French diplomats strike over reforms, cost cuts, lack of recognition


PARIS: French diplomats went on strike on Thursday for the first time in 20 years in protest at a perceived lack of recognition, fewer means, and reforms pushed by President Emmanuel Macron that they say could hurt France‘s global standing.
Hundreds of diplomatic staff at home and abroad, including some ambassadors, took part in the action, which had been pushed by young foreign ministry civil servants. Many posted on social media to show support, using the hashtag #Diplo2metier (professional diplomat).
“Defending the interests of France and serving France is not improvised,” France’s Consul General in San Francisco wrote on Twitter. “No doubt we need to reform and strengthen our diplomacy, but not to erase it,” said the diplomat of 18 years.
The strike comes at a bad time for Macron, re-elected in April, who has sought to play a leading role in the European Union’s response to Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine. France holds the EU’s revolving presidency until the end of June.
Strikers are protesting against public sector reforms initiated by Macron that would change the structure of diplomatic careers. But they are also concerned about years of budget cuts that have seen staffing fall some 20% since 2007.
“There is a fatigue in the face of continuing pressure from the international and European news, which means we are always being asked to do more when we have fewer means,” said a senior diplomat in Paris.
France has the world’s third-largest diplomatic network with some 1,800 diplomats and about 13,500 officials working at the foreign ministry.
Ministry officials have said the reforms will preserve the diplomatic profession and careers.
Past accusations by Macron that diplomats have sometimes worked against the executive and a sense that the foreign ministry’s work is overlooked have also not gone down well.
“French diplomats are devoted with body and soul, but are overworked, underpaid and understaffed,” France’s ambassador to Azerbaijan Zacharie Gross said on Twitter.


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