PARIS (Reuters) - A French author close to President Emmanuel Macron and his wife has landed a top diplomatic post in the United States, Le Monde reported on Wednesday, just weeks after several coveted foreign ministry positions were made available to non-diplomats.
The appointment of Philippe Besson as Consul General in Los Angeles is likely to raise eyebrows given he wrote a book lauding Macron during the 2017 election campaign and has no particular background as a diplomat.
Le Monde daily newspaper cited the French presidency as saying the decision was in line with a policy of "widening appointment pools, like elsewhere in the public service".
It did not comment when contacted by Reuters.
Besson, 51, has written some 20 novels with some adapted for the big screen. He was among a number of aides and celebrities Macron invited to a Left Bank brasserie the night after his first round triumph last year.
Unlike the United States, where the president can make appointments in key foreign service positions, nominations in France are made after a procedural process at the ministry from thousands of diplomats in France and overseas.
However, a decree at the start of August modified the nomination rules for senior positions, including some 20 consul general postings, that are particularly sought after by career diplomats.
Under the new regulations, those positions can now also be filled by the government if it wishes to do so, including with non-civil servants.
That change and Besson's subsequent appointment has caused some unease among certain diplomats with foreign ministry unions questioning the rationale behind the decision, two diplomats said.
"It is better to do the panegyric of the president than to qualify from ENA or speak languages. Old World?" Michel Duclos, a former French ambassador to Syria and now Senior Fellow at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne think tank said on Twitter, referring to France's elite administrative school ENA.
Diplomats have already seen their numbers fall after government spending cuts in recent years making competition tougher each year to move to new positions.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the ministry would need to cut 10 percent of its payroll by 2022, representing savings of about 100 million euros.
(Reporting by John Irish and Michel Rose; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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Updated Date: Aug 30, 2018 04:05 AM