Why is it good for democracy?

News / 01.6.21

Following the publication of our successful book on Paradiplomacy in which we looked at how subnational jurisdictions like towns, cities, counties, regions and other non-state actors use paradiplomacy to seek influence beyond their borders, we have created a new animated video to help bring the concept to life.

What is paradiplomacy?

In Europe a considerable number of states do not enjoy a monopoly over foreign affairs. Some sub-state entities have created a complex set of instruments and policies for their own external activities based on their functional and geopolitical priorities. Paradiplomacy can therefore be understood as a set of instruments that target foreign political entities with the aim of influencing them.

What are some examples of paradiplomacy?

Paradiplomacy has become a concept for regional governments acting within international relations. To achieve their international agendas, regions open offices and conduct “trade missions” abroad. They also become involved in regional or international organizations and participate in regional or international conferences and networks.

Sub-state entities can also make declarations or sign cooperation agreements, develop programmes of assistance, share know-how, observe and participate in (technical) committees, participate in other formal or informal networks, and develop their own public diplomacy. The main fields of this external action are: economic development, technology, education, environment, culture, institution-building, migration, human rights, environment and security.

Paradiplomacy: Why is it good for democracy?

What is the difference between paradiplomacy and public diplomacy?

While paradiplomacy targets foreign political entities, public diplomacy targets foreign publics in a more general sense. Unlike paradiplomacy, public diplomacy is usually not extra-jurisdictional. Sovereign states tend not to place legal limits on the ability of their subnational entities to address foreign publics through tourism campaigns, for example. This distinction can be more theoretical than practical, since members of formal governments are also members of foreign publics and the opinions of members of the general public can influence the stances of their own governments.

What is the role of paradiplomacy within the framework of the European Union? And a globalized world?

Globalization, internal democratization, federalization, and the European decision-making process have facilitated the rise of paradiplomatic activities for sub-states entities. In a globalized world, where we see multiple levels of governance and the concurrence of many public and private actors, the scope of action for sub-state entities in the international field has opened up.

In the specific framework of the European Union, where many of the competences of sub-state governments are indeed shared with European bodies, regions have practical incentives to try to influence the complex decision-making process and benefit from EU resources. At the regional level, as well as at the state level, European affairs are increasingly seen as a matter of domestic as much as foreign policy, given the deep implication of the EU for all tiers of government.

What is protodiplomacy and why is it important for emerging new states?

Paradiplomacy is the diplomatic activity of a sub-state government with very limited aspirations and means, and is almost always focused on gaining cultural and economic advantages for the population that this government represents, whether a stateless nation or not. Thus, when the government of a stateless nation engages in a democratic process of self-determination, a new approach is required.

For some governments, especially in the case of Scotland and Catalonia that are actively seeking independence, paradiplomatic activities are therefore complemented by protodiplomacy, i.e. strategies to seek international alliances and support for the achievement of independence. Proto-diplomacy, to these stateless nations, is a discrete activity that often conflicts with state diplomacy. Nevertheless, it constitutes a key field of action in order to optimize the chances for these self-determination processes to become a success.

Paradiplomacy and diplomacy should co-exist peacefully, in mutual respect for the different levels of self-government because they facilitate, speed up and take better advantage of the relations among the various levels of representation. They should not, however, work against each other because diplomatic relations should be understood as those that are built from the bottom up, not the other way around.

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The Coppieters Foundation is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conferences, events or opinion pieces published on our website.

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