The Development of a Diplomatic System of the European Union: Institutions Matter

This research activity focuses on the institutions underpinning the emerging European diplomatic system. It more particularly looks into the EU-level players representing the Union in its relations with third countries, both at the political as well as the administrative level. Special attention is given to the institutional innovations of the Lisbon Treaty such as the European External Action Service and the Union delegations. The investigation addresses following research questions:

  • What are the institutions underpinning the diplomatic system of the European Union? What are the underlying formal and informal rules and procedures?
  • Is the emerging EU diplomatic system a sui generis institutional design or is it rather a mirror image of traditional, state-centre diplomacy?
  • What are the intra- and inter-institutional coordination mechanisms for EU-based institutions in a multi-level and multi-pillar system of EU external relations?
  • What is the impact of the institutional provisions of the Lisbon Treaty on the EU diplomatic institutions (EEAS, rotating Presidency, Union delegations)?
  • Is there an emerging EU diplomatic culture?
  • What is the impact of EU diplomatic system on national institutions of diplomacy?
  • What are the mechanisms of accountability in the EU diplomatic system?

The research is based on a series of case studies and is conducted through documentary methods, and interviews with key participants in Brussels and at the national level. The research design is interdisciplinary in its character as it combines theories and approaches of political science, international relations, law and public administration.

The research, led by Professor Sophie Vanhoonacker, is based at Maastricht University. Further contributions will be made by Dr Karolina Pomorska, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Dr Andrea Ott, Lecturer in European Law, Faculty of Law. Other members of the Maastricht team are Dr Petar Petrov, Dr Mark Stout, Hylke Dijkstra, Heidi Maurer, and Natasja Reslow. The institutional context of EU diplomacy will also receive attention in the parallel case studies on the BRIC (Loughborough) and Kosovo/DR Congo (Leuven). Maastricht University’s links with the European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA) and more particularly Professor Simon Duke will also be exploited to enhance the research process.

The research will lead to new theoretical and empirical insights about the institutional dimension of EU diplomatic relations. It will also provide diplomats and policy-makers with recommendations about how to deal with the challenges provoked by the new developments triggered by the Lisbon Treaty. The research results will be used in teaching at Masters level and in diplomatic training. Papers will be produced for the project web site and the research will also feed into policy papers.
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