The German Foreign Ministry’s Civil Society Project "Dialogue on Europe". A Decent Response to the Challenges of Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century?


Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2016
10 Pages, Grade: 14/20 ("gut")

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Euro crisis, loss of confidence and diplomacy in transition

2. Public diplomacy, integrative diplomacy and the role of civil society as a diplomatic actor

3. ‘Dialogue on Europe’ – A public diplomacy tool involving transnational civil society

4. ‘Dialogue on Europe’ – Hallmark of an integrative public diplomacy?

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction: Euro crisis, loss of confidence and diplomacy in transition

One of the negative consequences of the euro crisis starting in 2008 and the austerity policy that followed was the decrease of trust in the EU and among certain EU countries. Especially Germany’s image had suffered, mainly in Southern European countries.[1] There, it is at best considered as “principal architect”[2] of European fiscal discipline, often however as the “villain”[3] responsible for impoverishment and demolishing of the welfare system in many European societies.[4]

Therefore, claims came up that “German diplomacy must improve”[5] and that Germany had to “develop a new style of interaction”[6]. This call for a better and differently shaped way of, in fact, public diplomacy comes at a time when diplomacy in general is facing a period of transition, marked by the rise of new actors, as from civil society.[7]

This essay examines the public diplomacy response of the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO) to the euro crisis by a case study of the civil society project ‘Dialogue on Europe’. I argue that with the implementation of this project, the FFO has taken an important step towards a contemporary, ‘integrative’ diplomacy. Its eventual added-value however remains to be seen, depending on the final political relevance of process results.

In the following, I will firstly explain the key concepts of this essay – public diplomacy, ‘integrative’ diplomacy and civil society as a diplomatic actor. I will then describe the main idea and concept of ‘Dialogue on Europe’. Subsequently, I will relate the project to the key concepts of this essay and finally critically evaluate the FFO’s approach to include civil society as a part of its public diplomacy.

2. Public diplomacy, integrative diplomacy and the role of civil society as a diplomatic actor

Public diplomacy can be defined as “the process by which international actors seek to accomplish the goals of their foreign policy by engaging with foreign publics”[8]. Among others, ‘listening’ is one of its most important components.[9] Cull defines listening as “an actor’s attempt to manage the international environment by collecting […] data about publics and their opinions overseas and using that data to redirect its policy […]”[10].

One possibility to find out about foreign audience’s opinion is to organise events where a target audience can express its point of view.[11] This however poses the risk that the organiser speaks too much himself instead of listening wholeheartedly.[12] To increase credibility, the government should be involved to show genuine appreciation.[13]

In short, public diplomacy can create the appropriate circumstances for an international actor to debate different perspectives with a foreign audience by promoting decent exchange formats, thus also enhancing the “connectivity of the target audience”[14].

As just pointed out, networking and interacting with a foreign target public has become indispensable. One concept of adapting to this changing diplomatic environment is ‘Integrative diplomacy’.[15] One of its main ideas is that state and non-state actors are not distinct but interlinked and interdependent in complex ways.[16]

Various stakeholders – national state diplomats and non-state actors – can be “producers of diplomacy”[17] instead of only “consumers of diplomacy”[18] resulting “in a new form of common decision-finding […] on a particular issue”[19]. Therefore, the integration of a large amplitude of stakeholders and the creation of policy networks among these is crucial.[20]

Together, state and non-state actors can tackle three obstacles. Firstly, the low level of trust in public institutions is compensated by taking civil society actors further into consideration.[21] Secondly, civil society actors can provide broad expertise and knowledge to governments.[22] Thirdly, state institutions can provide access for civil society to decision-making processes and leaders which would be otherwise hard to reach for civil society actors and vice-versa.[23]

Consequently, a mutuality of interest in these “multi-stakeholder processes”[24] is a fundamental feature of contemporary diplomacy.[25]

A third key aspect of this essay is the rise of civil society as a diplomatic actor.[26] Hochstetler defines civil society as “a sphere of social life that is analytically distinct from the state and market spheres”[27]. What distinguishes civil society actors from other private actors is their principle-orientation instead of profit-orientation, making them a crucial normative and agenda-setting actor.[28] For instance, civil society has a key competence for shaping “public understandings of particular issues”[29] (‘issue framing’), by taking “basic facts”[30] and shaping “meaning and narrative around them”[31].

Another advantage for the civil society being a non-state actor is its capacity to express opinions freely and critically, often ahead of mainstream and based on real-life and on-site experience.[32]

This has had the effect that no longer only a political elite but “new ideas and voices”[33] of citizens shape diplomatic issues which become consequently closer to “ordinary life conditions and needs”[34].

