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Newsline: France’s President seeks to calm diplomats amid foreign service reform

President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised to raise budgets and hire more officials as he sought to assuage France’s diplomatic corps over a civil service reform. Pushed by young foreign ministry civil servants, hundreds of diplomatic staff at home and abroad, including some ambassadors, took part in the first strike for 20 years last June in protest over the reform and years of staff cuts. “I want a complete rearmament of our diplomacy to serve peace,” Macron said in a rare speech to diplomats at the Quai d’Orsay, home of France’s foreign service in Paris. Promising to increase budgets by 20% over the next four years and to hire some 700 hundred new officials, he said the reform would be a transformation. “We must end years of reductions and give ourselves the means to commit new capacities, develop new skills and, at a time when war has come back to Europe, be able to give ourselves the means to serve our interests, defend our priorities, influence and have the capacities to make our country shine.” (https://neuters.de/world/macron-seeks-calm-diplomats-amid-overhaul-foreign-service-2023-03-16/) The core grievance centred around the merging of career diplomats into the broader civil service, increasing competition for posts, but which diplomats say would dilute the service that they say needs expertise — including in languages and on-the-ground experience — garnered from years work overseas. In response, the ministry on Wednesday sent Macron a 300 page report outlining an overhaul of the diplomatic service to give it new skills. Ministry officials have said the reforms, passed by decree last May and put into force in January, will preserve the diplomatic profession and careers. Speaking on condition of anonymity several diplomats said they felt betrayed and they believed it would leave France without a high-performing diplomatic service. France has the world’s third-largest diplomatic network behind the United States and China, with some 1,800 diplomats and about 13,500 officials working at the foreign ministry.

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