The specialist services


Compared to the chancery, bilateral and multilateral diplomatic missions include an increasing number of technical services as international relations diversify and the contributors multiply.

The defence attaché

Under the Second Empire, it was the first specialist position to be included in an embassy. The defence attaché finds out about the state of the armed forces in the host country and maintains relations with the military (exchanging visits and trainees, sometimes undertaking strategic consultations). When the diplomatic post is sufficiently important, the three armed forces - land, sea and air - are represented. When the volume of affairs justifies it, one or two armament attachés are appointed.

"The Ambassador, as head of the diplomatic mission, co-ordinates and leads the civil service and the military mission." Decree of 1June 1979.

The economic and commercial counsellor, head of the economic expansion office

At the end of the 19th century, economic affairs took on so much importance that in 1906, under the authority of Foreign Affairs, the position of commercial attaché was created, which in 1919 was to be attached to the Ministry of Trade. Today, a PEE (economic expansion post) is a branch of the department of external economic relations at the Ministry of the Economy and Finances. The counsellor, supported by specialist attachés, works to develop the economic presence of France in the host country and in France to arouse interest in the host country (by, for example, pointing out to enterprises the existence of markets for their products). He manages the procedures for state aid to external trade. He observes the economic and financial situation. When the financial market is large, the treasury Department delegates a financial counsellor.

Economic diplomacy is not recent. As early as 1720, the French Regent sent "a financial merchant for trade affairs" to Madrid with his new ambassador. (Saint-Simon)

The cultural, scientific and co-operation counsellor

He covers all aspects of cultural action, including the administration of cultural institutes and French schools. He is assisted by specialists in education, the arts, audio-visual as well as in scientific, technical and administrative co-operation. The 31 co-operation and cultural action missions undertaken by the State Department for Co-operation will, with the reform, become an integral part of the embassies.

Illust: The French cultural, 24.6 kb, 165x125
The French cultural
institute in Madrid.
© F. de La Mure / M.A.E.

Other specialist services

Little by little, all administrations involved in external actions are sending representatives to diplomatic missions. According to need, there are now therefore, agricultural, maritime, social, nuclear, customs, police, humanitarian counsellors etc. The inter-ministerial committee for state input abroad (CIMEE) has counted 23 networks to date.

The ambassador, conductor of the orchestra

Each specialist plays a dual role: that of leader of an independent service and that of technical counsellor to the Ambassador, who can bring up a particular affair at his level. The development of technical networks helps the ambassador in his role of representing all ministers. As the unique depository of state authority, his responsibility to co-ordinate is increased. In general, he has a meeting with the whole team once a week.

The growth in technical networks has accompanied the enlargement of the functions of diplomatic missions. The texts in force puts the head of mission in control of the game. In his host country, he is responsible for all that is of interest to France.