A reform went to the end on this restless Thursday: that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Emmanuel Macron spoke 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 this reform wanted by the Elysée. It provides for the “extinction” of the two historic bodies of French diplomacy by the end of 2023 and the creation of a new state body. 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 for “questioning our dogmas” and working “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 those of the United States and China.

A budget increased to nearly 8 billion euros in 2027

In return for this reform, 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”.

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. His entourage had invoked on Wednesday a “very good level of support” for the reform by affirming that “60% of the agents concerned” had already “expressed the wish to switch” to the new body of state administrators.

“It’s smoke,” reacted a diplomat stationed in Paris who wishes to remain anonymous. He pointed out that this “unverifiable figure is due to purely legal reasons”, since agents must express a potential interest before January 1. “Just because you visit a house doesn’t mean you’re going to buy it,” he quipped.

Resources on cybersecurity

The granting of additional staff and credits comes “at a time when the war has returned to European soil, where deep rearticulations are at work”, also argued Emmanuel Macron, with reference to the war in Ukraine. For Emmanuel Macron, it is about the “strength of democracies” in a world in recomposition, with the question of knowing “if autocracies or authoritarian regional powers” are more effective than democratic regimes.

France is further confronted with the rise of anti-French sentiment and narratives in Africa. The head of diplomacy, Catherine Colonna, had already announced in this regard in the fall additional means on the front of cybersecurity and communication. Some 2.5 million euros were thus to be mobilized to fight against online disinformation and hostile propaganda, “often of Russian origin”, she had indicated before the Senate last October.

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