Bilateral Diplomacy in the European Union: Towards ‘post-modern patterns’?

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Series Details 01 April 2008
Publication Date April 2008
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Just as the European Union (EU) poses questions regarding the nature of political organisation 'beyond the state' similarly it raises issues as to the changing character of diplomacy where this is determined by developments at several interrelated levels, from the global to the subnational.

This paper explores one aspect of this issue by examining the role of a traditional mode of diplomacy, namely bilateralism, as expressed in the continued presence of bilateral missions in EU member state capitals.

The aim is not to provide a detailed empirical survey of the activities of these missions but, rather, to set out a framework within which such an investigation might be conducted. Against this background, we welcome comments and suggestions.

Having briefly considered where bilateralism fits into the complex EU milieu, its changing character is analysed within two contrasting orders - that of a 'modern' and 'post-modern' diplomatic order. This is done in terms of the juxtaposition of three variables: function, access and presence.

The article then addresses the role of bilateralism in the EU, proposing three possible developmental patterns. It is suggested that intra-EU bilateral diplomacy is characterised by a dialogue between a form of 'ceremonial modernity' and 'practiced post-modernity.'

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