Reports and papers

Bilateral Diplomacy in the European Union, Towards 'post-modern' patterns?

02 Apr 2008 - 13:14

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.'

About the authors

Jozef Bátora is Research Fellow at the Institute for European Integration Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Oslo, MPhil in public administration from the University of Bergen and BA in political science from Comenius University, Bratislava. His current work focuses on the EU's CFSP and the changing nature of diplomacy in the context of European integration. Email:

Brian Hocking is Professor of International Relations at Loughborough University, United Kingdom and a Senior Visiting Fellow in Clingendael's Diplomatic Studies Programme. He has taught and held visiting research positions at universities in Australia, the USA and Europe. His research is concerned with the interaction between domestic and international forces in the conduct of foreign and foreign economic policy and the impact of globalisation on the nature and organisation of diplomacy.