For the second time in history they strike and, apart from against cuts and lack of personnel, they protest against a reform that would end the specialty of this body
It had been almost 20 years since the Quai d’Orsay, headquarters of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE), had not experienced a day like this. For the second time in history, French diplomats went on strike in France and abroad. It was this Thursday, when they protested against the reform of the diplomatic corps announced by President Emmanuel Macron and also against the continuous budget and personnel cuts they face. His first strike was in 2003.
The protest spread to Twitter with the hashtag #diplo2métier (diplomat by profession). Many diplomats, ambassadors and consuls shared the reference on social media from all corners of the world to show their support.
The trigger for the strike, called by the unions and a group of 500 diplomats, was the publication of a decree on April 17 announcing the suppression of the French diplomatic corps, as it is known until now. It will mean the progressive disappearance of two bodies of the diplomatic elite: that of the plenipotentiary ministers and that of the Foreign Affairs advisers.
The reform establishes that from 2023 diplomats will be chosen from among senior officials from all State Administrations or the private sector. They will no longer be registered with a specific administration, but will have to change regularly from one to another throughout their career. According to the French press, some 700 French diplomats will be directly affected by the reform.
“We face a risk of disappearance of our professional diplomacy” due to the “brutal suppression” of the diplomatic corps, warned 500 employees of the Quai d’Orsay in a column published at the end of May in the newspaper ‘Le Monde’.
The strikers maintain that they are not protesting out of corporatism. They denounce that this reform will mean the end of career diplomats. And they fear that it will open the doors for the Government to appoint ambassadors or consuls by hand, coming from politics or the business world, without experience in diplomacy, without languages or without knowledge of the terrain of the country to which they are sent, as often happens in American diplomacy.
The strike takes place after some especially difficult years for the diplomatic corps, due to the covid-19 pandemic and several international crises that have put them to the test, such as the recent war in Ukraine.
With 163 embassies, 90 consulates, 16 permanent representations in multilateral forums, 1,800 diplomats and 13,500 troops, France has the third largest diplomatic network in the world, behind only the United States and China.