Why do French diplomats (finally) let their “education” go off, between the strike and the stands?

A strike is scheduled for June 2, ambassadors openly show their support for the movement, forums in the press … The traditionally secretive world of French diplomacy makes him explode his “anxiety” in the face of reforms that confirm, according to him, the decline of France’s influence in the world. 20 minutes Evaluate this extremely rare movement, when the last strike took place in 2003.

Who exactly will strike on June 2nd and why?

Resentment has been simmering for months, if not years, but it erupted after it was published in April in Official Gazette From the decree on reforming the higher civil service to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So six unions and a group of 500 young diplomats called a strike for June 2, a very rare social movement in the history of the Quai d’Orsay, “a house that does not yet have a rebellious tradition,” asserts Olivier da Silva, president of the CFTC’s union of executives.

Gerard Arrow’s tweet. – Screenshot

Even more telling is that in recent days dozens of high-ranking diplomats announced on Twitter their participation or support for the strike, under the hashtag #Diplo2metier. “I will be on strike on June 2 to protest the reform of the diplomatic corps and the continued reduction of the means of our diplomacy,” Ambassador to Kuwait Claire Le Fleischer estimated, “Diplomats are not interchangeable,” his colleague in Amman, Veronique Olgnon. Summing up the mood, the ambassador to Azerbaijan, Zachary Gross, wrote: “French diplomats are loyal physically and spirit but weary, underpaid, and ill-equipped.”

In addition to reform that, in their opinion, will also lead to “appropriate appointments”, “job destruction” and a “career crisis”, 500 diplomats gathered together in a collective that expressed their concerns in a recent column in a newspaper the scientist “A sharp decline in resources” (reducing staff by 50% in thirty years) and “decades of marginalizing the role of the ministry within the state.”

What is this reform of the higher civil service?

This reform of the senior civil service, wanted by President Emmanuel Macron, creates a new body of state officials and stipulates that senior civil servants will not be attached to a particular department, but, on the contrary, will be invited to change it regularly. throughout their career. for diplomats [environ 700 directement concernés par la réforme] This translates into the merging and then a gradual “extinction” by 2023 of the two historic bodies of French diplomacy, the Ministers Plenipotentiary (ambassadors) and the Advisers of Foreign Affairs. Either, as many of them believe, the “end of professional diplomacy” of France, the third international network after the United States and China.

Besides, the sometimes still vague outlines of the reform of the higher civil service do not make it possible to give all the answers to anxious diplomats, who want “guarantees inscribed in marble.”

What is the reaction of the State Department?

About 13,500 agents (permanent, contractual, local recruitment, etc.) are employed by the State Department, according to official figures. Diplomacy is traditionally a field reserved for the president, but this trend is particularly strong under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron. Moreover, the head of state did not spare his diplomats, in particular by denouncing them in 2019 a “deep state” within the Quai d’Orsay.

The ministry, where Catherine Colonna has just arrived, a professional diplomat whose appointment has been interpreted as a “message” for employees, claims to have “established a good social dialogue” with all trade unions. “The concern is real, the staff is tired,” but we understand from a source close to the file, stressing that the social movement is interfering in a “very difficult context”: more than two years of Covid-19, succession of crises, of the evacuations of Kabul after the victory of the Taliban in August 2021 from During the war in Ukraine, Russia’s expulsion of diplomats, the crisis with Mali, etc. By definition, the diplomatic world has not been spared planetary crises.

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