Notes on European political culture




A new diplomacy

In the first weeks of her tenure as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy all eyes have been on the design and structure Lady Ashton gives to her new post. There are no precedents, no models. Ashton essentially starts from scratch in giving the form to the post of Europe’s Chief Diplomat. The importance of this self-invention is easily overlooked.

Diplomacy in its modern form has, for better or worse, distinctly European airs. Diplomacy is distinctly modern because it is in a way one of the basic properties of the modern state. It plays the role of embodying the a state’s character, interests, qualities, and ambitions and conversing with the embodiment of other states. But it is not simply the role of talking about the interests of one’s state, rather, in a strange metaphysical way, it is that state. The notion of ‘credentials’ and the notion of the state condensed in the person is something both different than simple democratic representation and in some sense the basis for representation.

Thus the very idea of a supra-state diplomat like Lady Ashton, a diplomat who has no state, but rather many states, represents a kind of mutation in the very idea of diplomacy. Lady Ashton, in her work of organizing the nuts and bolts of her post, has mobilized over 4000 functionaries and an immense network of diplomats world wide. She is creating a kind of networked diplomacy.

In one sense we might say that diplomacy is the ‘original’ networking. Today, when no experience seems to escape networking, diplomacy returns to reinvent itself as super-networking. The European diplomat, the diplomat of Europe, is a diplomat to the world outside of Europe, but also a diplomat to Europe, a mirror, intermediating itself to itself. Networking outward, networking inward.

In the New Europe, diplomacy emerges not as a concentration of the virtues of a state but of the networked, organic creation of the supra-state (EU) out of its own virtues.

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