Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: French Diplomats to Strike Over Loss of Separate Status

When France, land of Talleyrand and the general strike, decides to abolish the heart of its diplomatic corps at a time of war in Europe, it is perhaps only natural that its diplomats should respond with fierce indignation. Irked by a decree quietly promulgated in the government’s Official Journal between the two rounds of the presidential election in April, seven labor unions representing the country’s diplomats have called a strike this week in protest at the “brutal suppression of the diplomatic corps.” The strike on June 2 would be only the second in the history of Quai d’Orsay — the Paris location of the foreign service that is the shorthand for the institution. It reflects the dismay sweeping through diplomatic ranks. The change pushed by President Emmanuel Macron would disband the two-century-old corps of senior career diplomats to merge about 800 of them into a “state administrative corps” made up of high-level public servants, who would then be interchangeably picked to serve as, for example, ambassador to Moscow or a director in the Ministry of Solidarity and Health. This is not precisely what diplomats who spent years studying a difficult language like Russian or Chinese had in mind for themselves. “To be a diplomat is a vocation, a choice of a very particular life,” said Gérard Araud, the former French ambassador to the United States. “Hence the revolt.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/31/world/europe/macron-diplomats-strike-france.html) When in 2019 Mr. Macron embarked on his contested policy of rapprochement with President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, he accused diplomats of undermining his efforts, now undone by Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine.

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