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2η Διεθνής Πολιτιστική Ακαδημία
Ημερομηνία: 24-10-2015

Η Ευρωβουλευτής του ΔΗΣΥ-ΕΛΚ Δρ. Ελένη Θεοχάρους το Σάββατο 24 Οκτωβρίου ήταν ομιλήτρια στη 2η Διεθνή Πολιτιστική Ακαδημία που διοργάνωσε το Ίδρυμα Ελληνικού Πολιτισμού στη Ρόδο με θέμα “ Parliamentary Diplomacy in times of crisis”

PUBLIC & CULTURAL DIPLOMACY

IN TIMES OF CRISIS

 

Rhodes - Greece

22 – 26 October 2015

 

Parliamentary Diplomacy

in times of crisis

 

Speech of

Dr Eleni THEOCHAROUS

Member of the European Parliament

Humanitarian Medical Doctor

Poet

 

 

 

Dear Guests and Students,

Dear Organisers and Speakers,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is a great pleasure to take the floor here in the beautiful island of the Knights, an island impregnated by so many different cultures, customs and traditions. I am particularly happy to be in the same panel with so many and so highly distinguished speakers - political scientists, philosophers, parliamentarians, politicians, members of the European Parliament, researchers and practitioners - guests and participants, in this this 2nd International Cultural Academy, a seminar which I am sure that will become an institution for Diplomacy and Culture through the years to come. Our seminar reflects the active role that our hosts and co-organizers - the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, the Centre of Eastern Studies for Culture and Communication and the Institute of International Relations - have always played in the building of cultural diplomacy via the international relations and I thank them for their kind invitation.

Being a parliamentarian, the answer to the question concerning the meaning of parliamentary diplomacy is not always obvious. I would like to share with you some thoughts based on self-reflection and experience on this subject. I hope that this will be one of the reasons that you will share with us your ideas and best practices in parliamentary diplomacy.

Approaching its broadest definition, diplomacy - in a hodgepodge of dictionary terminologies - is attributed to the profession, activity, or skill of managing international relations, typically by a country's representatives abroad. It is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between two or more groups in order to achieve a particular goal.

 

When one thinks of diplomacy one normally thinks of the government of a country working through its foreign ministry, its ambassadors and its embassies to promote the interests of its citizens in bilateral and multi-lateral matters. However, governments of a country may have a different perspective on an international issue, such as climate change or human rights, than the parliament or its individual MPs. That is why there is a small but important aspect to the representation function of a parliament in international relations.

Parliamentary diplomacy is the means by which two or more parliaments conduct an ongoing dialogue with regard to key international issues. This can be accomplished through two methods – institutionally or individually. 

 

 

 

Dear Friends,

 

All parliamentarians ask themselves from time to time the question what parliamentary diplomacy means to them, what their activities in this field are, what their priorities should be and if they have organized their activities in an efficient way guaranteeing sufficiently that meaningful results are reached. I would like to share with you some thoughts based on a self-reflection on this subject. I hope to provoke that you share with me your ideas and best practices in parliamentary diplomacy.

 

In its broadest definition, diplomacy can be defined as the art and practice of conducting negotiations between two or more groups in order to achieve a particular goal. In its most traditional definition, the term is used to describe formalised relations between what are usually independent political entities, generally states. However, as we can experience on a daily basis, in our globalized world, states are not the only ones able to convey their specific messages across national borders. In the most extreme view, the internet and social media have made every citizen an ambassador of his or her country, in the positive as well as in the negative way.

 

The traditional form of diplomacy has not been untouched by patterns of globalization. Most notably, the open nature of our economies and the importance of international trade and investment have made the term "economic diplomacy" into an international buzzword. And indeed, businessmen more often than not have become an integral part of "diplomatic" missions, thereby adding a commercial dimension to international politics. Other groups endowed with an international outlook, including academies and relief workers, have also rapidly expanded cross-border networks, sometimes in cooperation with national governments.

