The European External Action Service: Changing The Nature of Diplomacy or Old Wine in New Bottles?

A conference at Europe House organised by the London School of Economics, and the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust

Thursday 22 November and Friday 23 November 2012


Click here for the draft programme| [Word]

Click here to listen to or download the audio podcasts of the conference|

The aims of the conference

Diplomatic adaptation to the existence of the EU has largely focussed on broad trends of reform in foreign ministries arising from membership. New arrangements have evolved for the conduct of foreign affairs by EU member state governments, fostering the emergence of procedures and norms for EU coordination. In fact, the adaptation has been partly driven by global rather than merely EU-specific changes. Yet, importantly, national foreign ministries have authorised the creation in the EU of a system of procedures for coordinating the workings of national diplomatic systems and creating EU institutions and procedures parallel to national arrangements. The key issues now are whether the result is enhanced European policy-making, whether the EU’s institutional arrangements have become more effective than the product of the EU’s component parts and whether the EU has created a basis for foreign policy making of relevance to other regional organisations.

Both the European Commission and the Council of the EU saw a growth in competence, agenda and staff in the field of external affairs and foreign policy long before the Lisbon Treaty. These were forerunners of the new European External Action Service, which was supposed to decrease administrative complexity and bureaucratic rivalries and form a key step in the creation of what might become a `EU diplomatic system’ – a collection of institutions and organizations managing relations between the EU and its member states and mediating between the EU, third states and international actors, whether governmental, non-governmental, regional or global. Yet ‘competence’ has remained essentially contested. Many have argued that competing mindsets within the EEAS have continued the pre-Lisbon turf battles, which so lamed the workings of CFSP - and were supposed to disappear.

This conference involves several levels of analysis: conceptual shifts in the organization of diplomacy in the EU, practical adaptive processes, new structures and enhanced professional standards, structural developments (integrative or regressive?) in the Commission, the Council and the EEAS. The conference poses the question of whether the European External Action Service and the High Representative, perhaps a EU ‘foreign minister’ in all but name, actually form a new diplomatic system. The conference also looks at emerging patterns of EU diplomatic representation in third states and international organizations. Underlying the analyses is a question relating to the continuance (or not?) of member states' national arrangements for representation, most usefully viewed in terms of costs and benefits of retaining or creating national diplomatic structures, a potential corollary being the conceivable removal of some tasks away from national foreign services to a new ‘supra’ national diplomatic service, questioning the ‘Westphalian’ model. The conference also covers personnel and training issues, for these may prove to lie at the heart of successful promotion and achievement of a new form of non-state diplomacy.

Finally, the hypothesis is that, overall, incentives to reform diplomatic services are not the ‘intellectual property’ of the EU, but are relevant worldwide. ‘Europe’ may nonetheless prove to be the most successful example of resulting diplomatic change – and potentially a model for other regional organisations.

David Spence, DINAM Fellow, LSE

Click here for the draft programme|  [Word]

Conference Abstracts, Papers and Speaker Biographies

Click here for Conference Abstracts| [Word]

Click here for Conference Papers|

Click here for Speaker and Chair biographies| [Word]


PRIOR REGISTRATION IS ESSENTIAL for both seating and security purposes.  Please register on the form below, with a contribution of £20 towards administrative expenses, and return to Win Burton at 134 Main Road, Long Hanborough OX29 8JY,

For further information, or any queries, please contact Win Burton on|

Click here for the Registration Form| [Word]

Conference Report

Click here for the final conference report| [PDF]

Click here to listen to or download the audio podcasts of the conference



In association with the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust