French President Emmanuel Macron stayed the course on the controversial reform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while announcing additional means to respond to the discontent of diplomats, who are facing multiple crises: from the war in Ukraine to tensions in Africa via the climate.
Mr. Macron spoke directly to diplomats, from the Quai d’Orsay, on the occasion of the closing of the States General initiated six months ago to consult the agents of the ministry on the reform wanted by the Elysée. This reform provides for the “extinction” of the two historic corps of diplomacy by the end of 2023 and the creation of a new state corps. Senior civil servants will no longer be attached to a specific administration and may change during their career.
“I know that I can count on each one of you to carry out the reforms to be carried out”, declared Thursday Emmanuel Macron, who also called on them to “question our dogmas” and to work “in synergy”.
This reform project had led to an extremely rare strike at the Quai d’Orsay in June, diplomats fearing a loss of skills and prestige of the third largest network behind the United States and China. For Emmanuel Macron, this reform will make it possible to gain in “coherence”, in “agility” and ultimately in efficiency by using the skills and expertise including agents external to the Quai d’Orsay. In return, the host of the Elysée announced a sharp increase in staff and resources allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to bring them into “compliance” with the “ambitions” of French diplomacy. “I want a complete rearmament of our diplomacy,” he said, announcing an increase of 700 full-time equivalents (FTEs) between 2024 and 2027, which will be added to the 106 additional positions planned for this year.
In addition, the credits allocated to the ministry will increase “by more than 20%” to bring them to “7.9 billion euros in 2027”.
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Emmanuel Macron underlined that it was a question of “rearmament in the service of peace, in the defense of our interests and our values, but also in coherence with the ambition which is ours” whereas the means of the armies have already been increased since 2017.
“We must assume not simply to put an end to decades of decline and weakening (of the resources of the Quai d’Orsay, editor’s note), which we have done since 2020, but to give ourselves the means to reengage the necessary capacities, to be able to deploy new skills”, he added. The granting of additional means comes “at a time when the war has returned to European soil, where deep rearticulations are at work”, he also argued, with reference to the war in Ukraine. France is also confronted with the rise of anti-French sentiment in Africa.
The head of diplomacy, Catherine Colonna, had already announced in the fall additional means on the front of cybersecurity and communication. An amount of 2.5 million euros was thus to be mobilized to fight against online disinformation and hostile propaganda, “often of Russian origin”, had indicated the minister before the Senate last October.
In this difficult context – the ministry is also called upon on the climate crisis – the additional resources announced by Emmanuel Macron must enable France to serve its interests, defend its priorities and its influence. They will also give the “capacity of the radiation of our country”, added Emmanuel Macron.
Faced with diplomats worried about their future, the president stressed: “A profession does not need a body to exist”. “We will defend this profession well,” he finally promised.
This article is originally published on lorientlejour.com