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European diplomacy

Within the EU it has become fairly routine for some politicians (usually from opposition parties) and journalists to question the need for maintaining national embassies in the capitals of other EU Member States. And indeed with so much political activity being concentrated in Brussels and with the aspirations of forming a common foreign and security policy, the continued maintenance of national embassies might appear simply to be the perpetuation of an old and certainly costly habit and hence needs explanation.

Why then do we need bilateral embassies in the other EU countries?[29] This question so much vexed the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, that in 2000 he commissioned a special study on this issue to be carried out by Ambassador Paschke, a former high level German diplomat and Inspector General (Office of Internal Oversight Services, OIOS) of the United Nations.[30] Ambassador Paschke, some will say not surprisingly, concluded that bilateral embassies remain most relevant, but are undergoing important changes in their activities with the following focal points:

- observing developments in public opinion in the receiving state which impact on decision making on European issues;

- analyzing long term trends, especially in regard of attitudes towards European integration;

- influencing (through direct contacts and public diplomacy) the national preparation of decision-making in Brussels;

- continuing to represent the intellectual and cultural identity of their home country in what will remain a ”Europe of Motherlands”;

- promoting scientific cooperation;

- promoting trade;

- serving as public relation agencies in a Europe where networks will become ever more important; and

- providing consular services, especially for long- term residents.

Thus for the mid term future bilateral embassies in EU countries will remain important for the pursuance of number of essential activities.

Another consideration has to do with a phenomenon, which Ambassador Paschke termed the ”illusion of familiarity”. Often the usefulness of the modern diplomat is put into question because of the close relations politicians develop with each other, their frequent meetings in the UN at regular conferences and even more so within the EU or in other regional settings. The European Union is the primary example of these ”class room” relationships. And indeed, the personal networks of politicians, the ease with which, for example, they can resort to the telephone are fairly new developments in international relations. Frequent, periodic meetings generate the feeling of intimate knowledge not only of the politician as colleague but also of his or her thinking, his or her motives and the background of decisions provided by their home country.

However, more often than not this is a superficial felling, void of deeper analysis and knowledge about the circumstances leading to certain situations and decisions. ”Proximity has not produced intimacy.” (Paschke). Politicians, also in Europe, still think and act essentially in national categories. These vary widely and can only be properly evaluated through continuous first-hand observation. The illusion of familiarity requires correctives, which only the embassy on the spot can provide through meticulous, in-depth analysis supplying politicians with reliable ”hard” information on the political thinking of their colleagues. And only the embassy on the spot can ensure that bilateral problems are dealt with comprehensively, taking into account all aspects of the problem, and also provide the necessary follow-up.

A related issue is the extent to which membership in the European Union necessitates organizational changes within the structures of the foreign ministries of Member States[31]. The most important steps to be taken center around the organizational necessity of coping with the CFSP’s COREU-traffic (speedy distribution and, if necessary, reaction), including the establishment of a ”European Correspondent unit” within the political department of the ministry; the need, either within the foreign ministry or elsewhere within the structures of government, to ensure optimal coordination on EU related matters and the capacity to fulfill all the responsibilities concomitant with the function of the EU Presidency.

When we speak of ”European Diplomacy” we also have to look to the future of European foreign policy. There is considerable interest in this issue within the European Convention and, naturally enough, within individual European foreign ministries.

What does the slow but ongoing consolidation and further development of the EU´s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) mean for the traditional foreign policy apparatus of Member States? In all likelihood, foreign policy of the EU will for some time at least remain in between interstate and community methods. The second pillar will not immediately disappear or collapse; rather it will slowly wither away. In the long run, however, Political Union will be as unthinkable without a unified foreign policy as the internal market would be today without a unified foreign trade and tariff policy. And indeed, foreign policy is an obvious case study for an area, where truly combined EU action would certainly be more effective than national action. What is urgently required for the Union in order to move from ”global payer” to ”global player” is a more adequate, better-streamlined representation towards the outside world:

- the current system of rotating presidencies will have to be rethought;

- most probably we will see a gravitation of foreign policy competencies towards the Union’s High Representative, who will, in a personal union, combine what are currently both Mr. Solana´s and Mr. Patten’s job profiles. (Perhaps a High Representative as a member of the Commission, acting with a mandate of the Council);

- we will see a European diplomatic service being developed, directed by the HR and consisting of the following three elements:

- amalgamation of the Commission’s Directorate-General for External Relations with the corresponding Directorate-General of the Council Secretariat;

- further development of the Planning Unit into an independent unit for analysis co-staffed by diplomats from member countries; and

- in third countries EC-Delegations will become EU delegations, serving the whole union and with some coordinating function in the field.

At Wilton Park’s Conference on the role of diplomats in the modern world (FN 1) the point was made that the European Convention’s proposals on a “Constitutional Treaty” and subsequent negotiations at the next Intergovernmental Conference (ICG) might well bring more changes to the procedures and institutional set-up of the Union’s CFSP than has been hitherto assumed. Such a development, it was argued, would then also call for a deeper going re-structuring in the organization and procedures of national foreign ministries in EU member states in the direction of a true “Europeanization” of foreign policy making.

The emergence of a specialized external service of the European Union will, however, only happen over some extended period of time. It might very well include the establishment of additional bridges (”passerelles”) between the remaining national services and the emerging external service of the Union. Even then a number of important reserved domains will continue to remain with the individual foreign ministries of Member States, where national interests that can and will not be dealt with on the Union’s level, are at stake.

The evolution of a European Diplomacy and a European External Service will necessitate better coordination in the training of diplomats. Currently there are only a few institutions in Europe that explicitly provide training with such a vision in mind. Foremost among them is the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. In December 2001 the Academy organized a meeting of leading European institutions in the field of diplomatic training with the purpose of finding ways and means to better harmonize training requirements and methods. The meeting adopted a number of proposals, which should guide further action in this field, among them the idea to jointly develop a ”programme de base” for a future common curriculum for the training of diplomats. This meeting was also a first concrete reaction to various initiatives presented to the European Parliament, most notably by the Spanish MEP, Gerardo Galeote Quecedo, concerning a common Community diplomacy and the development of the external service.

These proposals also include the idea of establishing a European Diplomatic Academy, without however specifying to any extent the structure of such an institution. Similar proposals for coordinating the training programs and a common foundation for European diplomatic programs can also be found in Mr. Inigo Mendez de Vigos’ contribution to Working Group VII (External Action) of the European Convention[36]. Furthermore, the proposal for the establishment of a European Diplomatic Academy is also contained in the final report of Working Group VII to the European Convention[37]. Probably the most efficient and workable way to meet these various interesting and forward looking proposals would be to establish a consortium consisting of the leading institutions in this area which will operate under jointly elaborated guidelines and with the coordination of the European Commission’s Department for External Affairs.

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