Call for Proposals Lobbying and diplomacy in/of the EU

Workshop, Sciences Po, CEE, Paris, 19 May 2017

Lobbying and diplomacy in/of the EU: two faces of the same coin?

This workshop aims to bring together scholars working on diplomacy and lobbying in and of the European Union (EU) to investigate whether these two activities have now become faces of the same coin. This question has acquired relevance in light of the significant changes that we observe in the field of diplomacy – an increasing range of topics to be discussed at the international level as well as a new set of actors being involved in diplomatic activities – and of the growing role of lobbying. By fostering a dialogue between two communities of scholars that have rarely crossed their mutual expertise, this workshop aims to open up a discussion about the role that lobbying and diplomacy play nowadays. The workshop thus investigates what makes lobbying and diplomacy similar and, at the same time, different, and how we can learn from the concepts and tools of these subareas in advancing our knowledge of the EU’s multilevel political system as an arena where lobbying and diplomacy occur as well as an actor that practices both lobbying and diplomatic activities.

Lobbying and diplomacy are activities aimed at representing certain interests in front of the decision-makers and the public of a political system (Kerr 2010; Rowe 2011); at informing policy-makers and the public about certain policies, specific viewpoints, etc. (Melissen 2013; Rowe 2011); at communicating these issues via formal and informal channels (Kerr 2010; Stavridis and Jančić 2016); at influencing the formulation and implementation of policies (Rowe 2011; Tidwell 2016); and at building relationships (Rowe 2011). Besides the similarity in the goals of lobbying and diplomacy, both rest on persuasion (Kerr 2010), as diplomats and lobbyists have to convince their counterparts of the importance of their perspective, information and interests. But are these activities faces of the same coin? Where are the boundaries (and vice versa, the overlaps) between lobbying and diplomacy? And where can we observe variance between lobbying and diplomacy?

Diplomacy has long been portrayed as the prerogative of states (and its representatives), engaged in the management of international relations by negotiation and in a peaceful manner (Melissen 2005; Hochstetler 2013). In recent years, however, the exclusivity of diplomacy as a state domain has been challenged on several fronts. First of all, the range of issues has expanded significantly to a variety of areas that go beyond the immediate military and political dimensions of traditional diplomacy (e.g. environmental diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, etc.). Second, the range of actors involved in diplomatic activities has substantially changed, with new actors being involved in global governance and active in diplomatic activities. For example, economic and financial diplomacy has given enormous relevance to the role of economic and financial ministers as well as bankers and private regulators (Bayne and Woolcock 2016; Helleiner 2013). Civil society actors have also been increasingly involved in international matters and their role has often been central in the conclusion of agreements (Hochstetler 2013; Davenport 2002). Similarly, parliaments have become vocal on the international stage, giving rise to parliamentary diplomacy aimed at ‘catalysing, facilitating and strengthening the existing constitutional functions of parliaments through dialogue between peers on countless open policy questions across continents and levels of governance’ (Stavridis and Jančić 2016, 111). Third, states have also started to outsource part of their diplomatic activities by hiring consultancy firms (e.g., APCO, Burson-Marsteller) to promote their interests within the EU (Corporate Europe Observatory 2010; Corporate Europe Observatory 2015; Newhouse 2009), such as the work of Alber&Geiger for Morocco shows[1].  Finally, public diplomacy, i.e., the engagement with foreign publics, has acquired a prominent role in the diplomatic efforts of many countries. It is used ‘by states, associations of states, and some sub-state and non-state actors to understand cultures, attitudes, and behaviour; build and manage relationships; and influence thoughts and mobilize actions to advance their interests and values’ (Gregory 2011, 353).

