PARIS: French diplomats staged a one-day strike Thursday to protest a plan by President Emmanuel Macron to strip foreign envoys of their distinct status, a move they say will weaken Paris’s influence abroad.
France has the third-biggest foreign service in the world after China and the United States.
And it is only the second time in the foreign ministry’s history that the institution, which prizes discretion and compromise, has staged an open revolt over a government project.
The decree calling for the diplomatic corps’ “extinction” was unveiled in April by Macron, who wants to create a single pool of elite “state administrators” capable of transferring smoothly throughout the public sector.
Diplomats say removing their special status fails to acknowledge their experience and expertise in defending French interests, by making posts available to all senior civil servants and not just those specifically trained for the foreign service.
“The reform says that agents are, in a way, interchangeable,” Olivier Da Silva, a diplomat and union chief, told AFP.
“And that basically, if you meet a few conditions, you could go from a position at the agriculture, education or interior ministry to a position at the foreign ministry.”