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PARIS – It was the dismissal that baffled and buzzed French diplomats and their foreign counterparts in Paris.
The head of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) section of the French Foreign Ministry, Christophe Farnaud, was brutally replaced on October 13, without any official explanation.
Details on what exactly happened are scarce. But several French diplomatic officials, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue, said the decision was made by President Emmanuel Macron and was seen as a way to warn the diplomatic system .
Macron has had an eventful relationship with the Foreign Ministry. In a speech to his corps of ambassadors in 2019, the president said France had a “deep state” and warned them to pull over and implement his vision, especially with regard to warming relations with Russia.
Farnaud’s case included countries such as Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and Syria, where Macron has attempted large-scale – and high-risk – initiatives that have yielded mixed results at best.
Several officials said Farnaud was reluctant to implement Macron’s initiatives. Farnaud himself declined to comment, noting via email that he was not authorized to speak to the press as a senior official.
He referred the questions – submitted by POLITICO via email – to the press service of the Foreign Ministry, which made no comment. The Elysee refused to comment.
The lack of clarity on the sacking, coupled with its brutality, was seen by half a dozen diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity as a deliberately brutal choice by Macron to assert his authority over the system.
Diplomats said the sacking could be a preview of how Macron intends to staff top Foreign Ministry positions if he is re-elected next April, with more people nominated by loyal politicians to his vision. French diplomats are already worried about a plan to overhaul the civil service, which would include ambassadorial posts.
Some officials have questioned whether Farnaud’s management style was a factor in his withdrawal. Three French diplomatic officials said a report had been filed in recent weeks with more than a dozen complaints about his behavior. Several diplomats who have worked with him over the years have corroborated the reports of a laconic management style.
But other diplomats have dismissed this hypothesis. They noted that Farnaud had been appointed MENA director in 2019, under Macron’s presidency, even though he had been prosecuted on similar charges in a previous post.
These diplomats also pointed out that Macron had not fired his diplomatic adviser or deputy diplomatic adviser, both accused of bullying and harassment and subject to review by an outside cabinet in 2020. Both have denied them. accusations.
Farnaud was replaced in the leadership of the MENA region by Anne Gueguen, an experienced, respected and high-ranking diplomat who served as No. 2 in France’s Permanent Representation to the UN in New York and had served as Secretary deputy general of the ministry until his appointment.
She takes up a difficult file, a few weeks before France hosts an international summit on Libya on November 12, and in the midst of a serious diplomatic crisis with Algeria.
French diplomats gathered last Friday evening in the large dining room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to bid farewell to Farnaud. The invitation sent by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, FranÃ§ois Delattre, gives no indication of what he will do next.
Although dismissed from his post, Farnaud remains a high official.