Cuts at Diplomatic Academy may mean outsourcing

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reduced money allocated for training its own officials

Martin Shabu 21.12.2010
Šéf české diplomacie Karel Schwarzenberg musí zajistit, aby se jeho podřízení vzdělávali a zároveň to jeho úřad moc nebolelo. Bude řešením soukromá vysoká škola? | na serveru Lidovky.cz | aktuální zprávy Šéf české diplomacie Karel Schwarzenberg musí zajistit, aby se jeho podřízení vzdělávali a zároveň to jeho úřad moc nebolelo. Bude řešením soukromá vysoká škola? | foto: © IlustraČeská pozice
Šéf české diplomacie Karel Schwarzenberg musí zajistit, aby se jeho podřízení vzdělávali a zároveň to jeho úřad moc nebolelo. Bude řešením soukromá vysoká škola?

The Diplomatic Academy is facing tough times due to fiscal constraints, and only three of the original seven employees remain following job cuts. Moreover, its budget is set to be reduced from the current Kč 5.7 million to Kč 3.5 million next year.

The Diplomatic Academy, a school for the professional advancement of Czech experts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MZV), annually provides training for approximately 40 ministry employees. The ministry is now preparing a plan to outsource part of its education program. ‘If you want the third secretary to become the second secretary, the person in question must attend courses at the academy’Diplomats have confirmed that the situation is indeed serious.

“It is firmly bound up with the career management system. If you want the third secretary to become the second secretary, the person in question must attend courses at the academy. This is now threatened,” a highly placed MZV official told Czech Position.

“People at the ministry are speculating about interconnecting it with the Metropolitan University Prague (MUP), which, however, would charge commercial tuition fees for such training,” the source said.

The fact that the MZV contacted the university was confirmed by Petr Vyhnánek, its prorector for development and external relations. “Two months ago, Rector Michal Klíma was addressed in this matter. Nothing else happened,” he said.

Czech Position has obtained a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Nothing has been decided yet. The minister promised that he will return to dealing with the future of the Diplomatic Academy at the end of January next year. Should it concern a subject from outside, it would have to win a selection procedure,” Professor Otto Pick, an aide to Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), said in the statement.

A break in the ladder

The career management system counts on the Diplomatic Academy educating junior and senior diplomats. “The academy’s operation will be disrupted. The ministry has a natural attrition policy. Older employees retire and younger ones find jobs elsewhere. Some 40 people leave each year,” said Alena Prouzová, a former director of the academy. ‘Older employees retire and younger ones find jobs elsewhere’

Prouzová is also a victim of the budget cuts; Schwarzenberg fired her at the end of October. When Czech Position asked what the official reason for her dismissal was, the MZV declined to comment. According to confidential sources, Prouzová was withdrawn because tried to block drastic cuts.

In addition to providing training to Czech diplomats, the academy, however, has agreed to cooperate with many foreign partners. In the past, for example, officials of the new Iraqi regime and civil servants from Zimbabwe could study in Prague. This is now in jeopardy.

Diplomacy like a sport

According to the previous concept, only graduates from the Diplomatic Academy could work in the diplomatic services. Yet for the second year in a row, the academy has not launched recruitment for applicants desiring a diplomatic career. It is not clear in what manner the MZV will continue to select diplomats.

The ministry is fully aware of the unpleasant impacts. “Of course, it affects us. It’s like in sports. Every club has to ensure that it has a steady stream of new talent coming through,” ministry spokesman Vít Kolář told Czech Position.

On the other hand, he downplayed the situation, saying that a sufficient amount of people with experience from abroad are in the labor market. However, they must possess specific skills, including the psychology of negotiation. Moreover, they may lack an overview of the functioning of international institutions and be unacquainted with the security aspects of international politics.

Speaking in tongues

The academy also has a language school. Linguistic training is intended for the diplomats themselves and family members joining them abroad. Currently, the Diplomatic Academy has three employees: the deputy director, the head of language courses and the secretary. They must ensure specialized and linguistic education for approximately 40 diplomats and MZV civil employees. Linguistic training alone swallows up some Kč 2.5 million a year, Prouzová said. Linguistic training alone swallows up some Kč 2.5 million a year

Every year, 15 persons applied for the one-year study at the Diplomatic Academy. They studied six months in Prague, spending two months at a foreign embassy and four months at one of the ministry’s departments in the Černín Palace in Prague. At the end, the candidates write a specialized thesis. Only then did they obtain a graduation certificate.

Another important agenda the Diplomatic Agency took care of was international cooperation. “We are involved in the European Diplomatic Program, within which the 27 EU countries, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union participate,” Prouzová said. “We select candidates for residencies at partnership academies. We have signed 25 memorandums of understanding that have made it possible for Czech applicants to study in countries such as Azerbaijan, Peru, Chile, India, Pakistan and Egypt.”

The uncertainty as to the future of the project has given rise to various ideas. According to information obtained by Czech Position, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Cyril Svoboda (Christian Democrats, KDU-ČSL) was also interested in the matters of training of civil servants, including MZV officials. As he confirmed, Svoboda came up with the proposal to set up a super-diplomatic academy that would train government employees in EU issues and diplomatic skills. The fate of this project is uncertain as well.