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Decision of the Berlin Administrative Court: Ministry of Defence to keep headquarters in Bonn

Decision of the Berlin Administrative Court : Ministry of Defence to keep headquarters in Bonn

The Berlin Administrative Court has ruled: The main office of the Ministry of Defence is to remain in Bonn. Thus the staff council of the Berlin branch failed with an application.

The Berlin Personnel Council in the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) has failed with the complaint to have the Berlin office declared the main office in the sense of the Federal Personnel Representation Act by a court decision. This means that the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence will continue to be located in Bonn, as the Administrative Court of Berlin decided on Tuesday in a procedure under personnel representation law. The representatives of the Berlin staff council initially left open whether they would appeal the decision to the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court.

For the plaintiffs the case was clear: The Federal Minister of Defence works in Berlin, the four State Secretaries also, and since half a year all ten department heads of the Ministry sit in the Berlin Bendlerblock, as the chairman of the Berlin personnel council, Michael Dittrich, as well asthe authorized representative, the Berlin constitutional lawyer Ulrich Battis, emphasized. Among other things, they pointed out that more than half (1425) of the 2760 employees (as of May 2019) of the Ministry of Defence now work in Berlin.

Battis stressed that this was also about "trustworthy cooperation between the management and the staff council. All 15 office bearers of the management - minister, four state secretaries and ten department heads - were sitting in Berlin. This was the "most convincing argument" that something had "slipped" over the years - from Bonn to Berlin. Battis: "The organization is clear: 15 here, zero in Bonn". Where the (political) leadership is, the main office of the staff representation should therefore also have its seat.

Effect on other federal ministries

With a view to next year's staff representation elections, the Berlin staff council wanted a court ruling that Berlin had grown to become the headquarters of the office and that there was only anextension in Bonn. The decision of the Berlin Administrative Court was generally expected to have an effect on other federal ministries, which have their first office in Bonn. The Berlin office of the Ministry of Defence is now still regarded as an extension whose employees had elected their own staff council both in 2012 and 2016 because of the great distance to the main office in Bonn.

The Ministry thus has a staff council for the Bonn headquarters, a staff council for the Berlin branch and a general staff council based in Bonn. Thomas Kleinschnittger, Chairman of the General Staff Council at the BMVg, explained that the General Staff Council did not want to position itself on the matter, as it represented the interests of the employees in Bonn and Berlin.

It’s a matter for the Federal Government

The chairman judge of the 71st chamber, Christian Oestmann, made it clear on the question of whether Bonn might have lost its status as the main office of the ministry in the meantime: "Even after a long search, I have not found a decision by the Federal Government or the Federal Chancellor to overturn this," he stated. "The decision as to what becomes the head office and what becomes the branch office is not further defined by law. The question of where the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense are is a matter for the Federal Government alone.

In addition, he could not discover a "decision" by Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) according to which she had meanwhile declared Berlin to be the main office. A merely factual shift in the focus of the ministry's work or in the number of employees would not change anything, she said, as long as the Bonn office continued to exist as the main office within the meaning of federal personnel representation law.

(Original text: Holger Möhle Translation: Mareike Graepel)