However, what remains problematic is that raising an issue does not automatically go along with its implementation into practical policy or diplomacy.[35]

3. ‘Dialogue on Europe’ – A public diplomacy tool involving transnational civil society

In the light of the intra-European upheavals due to the euro zone crisis, the FFO, in cooperation with the think tank ‘Das Progressive Zentrum’ (DPZ), launched ‘Dialogue on Europe’ (DoE) in December 2015.[36]

This initiative aims to connect “young, promising thinkers”[37] and “key actors from civil society”[38] in France, Germany, Greece Italy, Portugal and Spain.[39] In each country, the DPZ had a local partner organisation providing expertise and manpower.[40]

The process has been divided into three phases. At first, civil society representatives discussed in the course of so-called #EuropeanTownHall Meetings in Athens, Lisbon, Rome, Marseilles and Madrid about the project’s four key topics: Migration & Integration, Populism, Social Cohesion and Sustainable Growth.[41] The elaborated results were subsequently presented during a public debate with the German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth.[42]

Selected participants from all meetings had the chance to participate in a conference in Berlin with the German Foreign Minister and a cross-sectoral audience.[43]

The Berlin conference served as a starting shot for the second phase of the project (‘Creation Phase’) where chosen participants from the first phase plus civil society representatives from Germany are to work out policy recommendations on the four key topics.[44] These policy recommendations will be published by the end of 2017 (‘Multiplication Phase’).[45]

[...]


[1] P. Ames, “Germans desperately seeking southern comfort”, 16 March 2016.

[2] M. Gilbert, “Germany Gets Walloped by Its Own Austerity”, 14 January 2015.

[3] S. Shuster, “Germany Finds Itself Cast as the Villain in Greek Drama”, 15 July 2015.

[4] A. Möller & R. Parkes (eds.), “Germany as Viewed by Other EU Member States”, European Policy Institute Network, EPIN Paper, No. 33, June 2012.

[5] Ibid., title page.

[6] Ibid.

[7] A. Cooper, & B. Hocking, “Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations and the Re-Calibration of Diplomacy”, Global Society, vol. 14, no. 3, 2000, pp. 361-376.

[8] N. Cull, “Public Diplomacy: Taxonomies and Histories”, Annals AAPSS, no. 616, 2008, p. 31.

[9] Ibid., p. 32.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 32, 47.

[13] Ibid., 36.

[14] Ibid., 51.

[15] B. Hocking et al., “Integrative Diplomacy for the 21st Century”, China International Strategy Review, 2013, pp. 53-88.

[16] Ibid., pp. 54-55, 78.

[17] Ibid., pp. 62.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., 71.

[20] Ibid., pp. 79, 86.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., pp. 70-71.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] K. Hochstetler, “Civil Society” in Andrew Cooper, Jorge Heine J. & Ramesh Thakur (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 176 – 191.

[27] Ibid., p.177.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., p. 181.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., p. 180.

[33] Ibid, p. 188.

[34] Ibid., p. 182.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Das Progressive Zentrum, “#EuropeanTownHall in Athens - Start of Project ‘Dialogue on Europe’”, 7 December 2015.

[37] Das Progressive Zentrum & German Federal Foreign Office, “About the project”, 2016.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid. & Das Progressive Zentrum, “New think tank partners after the #EuropeanTownHall Meeting series”, 23 June 2016.

[41] Das Progressive Zentrum & German Federal Foreign Office, op. cit.

[42] Ibid.

[43] German Federal Foreign Office, “Dialogue on Europe – European civil society event at the Federal Foreign Office”, 28 June 2016.

[44] Das Progressive Zentrum & German Federal Foreign Office, op. cit.

[45] Ibid.

Excerpt out of 10 pages

Details

Title
The German Foreign Ministry’s Civil Society Project "Dialogue on Europe". A Decent Response to the Challenges of Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century?
College
College of Europe
Grade
14/20 ("gut")
Author
Year
2016
Pages
10
Catalog Number
V373604
ISBN (eBook)
9783668518681
ISBN (Book)
9783668518698
File size
536 KB
Language
English
Tags
Auswärtiges Amt, Dialogue on Europe, Diplomatie, Moderne Diplomatie, Public Diplomacy, Zivilgesellschaft, Civil Society, Europa, Transnational, think tank
Quote paper
Benedikt Weingärtner (Author), 2016, The German Foreign Ministry’s Civil Society Project "Dialogue on Europe". A Decent Response to the Challenges of Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/373604

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