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Letter of the Secretary General Elisabetta Belloni to the daily Secolo XIX

The article published by the daily on 22 April 2017 about the diplomatic career, requires the following specifications. The public competition for admission to the diplomatic career is far from being a so-called “cronyville,” as proven by facts (as an example, only one individual out of the 33 who passed the competitive examination, was a relative of a former diplomat), as well by the values of transparency and meritocracy, on which the competition rests. The competition is organized into five written tests (diplomatic history, international law, economics, English and a second foreign language, chosen between German, Spanish and French) and it is widely known as one of Italy’s most challenging State competitive examinations. 

The aptitude test is not at all based on “factual knowledge”, rather it is designed to assess a candidate’s ability to work under pressure and in difficult situations, also evaluating his/her training and capacity to reason. A machine-readable bar code system guarantees the test’s absolute anonymity, whose questions are developed by an independent company.  The automatic marking procedure of the written tests always takes place before the candidates themselves and the entire Examining Board. The latter is composed of seven and not eleven members, as it was reported in the  feature. Only three of them, as provided by law, are diplomats: the Chairman, who is always a retired Ambassador, as a guarantee of impartiality, and two diplomatic officials whose rank is at least that of Embassy Counsellor. The remaining four members of the Board, as provided for by the Regulation (Prime Ministerial Decree 72/2008) are a member of the Consiglio di Stato (Council of State), and namely either a lawyer or a magistrate, and three first-level professors from public or private universities who are competent in the subjects areas covered by the written tests. 

Absolute anonymity is also guaranteed for the written tests. They are not at all based on ‘factual knowledge’, as it is clearly stated in the evaluation criteria established by the Examining Board, which are designed also to assess a candidate’s ” knowledge, relevance, congruity, maturity, balance, rationality and  abilities such as argumentation, public speaking, a sense of judgement and critical analysis.”
Unlike what was said in the article, it should be specified that the two mentioned colleagues, Alessandra Oliva and Francesca Guariglia, are in no way related to the diplomatic officials by the same name who are now in service. Finally it should be noted that today’s employed diplomatic officials are 917 and not 1,019, as the article wrongly reported. The above specifications are not only meant to redress a misrepresentation of the actual facts.  They are also meant to protect the personnel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who works with commitment and professionalism in Rome and in Countries and geo-political areas often characterized by high-risk situations. The above specifications are also aimed to preserving the value of the public function of foreign policy and international cooperation in the service of the general interest of our Country – a service which today more than ever demands knowledge and training, professionalism and a deep sense of State.