 

In a similar fashion, parliamentarians increasingly orientate themselves internationally. This is first of all a necessity given parliament's appointed duty to scrutinize government's policies - including its foreign policies. Historically, that policy area has proven to be the most difficult area for parliament to check government actions and approaches in a satisfactory way. By engaging in parliamentary diplomacy, they can attempt to reduce this international democratic deficit as best as possible. In addition to enhancing its own adroitness, parliamentary delegations can add a dimension of pluralism to diplomacy, especially when bringing together different political colours and voices that characterize a healthy and well-functioning democracy. The tendency of increased democratization around the globe calls for an increased awareness and recognition of the added value of parliamentary presence in international forum.

 

Conceptualising the European Parliamentary Diplomacy

 

The EP Political Groups

 

Parliamentary diplomacy should be distinguished from traditional diplomacy based on the objectives it seeks to achieve, as parliaments only have limited resources with which to conduct diplomacy. Indeed, the EP’s international role is distinctive and not to be confused with traditional methods of diplomacy. For example, parliamentary actors can use political camaraderie and affiliations to reach-out to interlocutors when traditional channels are strained. In other words, the EP does not and indeed cannot act like a state. It has neither a dedicated foreign service nor the resources of a state, so it has to largely make with approaches such as dialogue, mediation, and persuasion. The EP cannot consider itself on a par with a ministry of foreign affairs, yet it brings to bear its own experience and methods in its international dealings.

 

Indeed, analysing the EP’s international role creates problems for any traditional definition of diplomacy. Diplomacy is essentially about the need for negotiation – in times of war and peace, in times of crisis – as a way to deal with the fact that power continues to be dispersed among a plurality of states. Where scholars have attempted to give theoretical expression to diplomacy, they have largely followed a philosophical or historical approach that has European Parliament.

There are a number of problems associated with these definitions of diplomacy, although two stand out in particular.

First, diplomatic theory tends to be too state-centric and it discounts the role that non-state actors such as the EP or political groups can play in international affairs.

Second, the theory of diplomacy focuses on why diplomacy matters or exists in the first place. It does not, however, really tell us much about the many forms of diplomatic conduct.

 

While there is empirical evidence to suggest that the political groups in the Parliament are growing more cohesive despite increasing national and ideological diversity within the parties, questions remain about the effectiveness of political groups in concretely influencing EU foreign policy. Indeed, one needs to ask whether the political groups do have a positive influence on EU foreign policymaking or whether efforts remain largely superficial.

To answer such questions, there is a need to unpack the meaning of words such as “conduct” and “influence”. Therefore, I am making a distinction between three types of diplomatic conduct: “legislative diplomacy”, “rhetorical diplomacy”, and “active diplomacy”. In this context, legislative diplomacy refers to the actions taken by the EP groups to influence the conduct of EU foreign policy through institutional and legislative mechanisms.

 

Rhetorical diplomacy relates to the release of statements and opinions, petitions, parliamentary committee meetings, the delegation and interparliamentary meetings, etc. – i.e. any action with an international dimension that involves debate and dialogue.

 

Lastly, active diplomacy would involve parliamentarians being sent on missions to third countries to meet with interlocutors and counterparts, to partake in election observation missions – i.e. action that involves active involvement in the politics of a third country and/or making a material difference to the situation (e.g. establishing parliaments, training, election monitoring, etc.).

 

 

Added values of Parliamentary diplomacy

 

In this way, Parliamentary diplomacy has a number of added values, since Parliamentarians acting abroad are, essencially, democratically mandated diplomats. Thus:

  • their active involvement in international forums and activities contributes to the knowledge and insights necessary to scrutinize a national government's foreign policies.
  • Parliamentarians are ideally placed to build bridges between conflicting parties, unshackled by instructions from governments.
  • Members of parliament can transcend their own government's interests by providing principled support for democracy and human rights, since they can be more flexible when engaging in diplomatic activities.
  • Parliamentarians, as legitimate representatives of democracy, are placed to engage in a credible exchange expertise and to draw and to diffuse lessons-learned regarding the build-up of democratic institutions as well as political, intercultural and interreligious dialogues to safeguard pluralism.
  • In these cases, personal contacts can be used to place national developments in context, as well as to initiate activities, including those aimed at peace, security and strengthening democracy and human rights, economic development, improving education and social conditions.

