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HomeGlobalDiplomacy in France is furious and goes on strike

Diplomacy in France is furious and goes on strike

For the first time in 20 years, French diplomats are called to strike. But why?

The movement, rare in a traditionally discreet administration and not prone to protest, was launched at the request of six unions and a group of 500 young diplomats.

The reform of the high civil service desired by President Emmanuel Macron, which will have consequences in the diplomatic career, was the trigger of the movement, but discontent has actually been growing for several years.

“The accumulation of reforms, the continuous decrease in resources, causes the fatigue and bewilderment of the staff“explains CFTC diplomat and trade unionist Olivier Da Silva, pointing out that “anger is especially high“on the nets.

In an unprecedented move, many high-ranking diplomats, ambassadors and regional directors have posted their support to the movement on Twitter in recent days, under the hashtag #diplo2métier (diplomat by trade).

Macaron’s civil service reform angers diplomats. Photo: AFP

Some, such as the Kuwaiti ambassadors, Claire Le Flécher and Véronique Aulagnon, from Oman, have announced that they will go on strike, while others, such as the director of political affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Philippe Errera, have retweeted an opinion piece published recently by the group of young diplomats.

are even planned rallies in front of the ministry in Paris and in Nantes, where the diplomatic archives center is located.

Ambassadors and consular officials have the right to strike, but “of course we will never threaten the protection of our compatriots and our interests.” We call a work stoppage as long as it does not threaten the continuity of the defense of our interests,” Da Silva said.

“A Cry of Alarm”

“A strike by itself is an event,” he added, calling it a “cry of alarm.” “Our ministry is damaged, it must be repaired.” The unions and the collective ask for the organization of a conference on diplomacy.

The reform of the high civil service creates a new body of State administrators and establishes that the high civil servants already will not be attached to a specific administrationbut, on the contrary, they will be invited to change regularly throughout your career.

For diplomats – some 700 directly affected by the reform – this means a merger and a progressive “disappearance”between now and 2023, of the two historic bodies of French diplomacy, the ministers plenipotentiary (ambassadors) and the advisers for foreign affairs.

“The End of Professional Diplomacy”

In other words, many of them believe that it is about the “end of French professional diplomacy”the third international network behind the United States and China.

“With this reform, the French will be represented by people who are not trained in the codes of diplomacyor they are not ready. Being consul is not just an honorary function, as I hear people say. It means recognize the body of a compatriot in the morgueannounce a death… We must maintain the professionalism of our diplomacy,” said an ambassador who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A senior diplomat, also anonymous, said he was very concerned about “staff fatigue from constant pressure combined with diminishing resources“.

“It is true that there are treasures on the Quai d’Orsay, but the truth is that there are fewer and fewer resources,” said this source.

Catherine Colonna, career diplomat.  Photo: Reuters

Catherine Colonna, career diplomat. Photo: Reuters

The ministry, which has just arrived as head Catherine Colonna, a career diplomat whose appointment was interpreted as a “message” to the staff, He assures that he has “established a quality social dialogue” with all the unions.

“However, a source close to the matter acknowledged that the social movement takes place in a “very difficult context”: more than two years of Covida succession of crises, from the evacuation of Kabul after the victory of the Taliban in August 2021 until the war in Ukraine, the expulsion of diplomats by Russia, the crisis with Mali…

According to official figures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs employs about 13,500 workers (permanent, contract, locally hired, etc.).

RFI text with AFP information

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