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Maurer, H., & Wright, N. (2020). A New Paradigm for EU Diplomacy? EU Council Negotiations in a Time of Physical Restrictions. The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 15(4), 556-568. doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/1871191X-BJA10039
Can diplomacy work without physical presence? International relations scholars consider the European Union (EU) the most institutionalised case of international co-operation amongst sovereign states, with the highest density of repeated diplomatic exchange. In a year, the Council of Ministers hosts on average 143 ministerial and 200 ambassadorial meetings, along with hundreds of working group meetings. These intense diplomatic interactions came to an abrupt halt in mid-March 2020, when the spread of COVID-19 forced the Council to approve — in a manner unprecedented in European integration history — the temporary derogation from its rules of procedures to allow votes in written form, preceded by informal videoconferences between ministers or ambassadors. This argumentative essay reflects on how we can use these extraordinary months of intra-European diplomacy to assess the viability of virtual diplomacy in the EU context and what lessons it provides as we seek more sustainable means of international engagement.
Keywords: European Union (EU) diplomacy; Council of the European Union; COVID-19; e-diplomacy; virtual diplomacy; technology; communication; governance