In a presidential decree (n° 2022-561) dated 16th April 2022, just a few days before his re-election, French President Emmanuel Macron ended France’s reputed Diplomatic Service (Le Corps Diplomatique), as part of his public service reforms promised in 2017. With the new decree, officials employed in the now discontinued diplomatic service will lose their former diplomatic status and be henceforth called state administrators. They will be made part of a pool of state officials to be assigned to various ministries, unlike in their previous status where they worked exclusively in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs located at the Quai D’Orsay.
As of 2023, the new French diplomats will not come exclusively from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will not necessarily be diplomats by education and experience, as used to be strictly the case.
The Decree will affect 800 diplomats in the French Diplomatic Service. Many of them have decried the reform as a “downgrading of French diplomatic service”.
Macron said the reforms would put an end to “state rentiers”. The discontinued diplomatic service system gave officials the assurance of a well-paid job for life after they had passed the civil service exam taken at the age of 25 years.
France Against the US War in Iraq: The Fine Hour of the French Diplomatic Service
The decree signals the end of diplomatic specialization that made the French diplomatic service a reputed muscle of France’s international clout. In a tweet, Dominique de Villepin, the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs who is known for his eloquent speech at the UN on 14 February 2003 announcing France would not support the US war in Iraq, called the measure “a historic mistake”. He wrote “without (the) diplomatic service, there would have been no opposition to the American intervention in Irak in 2003, no Paris Climate Agreements in 2015. It is for France: a loss of independence, a loss of competence, a loss of memory which will weigh heavily in the years to come, at a time when the world is being recomposed, or major crisis – in Ukraine, in the South China Sea, in the Sahel….- and that when a new balance of power is forming between the United States and China, autocratic countries and liberal democracies.”
In his speech, Villepin said, “In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience. The onerous responsibility and immense honour we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament in peace.”
“This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent (inaudible) Europe that has known war, occupation, barbarity. It is an old country that does not forget and is very aware of all it owes to freedom fighters who came from America and elsewhere.”
“And yet France has always stood upright in the face of history before mankind. Faithful to its values, it wants resolutely to act together with all members of the international community. France believes in our ability to build together a better world.”
“Thank you, Mr. President.”
More Reactions on the Suppression of the French Diplomatic Service
Gerard Araud, former Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, said “a plurisecualar history ended with the suppression of the Diplomatic Service. By making a caricature of diplomats, we forget that diplomacy is a vocation, an experience, a knowledge, a tradition, a pride of serving France.”
Marine Le Pen, the runner-up in the second round of the French presidential elections and chairwoman of the Rassemblement National political party, criticized the decree on twitter, saying Macron wanted “to replace impartial servants of the State with his cronies”.
Melanchon, the leader of the political party La France Insoumise which came up third in the first round of the presidential elections, decried on twitter: “France is witnessing the destruction of its century-old diplomatic network. The second-best in the world. Cronies can now be nominated. Immense sadness.”