Print version

Recent Publications 52:4


Contributions for this issue were received from Federico Palmieri, Lorenzo Vai, Bernardo Venturi.

The future of diplomacy / Philip Seib. - Cambridge ; Malden : Polity Press, 2016. - ix, 154 p. - ISBN 978-1-5095-0719-1; 978-1-5095-0720-7 (pbk)
From the invention of the telegraph to the advent of television, diplomacy has always been reactive to the introduction of new technologies. The pace of diplomacy’s evolution, however, has never been more rapid than it is today. Philip Seib, professor of journalism, public diplomacy and international relations at the University of Southern California, is the author of an interesting contribution on the many challenges a professional diplomat faces in today’s world.
The starting point of Seib’s reasoning is, of course, technology. The spread of social media such as Facebook and Twitter has radically increased the speed of foreign policymaking. This requires diplomats to develop “media skills that extend beyond offering platitudes in front of a television camera and using social media for innocuous, self-serving messaging” (6). The author is cautious, though, about celebrating the marriage between diplomacy and social media. Indeed, many “revolutionary communication tools” (19) have influenced the daily exercise of diplomacy over the years. In the first chapter, Seib offers a useful summary of how these tools (including the telegraph, telephone, radio, television and, eventually, internet and smartphones) have played a role in foreign policymaking. What differentiates Seib’s contribution from numerous books and articles on Twitter/social media diplomacy is the author’s belief that “the future of diplomacy will not be merely a technology-enhanced continuation of traditional roles” (12). The fundamental mission of the diplomat is changing, as is the means by which this is achieved. This reasoning is at the heart of the second chapter, where Seib provides the reader with a well structured reflection on public diplomacy. The short case-studies the author presents in this chapter (China, Russia, Israel and the United States) are particularly effective in explaining how approaches and methods in the field of public diplomacy can vary according to the state’s cultural and political needs.
The idea of a fast-changing technological world permeates the rest of Seib’s book. In Chapters Three and Four the author considers how new media and innovative approaches in diplomacy relate to the issue of non-state actors and domestic influences on foreign policymaking. Chapter Five offers some thoughts on what shape diplomacy might take in the future. The most fascinating idea presented in this chapter is surely that of a “two-tier diplomacy”, consistent with the core assumption of Seib’s book. According to the author, “traditional diplomacy is alive and well” (121). Indeed, it is here to stay: in the future, it will just have to coexist with a “newer, more public-oriented diplomacy” (121). Whether the two approaches are doomed to clash or will end up being mutually beneficial is ultimately up to practitioners.
Philip Seib provides the reader with a concise, easy-to-read book that soundly reasons on how and why diplomacy has evolved and will continue to do so. The abundance of examples, which sometimes have a very enjoyable, quasi-anecdotal taste, and the clarity of the language, which steers clear of the jargon of international relations theory, make The Future of Diplomacy a work especially well suited for novices, but nonetheless valuable for practitioners, too. Seib’s vibrant and well-structured book once again puts diplomacy at centre-stage, strongly rejecting its alleged subordination to the domain of communications. The author’s enthusiasm ultimately highlights the significance and malleable character of the diplomatic art in a rapidly changing world.

Federico Palmieri
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)


The European External Action Service : European diplomacy post-Westphalia / edited by David Spence and Jozef Batora. - Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. - xvii, 427 p. - (The European Union in international affairs series). - ISBN 978-1-137-38302-0
As one of the most important institutional innovations brought about by the Lisbon Treaty, the European External Action Service (EEAS or Service) has gained the attention of EU scholars. Six years after the establishment of the Service, it is now possible to analyse and assess its nature, functions and problems more precisely. That is what the book edited by Davide Spence and Jozef Bátora sets out to do. The volume gathers together a number of essays that portray the EEAS from various perspectives and seek to provide answers to the question of what changes the creation of the first, de facto, supranational diplomatic service may bring to 21st century diplomacy.
The volume is structured in six parts. The first describes the different theorisations proposed for the Service, the implications that arose from its peculiar hybrid nature and its institutional placement in the EU system, and the EEAS’ democratic accountability. A legal analysis of the EEAS with respect to international and EU law is presented in the second part, while the third and fourth investigate the changes that have taken place in the EU delegations since the establishment of the Service, at the multilateral and bilateral level, respectively. The EEAS’ contribution to developing a comprehensive diplomatic approach capable of dealing with crisis management, public diplomacy and consular policy (the latter with a forward-looking view) are examined in the fifth part. Lastly, the sixth looks at the management of the EEAS’ human resources and their training.
All chapters are written by well known scholars who have followed the Service since its inception. The profile they sketch out is of a sui generis and young diplomatic corps, whose features are the product of an ongoing process. This means that a degree of uncertainty is still present in the EU’s diplomatic apparatus. All contributors agreed on this point: although the EEAS may become a game changer in the future practice of diplomacy (not only for the EU), it has not yet realised its potential to the point where its implications for the future of diplomacy in general can be properly assessed. We are still living in the early days of a post-Westphalian diplomatic era, so study of the EEAS may suggest some coming trends, but is unable to give definitive answers. This does not diminish the book’s quality or validity, but it could affect some of its analyses and conclusions, as they could be rapidly outdated.
Given the style and level of detail, the book will certainly be of interest to scholars, practitioners and students who want to know more about the creation of the EEAS and possible developments, but above all about what the EEAS is today.

Lorenzo Vai
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and Centro Studi sul Federalismo (CSF)


Peace agreements : finding solutions to intra-state conflicts / Nina Caspersen. - Cambridge ; Malden : Polity Press, 2016. - viii, 229 p. - ISBN 978-0-7456-8026-2; 978-0-7456-8027-9 (pbk)
With the literature on intra-state peace accords still limited, this book offers a timely, in-depth and well-structured comparative investigation of the main post-Cold War peace agreements. Professor at the University of York and expert on conflict related to de facto states, Nina Caspersen moves beyond the mere announcement of peace accords and formal declarations, and addresses the interpretation of what has been agreed in the accords. Her study is therefore focused on the challenges related to what the relevant components of a lasting agreement and its main triggers are. Additionally, her endeavour provides a detailed analysis of the content of peace agreements, especially addressing some technicalities such as the mechanism of power sharing and institutional design. It also looks at how the content of these agreements interacts with the conflict context and the process of the peace talks.
The book is structured in two parts. The first examines the contents of the agreements through four key categories: territory, security, power and justice. The second part focuses on the interaction between the conflict context, the peace process and the contents of the peace agreement. What makes this book special is the reference throughout to twenty agreements signed in different geographic areas between 1990 and 2010. Combining quantitative and qualitative studies, the analysis focuses only on self-determination or separatist conflicts, and does not compare them to other types of intra-state conflicts.
Caspersen’s analysis is stimulating in many respects. One of her main findings is that autonomy is an overwhelming trend in peace agreements in separatist conflicts, while human rights are critically marginal. She also notes that a greater emphasis on intra-communal dynamics and political contestation within conflict parties could help to enlarge the often narrow perspectives of the negotiating elites and establish a sustainable and legitimate peace process.
The book is a valuable read for those wishing to understand how peace agreements really work. Indeed, it is addressed to both scholars and practitioners dealing with peace and conflict studies, international relations, mediation and peacebuilding. The book’s language and structure are clear and it does not take a robust background in peace studies to enjoy it. However, the specificity of the topic makes it ideal for those who already have a solid knowledge in the field and want to deepen it.

Bernardo Venturi
Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)