmaier

This is not my first time living abroad. I took part in several exchanges with schools in France at quite a young age. After completing my studies in Politics and Law in Berlin, I worked at the German Bundestag and the Federal Chancellery, before moving to the German Finance Ministry. That was where I got in touch with my francophile side again.

For example, I took part in the Franco-German seminars that are organised at regular intervals between the two countries’ finance ministries. After a first secondment to Brussels, where I worked for the European Commission, I spent two years at the French finance ministry in Paris, as part of an exchange.

After my return to the Finance Ministry in Berlin, I moved to the Directorate-General which is mainly responsible for drawing up the federal budget. While working there I participated in several IMF missions on issues surrounding the public budget of Greece and also drew up an expert opinion on Vietnam’s public budget.

I’d had my eye on the NATO post in Brussels for a while, but didn’t apply until last year. Having worked so intensively on the budgets of the German Ministry of Defence and the German Foreign Office meant that my current job was almost something of an inevitability, since the three main areas that I focus on now are budget policy, defence policy and security policy. But of course I was still very grateful and happy when my application was successful.

We live in a suburb that I’ve nicknamed “Germantown” because the German school here attracts a lot of German families. What some of the expats might see as a drawback is also a real plus point – it’s so much easier to meet new people and acclimatise. And it’s easy to get to the NATO offices from here and to the town centre of Brussels, which has a vibrant cultural scene. The famous Belgian chips (frites) and chocolate are on offer almost everywhere.

And of course there’s the Atomium, the Brussels landmark – a must-see!

Finding a flat or a house in Brussels is not hard per se, though finding high quality accommodation can be a bit tricky. It requires patience, and a smidgen of luck.

I’m currently focusing on NATO’s civilian budget and on the financing for the new headquarters. I represent Germany’s position on these matters on various committees. Those committees largely determine the structure of my working week since they schedule meetings that I need to prepare for and follow up on. Coordinating with the other countries in advance of the meetings takes up a lot of time.

We also have to request instructions from Berlin and then report back on what was discussed at the meetings. In addition to all that, we also regularly hold internal meetings at the German Delegation.

Your question brings to mind something that may not seem particularly glamorous to you: Reaching an agreement on a given topic with my colleagues from all the other member states never ceases to be very gratifying to me. How important the subject matter is varies from time to time. But we always work really hard to reach a compromise.

It’s not always easy, but when you do reach an agreement, it’s all the more satisfying. Germany has a special role to play here since it is among the largest contributors to NATO. Having that responsibility and being in a position to actively contribute to ensuring peace and security around the world always fills me with a sense of pride and responsibility.

I only took up this post a good six months ago, so that’s not something I’ve given much thought to yet.
Right now, I’m truly enjoying Brussels, but I’m always happy to return to Berlin.