The organization law was most recently amended in 1994, and thus was not sufficient in meeting the needs of Turkey’s new multidimensional foreign policy. The new legal amendments have paved the way for fully equipping the Foreign Ministry with a more expanded staff strengthened by expert members.
“The number of members employed in the last two years is higher than the number of those that had been employed the decade before,” Ambassador Naci Koru, deputy undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry, told Today’s Zaman earlier this week. As of Friday, 200 new personnel started working at the ministry.
The amendments paved the way for appointing younger diplomats to senior posts at a younger age, while also offering administrative officers the opportunity to become career officers. “For example, in the past junior diplomats were able to take the exam to become first secretary, which is a key step in the ministry hierarchy, only after nine years of service. Now, they will be able to take this exam after six years, thus younger diplomats will be eligible to become ambassadors,” Koru elaborated.
Koru is known as one of the diplomats to become the youngest ambassador; he was 49 when he was assigned to a post, despite joining the Foreign Ministry as soon as he graduated from university. “Now, they will be able to become ambassador at around 35 or 40 years old,” he said. “In this way, we are turning the ministry into an institution that works more effectively,” Koru said, arguing that the new amendments will create a system where understaffing is not an issue. The number of administrative officers was 403 in 1991; it increased to 524 in 1999 and is currently around 500. The number of diplomatic officers was 712 in 1991; it increased to 875 in 1999 and it has reached around 1,200 with the recent spike in employment.
The title of administrative officers has been changed to “specialist officers,” turning them into career officers. Those officers who have already been taking on many responsibilities at the ministry, along with diplomats, will be able to earn senior representative posts abroad. “Accordingly, they have gained better personal employee rights,” Koru said, underlining the fact that they have almost completed preparations for opening a diplomacy academy in which specialist officers can receive extra training.
Recalling that a new school for the ministry will be constructed on an area of 132 acres, Koru noted a competition launched by the Public Works Ministry for architectural design of the new campus was finalized recently. Koru added that he expected the building of the new campus to be completed by the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.
When compared to other countries, such as Britain, France and Germany, both the size of the budget allocated to the foreign service in proportion to the gross national income and compared to other ministries’ allocations, as well as the number of diplomatic officers employed do not seem to be on par with Turkey’s ongoing vigorous activities in this arena.
In 2007, the budget allocated to the Foreign Ministry was TL 690 million, and it increased to TL 707 million in 2008 and TL 802 million in 2009.
Koru expressed pleasure over the fact that for the year 2011 a 28 percent increase is anticipated for the ministry budget. “Thanks to the increase in the budget … we will renovate our missions abroad. We are preparing to open four new embassies. In 2011, around 15 brand new embassy or consulate buildings will be built,” he said.