A new world of diplomacy

We need diplomats to liaise with cities and regions

Member of the German Bundestag for Alliance 90/The Greens
ECFR Alumni · Former Senior Policy Fellow

Although
the debate about the institutional changes that the Lisbon treaty will bring has only recently
resumed, it already sounds retrograde. Each EU institution is doing what it
does best: fighting for its own turf. This is particularly so as regards the
European External Action Service (EEAS), which will force changes in both the
Council of Ministers secretariat, which serves EU states, and the European
Commission.

The
European Parliament needs to re-frame the discussion, so that it addresses the
core question: what a modern diplomatic system able to advance the EU’s most
important priorities in new and innovative ways should look like.

And
modernisation of the system is essential. The EU’s current institutional
negotiations, about the autonomy of the EEAS and its responsibilities, seem to
miss how international affairs have changed, especially on issues such as
climate change, and how the EU should model its organisational set-up to deal
with these changes. At present, discussions reflect too much the traditions of
diplomacy evident when diplomatic practices were originally codified in the 18th
century.

One
area where a new approach would particularly help is climate change. So far,
the EU’s environmental policies have been mainly domestic (exemplified by the
emissions trading scheme), and statist; that is, focused on persuading other
states to support its position on international climate negotiations. The
Council has been responsible for international climate negotiations; the
Commission for internal policies and climate-related programming abroad. Both
have guarded their territory, rather than co-operated.

Bilateral
and multilateral programmes have been a second-order priority and co-operation
with non-state actors such as cities and regions has been limited. But with the
prospects of a deal next month at the climate talks in Copenhagen diminishing
and, with it, faith in state-to-state negotiations, it is vital that the EU is
able to engage sub-state actors, such as cities and regions, in ways that
supplement the traditional multilateral approach adopted in the Copenhagen
process.

This
new kind of diplomacy requires high-profile, well-resourced, multi-agency
campaigns that can shape public and elite opinion around the world as well as
develop environmental policies for a range of stake-holders, from states to
regions to cities. The EEAS should be given the mandate to carry out such an
innovative approach.

The
EU’s new diplomatic set-up should be staffed, and structured, so that it can
work with those cities and regions that are willing to lower their CO2
emissions even if their governments are not.

The
Lisbon treaty
is meant to herald the emergence of a new world actor. We are also in a new
world of diplomacy, where sub-state and non-state actors matter, and in a world
where some of our most fundamental issues are global. Our new diplomatic system
needs to reflect that.

This piece first appeared in European Voice on 12 Novemeber 2009.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

Authors

Member of the German Bundestag for Alliance 90/The Greens
ECFR Alumni · Former Senior Policy Fellow