European Public Diplomacy: Soft Power at Work

Public diplomacy is typically defined as how a nation’s government or society projects itself to external audiences in ways that improve these foreign publics’ perception of that nation. Europe, in particular, is rich with valuable public diplomacy cases to draw upon. In the long run, public diplomacy that is successful should result in more soft power (a state’s ability to co-opt or attract) and in favorable policies towards the nation that engages in it. Currently, there is a gap in the IR literature on soft power and the mechanisms behind it. Most IR literature in the US still focuses on hard or coercive power and state-to-state interaction. Research on public diplomacy is likely to fill this intellectual gap as it is one of the key ways in which states gain soft power. Public diplomacy is also becoming increasingly prevalent as a result of the information revolution and the direct involvement of publics in transnational engagement. Within Europe, a quasi-federal entity like the EU necessarily encompasses multiple levels of public diplomacy – subnational, national, transnational, and supranational. Moreover, on a more theoretical level, EU public diplomacy provides a strong example of norm diffusion and identity creation. In the context of an evolving actor that is in many ways still very new, the European experience might suggest that external image and internal identity are to some extent mutually constitutive.

The objective of this research project is to expand the literature on public diplomacy through a multifaceted exploration of the European case. In order to achieve this goal, a workshop took place on March 29 - 30, 2012 to prepare a book with the title European Public Diplomacy: Soft Power at Work. The book will be edited by Mai’a Cross and Jan Melissen (Clingendael Institute). We have an invitation to submit this book proposal to the Palgrave Macmillan Series in Global Public Diplomacy. We will also consider other presses. Ideally, we will submit the book manuscript for review by September 2012, and request that all contributors submit their final chapters to us by June 2012. A CIS workshop in March 2012 will enable us to improve the quality of the chapters in preparation for publication.

We envision that this book project will be divided into three parts: (1) Conceptualizing European Public Diplomacy, (2) Public Diplomacy in Europe’s Diplomatic Lab, and (3) Beyond the New Public Diplomacy. Part I in the book will deal with how diplomatic studies, history, and international relations approach (or might approach) the study of public diplomacy. Part II will contain a number of in-depth case studies on various aspects of EU public diplomacy. Part III will push the theoretical and conceptual boundaries of how we can approach the study of public diplomacy by suggesting new and unexplored angles for understanding it.

In preparation for the CIS workshop, we have convened a special panel at ISA involving some of the contributors, and a first-round workshop at Clingendael in the Hague (23-24 June 2011), involving all of the potential contributors.