Amid Budget Cuts, Italian Diplomats Stage Strike

Operations of the Italian embassy in Berlin, seen here, were paralyzed July 26 as Italian diplomats waged a strike over budget cuts. Photo by: Necrophorus / CC BY-SA NecrophorusCC BY-SA

Italian diplomats around the world went on strike July 26 to protest the government’s plan to reduce civil service salaries and freeze recruitment for two years, among other austerity schemes to curb the country’s budget deficit.

According to Cristina Ravaglia of the Sindacato Nazionale Dipendenti Ministero Affari Esteri, some 90 percent of their members joined the strike, thus showing a sense of “institutional pride,” ANSA News reports.

SNDMAE is the union that represents foreign service workers in Italy.

In a statement, SNDMAE said the incident affected operations at the foreign ministry headquarters in Rome as well as Italy’s 325 embassies, consulates and cultural institutes worldwide, The Economic Times reports.

The boycott took place as Italian ambassadors gathered for a two-day conference in Rome, according to Adnkronos International.

The ambassadors discussed cost-saving measures to rein in the Italian government’s ballooning public debt, which is one of the world’s highest.

Funding for overseas development aid, a key component of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ work, has also been cut. In an interview with Devex, Elisabetta Belloni, who heads Italy’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation, said there was almost no more money for aid projects in 2010. Next year, she added, will see a reduction in its resources by one-third.

Belloni said the cuts have forced her department to close down offices and drastically reduce staff.

She remarked: “We can’t compress ourselves anymore, otherwise we have to shut down. We touched the bare minimum. I don’t have an idea how to implement further reductions.”

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    Chiden Balmes

    Chiden, a correspondent based in Seoul, focuses on computer-assisted reporting to provide international development professionals with practical business and career information. He also contributes to the Development Newswire and the Global Development Briefing, two of the world's highest-circulation development publications.