“Tired”, “worried about their future” and “disregarded”, the staff of the Quai d’Orsay are called on Thursday, June 2 to strike to protest against a series of reforms which they believe endanger the efficiency and the prestige of French diplomacy. The reform of the senior civil service wanted by President Emmanuel Macron, which will have consequences on diplomatic careers, was the trigger for the movement, but the discontent has actually been mounting for several years.
“The piling up of reforms, the continuous decline in resources, leads to fatigue and disarray of staff”, explains CFTC diplomat and trade unionist Olivier Da Silva, noting that “anger is at a particularly high level” in the network.
Unprecedented fact, many high-ranking diplomats, ambassadors, regional directors, have been posting their support for the movement on Twitter for a few days, under the hashtag
“Just a strike is already an event in itself”
Gatherings are even planned in front of the ministry in Paris and Nantes, where the center of the diplomatic archives 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 to stop work as soon as it does not threaten the continuity of the defense of our interests, “says Mr. Da Silva. “Just a strike is already an event in itself,” he adds, calling it a “cry of alarm”. “Our ministry is damaged, it must be repaired.” The unions and the collective are calling for the organization of diplomatic meetings.
Subject of concerns, the reform of the senior civil service creates a new corps of State administrators and provides that senior civil servants will no longer be attached to a specific administration but will, on the contrary, be invited to change it regularly throughout of their career.
For the diplomats, around 700 directly concerned by the reform, this translates into a merger and then a gradual “extinguishment” by 2023 of the two historical bodies of French diplomacy, ministers plenipotentiary (ambassadors) and foreign affairs advisers. Either, believe many of them, “the end of professional diplomacy” French, third international network behind the United States and China.
“Less and less resources”
“With this reform, the French will be represented by people not trained in the codes of diplomacy, or not ready. Being consul is not just an honorary role as I hear it said. It’s going to recognize the body of a compatriot at the morgue, announcing a death… We must maintain the professionalization of our diplomacy, “said an ambassador on condition of anonymity.
A high-ranking diplomat, also anonymous, said he was very concerned about “staff fatigue in the face of constant pressure combined with a decline in resources”. “Certainly there is gold at the Quai d’Orsay, but the truth is that there are fewer and fewer means,” said this source. The ministry, where Catherine Colonna, a career diplomat whose appointment has been interpreted as a “message” to the staff, has just arrived, claims to have “established a quality social dialogue” with all the trade unions.
“The concern is real, the staff are tired”, we recognize however from a source close to the file, stressing that the social movement intervenes in a “very difficult context”: more than two years of Covid, successions of crises, evacuations from Kabul after the Taliban victory in August 2021, passing through the war in Ukraine, the expulsions of diplomats by Russia, the crisis with Mali, etc. About 13,500 agents (tenured, contractual, local recruitment, etc.) are employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to official figures.