Risking the Foreign Ministry

Risking the Foreign Ministry

As presidential decrees that have come one after the other have severely changed the institutional structures of the Turkish government, it goes without saying the Foreign Ministry has been subjected to the greatest of risks here.

That is because through a single presidential decree, the criteria for appointing high level public officers were changed and the Foreign Affairs Ministry was not spared in this case, as its current internal organizational structure law was also altered.

One important aspect of the new system foresees the appointment of people from outside the institutions and this includes the Foreign Ministry as well.

As a result, this opens the door to the possibility for external people to be appointed to positions in the ministry that had been assumed exclusively by diplomats on duty in Ankara.

Let’s dig in.

The current system does not require one to be a public official in order to be appointed as an ambassador abroad.

Once used only under special circumstances, there is more and more resort to this clause. Today, 12 ambassadors who are not public officials serve Turkey abroad. For example, Turkey’s Ambassador to Tokyo, Murat Mercan, is one of the founders of the longtime ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and was a lawmaker. Turkey’s ambassador to Malaysia is Merve Kavakçı—a former politician.

And despite these examples, the Foreign Ministry’s central organization in Ankara has remained closed to external appointment due to the law about its internal structure.

The duties of the undersecretary deputy undersecretary, director general and vice director general as well as the head of departments have always been carried out by professional diplomats.

The new system terminates this era.

As the new regulation removes the posts of deputy undersecretary, six deputy undersecrataries have already become unemployed as of last week. It will not be surprising to see these very people become appointed as ambassadors in the following term.

The question here really concerns people carrying titles of the general director, deputy director general and head of departments in the Foreign Ministry.

The number three presidential decree on appointments in the public sector published in the Official Gazette last week has opened the door to those who “have worked in the private sector or in state institutions for at least five years” to become a general director in the Foreign Ministry.

So, people who have no state experience can now be appointed to full-time roles and positions in the Ministry’s central organization in Ankara.

For example, there will be no legal obstacle in front of someone who has worked five years in the private or public sector to be appointed to the Foreign Ministry as a director general.

The profession of diplomats, in all countries where diplomacy matters, requires a high level of expertise, a special education and specific career criteria.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a state institution that has conserved a tradition through maintaining a majority of its professional measures.

Just last week, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is continuing in the new system as the Foreign Minister, reminded that he is both the Foreign Affairs Minister and the EU Affairs Minister in his speech, and said “Not everyone is lucky enough to work in two ministries that have the best workforce and the most hardworking personnel.”

“The personnel at the Foreign Ministry have not only earned the respect and the admiration of Turkey but also of countries abroad. I always considered myself lucky for the chance to work with you,” he added.

As Çavuşoğlu said, this international admiration is a result of the ministry’s conscious conservation of its traditions, professional measures, and its capacity to allow a career-based system function internally.

As the new regulations will erode a merit-based system, it brings about the risk to weaken the traditions of the ministry.

One of Çavuşoğlu’s tests in the new term will be to see how he will protect his ministry from such risks.

Sedat Ergin,