Although there exist a fairly broad consensus on the notion of public diplomacy as a “direct relation with people” pursued by a foreign country’s diplomacy, it is still highly contested whether this practice is in fact new. The question is even more intriguing when referred to an “atypical” actor as the European Union – which, by the way, has long been engaged in this kind of diplomatic action. This paper addresses the matter of a new public diplomacy with particular reference to the European External Action Service, coming to mixed conclusions on the EU’s ability to successfully manage this practice. While the Treaty of Lisbon promises higher coherence and efficiency, EU’s communications still prove to be inadequate on a number of major issues. Moreover, the EEAS is still inclined to use old and new media in a one-way manner, and has not yet embraced a more normative model of diplomacy – which would maximise the effectiveness of its soft power instruments. Nevertheless, there is still considerable room for improvement – for instance paying greater attention to non-governmental actors and a pursuing a higher coordination at the national and EU levels through – and the next few years are going to be crucial for the EEAS to fulfil its potentials in terms of public diplomacy.
Simon Duke, European Institute of Public Administration, Maastricht