Esprit de corps unharmed by job losses

There are big changes underway in the attitude of French diplomats. But one thing doesn’t change: morale depends on the relations between the foreign minister and the president.

The World Today Updated 14 December 2020 Published 31 July 2015 2 minute READ

Christian Lequesne

Professor of political science at Sciences Po Paris

As with most of the foreign ministries in Europe, the French Quai d’Orsay has not escaped severe budgetary cuts in the past ten years. During 2015, some 600 positions will have to go. Rationalization is not necessarily a bad idea as some French embassies have tended to be overstaffed – especially in the cultural sections.

Career diplomats continue to be recruited in France through selective examination. At the highest level, there are two entry channels, the École Nationale d’Administration and the Concours de Conseiller d’Orient, which requires knowledge of a hard language such as Mandarin, Arabic, Russian or Swahili.

All recruits spend three months at the Institut Diplomatique, a ministry unit where they learn from senior peers through study visits and seminars. The primary aim of this probationary period is more to instil the esprit de corps rather than concentrating on policy substance.

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