Planned reforms of the diplomatic corps were the catalyst for the 20-year-old first walkout.
French diplomats, including several ambassadors, went on strike on Thursday to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reform the country’s foreign service.
In an effort to include people of diverse backgrounds in the foreign service, the presidential decree of April 16 allows for the merger of the diplomatic corps and a larger body of civil servants. Around 800 diplomats may be affected by this reform, which is scheduled to start next month.
Many diplomats see the reform as a danger to not only their professional careers, but also to their profession.
“Our professional diplomacy is at risk,” reads an open letter signed by 500 young diplomats in the newspaper Le Monde on May 25.
The signatories stressed that diplomacy is a discipline that is learned “The multiplication and sharing of different experiences, particularly in difficult situations, and knowledge and experience among members [of diplomatic corps].” Therefore, diplomatic responsibilities cannot be performed properly by outsiders, they argued.
The diplomats also noted that the Foreign Ministry is open to many other civil servants, given that the staff of other ministries, policemen and many “Talented contract workers with diverse backgrounds” work in French embassies around the world.
In a sign of protest against the “brutal suppression of the diplomatic corps” the letter’s signatories announced a strike on June 2, which was supported by six unions. It was obvious that this decision wasn’t easy. “as it is not in the house culture.”
Many senior diplomats, including ambassadors and regional directors, have joined what is the first strike of the diplomatic corps in 20 years, announcing their participation on Twitter with the ‘diplo2metier’ hashtag.
“On June 2, I will strike to protest the suppression and repression of my professional diplomacy. Good diplomats are essential for a great foreign policy. They’re multilingual and diverse. Passionate, creative. They can’t be confused,” French Ambassador to Oman Veronique Aulagnon wrote.
1. Today I am on strike. Diplomats can negotiate, discuss, and reach a compromise. Their strike policy is not common. The last time they went on strike was twenty years ago. It is rare for a Frenchman to strike once every twenty years. 😅So what’s the point of today? A thread👇#diplo2metierpic.twitter.com/rnz6B5z1qR
— Aurélie Bonal (@AurelieBonal) June 2, 2022
“Because we oppose the suppression of diplomatic corps, we are striking. Many of us are also tired of endless budget cuts & shortage of staff, which come with an increasing number of priorities in a very challenging international environment,” Deputy Ambassador to the US Aurelie Bonal said.
There have been gatherings planned for both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Headquarters in Paris and Nantes. This is where the Diplomatic Archives Center is located. However, the protests’ organizers made it clear that the diplomats would “Never put under threat” the protection of French citizens and national interests
“So long as they do not compromise the security of our interests, we ask that you stop working,” the diplomat and member of CFDT trade union Olivier Da Silva said, as quoted by Le Monde.
France’s diplomatic corps was created in the 16th century and currently includes approximately 1,800 diplomats.
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