Unlike diplomacy, lobbying is normally associated with the actions of interest groups. Defined as those activities that target policy-makers with a view to influencing policy outcomes and bringing them close to the interests and goals of the lobbyists, the role of lobbying and how different interest groups manage to shape public policies is a crucial issue for scholars (e.g. Schattschneider 1960; Baumgartner and Leech 1998; Klüver 2013; Greenwood 1997). Given its importance in terms of who wins/loses in politics and who influences whom, lobbying has thus generated a large amount of studies that have tried to assess the influence of interest groups (e.g. Klüver 2009; Dür 2008), to gauge the evolution of the lobbying population (Berkhout and Lowery 2010) and to evaluate their role in terms of democratic accountability and/or biases that the system might have towards certain actors (e.g. Kohler-Koch and Finke 2007; Kurzer and Cooper 2013). Interestingly, lobbying does not only occur on issues of domestic policy, but foreign policy is an important aspect as well. As widely demonstrated in the case of US foreign policy, numerous actors try to influence US decisions concerning third countries (Paul and Paul 2009; Spiegel 1987; Hrebenar and Clive 1995). Many of these non-state actors aim to defend the interests of the third country, such as AIPAC in the US (Mearsheimer and Walt 2006). This also makes it difficult to clearly distinguish when these actors speak on their behalf or act in cooperation with or as coopted forces for a third country (Hägel and Peretz 2005; Koinova 2012). Therefore, the boundaries between lobbying and diplomacy are not always clear-cut and can be extremely permeable.

The EU is a privileged case to study both lobbying and diplomacy and the relations between these two activities. Over the decades, the EU has become one of the main arenas of lobbying activities. Although the exact number of lobbyists in Brussels is impossible to calculate given the absence of a compulsory register for interest representatives, the interest group population has seen a steady increase over the decades (Berkhout and Lowery 2008, 2010) in a very wide range of issue (e.g., Bunea 2013; Coen 1997; Kurzer and Cooper 2013; Mahoney 2008; Voltolini 2016). At the same time, the EU is extremely active in diplomacy and as a site where diplomacy is performed. On the one hand, member states are active in their diplomatic efforts in Brussels, when they negotiate within the EU. On the other hand, the EU is also an active diplomatic actors on the international stage, whose role has been strengthened by the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and its delegations around the world. The multilevel nature of the EU is also particularly interesting to analyse possible differences among the lobbying and diplomatic practices that are performed at the European or national levels.

Against this backdrop, several questions can be asked when it comes to lobbying and diplomacy in/of the EU, such as:

  • How can we conceptually and analytically distinguish between lobbying and diplomacy in/of the EU?
  • What makes the practice of lobbying different from the practice of diplomacy?
  • Are lobbying and diplomacy performed differently at the national and European levels? If so, how?
  • When do certain states adopt the practices of lobbyists and when can lobbyists be equated with diplomats in the case of the EU?
  • Are different typologies of actors involved in different forms of diplomacy and lobbying? Put differently, can we identify different types of actors that perform lobbying and diplomacy differently?
  • What is the role in recognition by peers in determining who is a lobbyists and who is a diplomat?
  •  What role does the phenomenon of ‘revolving doors’ play in changing/adapting the boundaries between lobbying and diplomacy in the EU?

This workshop is strongly committed to theoretical, epistemological and methodological pluralism. All contributions tackling both theoretical and empirical questions concerning lobbying and diplomacy in/of the EU (and its member states) are welcome. We are particularly interested in papers that deal with the following topics: strategies and practices of lobbyists used by diplomats and vice versa; diplomacy and lobbying at/by the European Parliament; cooperation between lobbyists and diplomats in the performance of their activities; public diplomacy in/of the EU; training, careers and the phenomenon of revolving doors of lobbyists and diplomats in the EU; institutional, symbolic and social recognition of lobbying and diplomacy in the EU.

Abstracts of maximum 250 words should be submitted to Olivier Rozenberg ( and Benedetta Voltolini ( by the 16th December 2016. Please feel free to contact us if you require any further information. Authors will be informed of the acceptance/refusal of their abstract by the end of January 2017. Part of the costs to participate in the workshop are covered.

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Download the call for Papers (PDF 72 Ko)