In October 2014, the European Union (EU) experienced a major change of leadership, with the installation of a new President of the European Commission (JeanClaude Juncker), new Commissioners, a new President of the European Council (Donald Tusk) and a new European Parliament. Alongside these key changes went another that was seen as in many respects equally important: the installation of a new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini. The new HR/VP succeeded Catherine (Lady) Ashton, who had held office since 2009 and had presided over the establishment of the European External Action Service – the core institution of the EU’s new system of diplomacy and external action. Much of the discussion of Mogherini’s appointment centred on how she would achieve the balancing act of being both the head of a ‘diplomatic service’ reflecting the priorities of EU member states and a key member of the Commission, reflecting a ‘European’ mandate. Debate also centred on how she would approach a number of key challenges in the external world, both in the European ‘neighbourhood’ and in the global arena. This volume explores a number of the central challenges facing the EU’s new system of diplomacy, both within the EU itself and from the wider world, during the period of Catherine Ashton’s tenure as HR/VP. In addition it also attempts to set these into a wider context of institutional and policy changes. The implementation of the Lisbon Treaty since its final ratification in 2009 has focused a great deal of attention on one of its key areas of innovation: the consolidation of what might be termed the EU’s system of diplomacy, or the diplomatic system of the EU. The treaty itself introduced a number of institutional changes, which led to extensive debate and manoeuvring within Brussels’ ‘diplomatic community’ and to successive reviews of the framework. At the same time, since coming into operation, these new or consolidated institutions have been faced with a number of pressing challenges. On the one hand, there is the challenge of the continuing shifts in the global arena centring on the emergence of new powers and new issues, which has posed problems of short-and long-term adjustment to new realities. Second, there are challenges within the ‘European neighbourhood’ on both the eastern and southern flanks of the Union. The Arab uprisings of 2011-2012 and their aftermath have generated crisis and opportunity in the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East. More recently,
EU-Russia relations have reached an all-time low since the end of the Cold War. The EU’s determination to sign far-reaching Association Agreements with its Eastern neighbours and Ukraine in particular prompted Russia to annex the Crimean peninsula as the EU’s move was read by Moscow as an attempt to extend its sphere of influence. Finally, and some would say fundamentally, there is the existential crisis of the Eurozone, sovereign debt and potentially of the entire European economic project, which has put into doubt the future direction of the Union as a whole, as was also reflected in the rise of Eurosceptic parties in the 2014 elections to the European Parliament. In this context, the subtitle of this volume thus needs little immediate explanation: the new EU system of diplomacy reflects a process of evolution in a changing context, and has been faced by major challenges since its inception. Such policy and analytical challenges lie at the heart of the research on which this volume is based. The aim is to put the changes of 2009-2014 into a broader context, and to relate them to two key areas of broader change: first, the changing nature of diplomacy as a set of institutions and practices in the world arena, and second, the longer-term evolution of the EU’s system of diplomacy itself. The volume thus sets out to frame the emerging diplomatic system, of the EU, to identify the broad challenges it has faced, and to evaluate its response in a number of key policy areas. In order to do this, it focuses on four core strands of research and analysis within a broad analysis of the problems of an EU system of diplomacy: first, the challenge of twenty-first century diplomacy; second, the challenge of institutional innovation; third, the challenge of ‘strategic diplomacy’; and, finally, the challenge of ‘structural diplomacy’. The remainder of this Introduction will outline these areas of analysis, before offering a summary of the volume itself.