 

 

Expressions of Parliamentary diplomacy

 

Parliamentary diplomacy has different manifestations, especially concerning the parliamentary voice at the international stage, which can be expressed through:

 

   • Active participation in the parliamentary assemblies of international organisations, such as the:

  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
  • NATO Parliamentary Assembly
  • OSCE Parliamentary Assembly
  • Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly

 

  • Organization of incoming and outgoing international visits, for example:

  • Reception of Heads of State and Government
  • Exchange of views and discussion with colleagues from other parliaments on topics of mutual interest;
  • Reception of delegations from international civil society, for example university professors, NGOs or interested youth groups.

 

  • Activities for the provision of technical assistance, ex.:

  • Activities which facilitate the exchange of information on best practices relating to customs within parliamentary institutions and their organisation and management.
  • Activities including study (ex.: by NGOs or on own initiative).

 

 

Parliamentary Diplomacy in the framework of the EU: Greece and Cyprus

 

For Cyprus and Greece of course, the inter-parliamentary dimension provided within the EU framework is of great importance. Since the Treaty of Nice, in 2000, deliberate measures have been taken to strengthen the role of the national parliaments in European cooperation. Similarly, enhancing parliamentary oversight and participation of national parliaments at the EU-level was one of the aims of the Lisbon Treaty (2009). While organizing many ad hoc inter-parliamentary meetings on topical subjects, the EU also knows several structured inter-parliamentary consultations, such as the EU Speakers' Conference of national parliaments, the so-called COSAC (the Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union) and the Inter-parliamentary meeting on Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy. The latter brings together members from all EU parliamentary committees for Foreign Affairs and for Defence.

 

Strengthening and improving parliamentary diplomacy

 

By:

  1. monitoring parliamentary activities, so that they are focused on the right purpose, with:
  • Adequate preparation and determination of the contributions to be made to meetings of assemblies/European meetings in the appropriate parliamentary committees
  • Adequate feedback to the committees after the close of the inter-parliamentary activities: distribution of documents (such as resolutions, reports and recommendations) adopted in an assembly and/or conference;

 

  1. Creating new Friendship Groups and/or new forums, when necessary, while considering to scale them down or abolish them when they cease to serve the stated aims.
  2. Keeping in mind the cost-effectiveness of parliamentary diplomacy: trying to boost performance while saving effort, time and money.

 

  

 

Humanitarianism: A parliamentary reaction to the crisis of our times!

In addition to what depicted above, the Parliament and the parliamentarian has the duty to act as a human being and undertake humanitarian actions and other initiatives, regardless if they fall in his/her typical parliamentarian duties or not. In this sense, one may argue that the “Parliamentarian” may coexist with a kind of “missionary diplomacy” based on ethical and indigenous motives. When a Parliamentarian participates in a crisis mission to help people suffering from the tragic consequences of an earthquake, flood, fire or war, when he/she puts his/her life at risk, this is an initiative worthy to be successfully accomplished. It is also an example of “parliamentarian missionary diplomacy”. Therefore there is a twofolded character of duties: the individual and the collective one. Each type of duties should coexist with the other.  They must be in harmony. This is the way that Parliamentarian Diplomacy deserves the respect of ordinary people, which means that such diplomacy should combine personal and indigenous motives and duties with the ones that the constitutional legal order is based on and from which a Parliament is regulated and ruled.

 

The meaning and aim of the collective and individual duties that Parliamentarians serve focus on the promotion and the upgrading of the democratic systems worldwide and particularly on the fight for freedom, dignity and for the right of human beings to live in stability and peace away from frictions, conflicts and wars. Parliamentarians should be ready to pay cost when they combat for democratic principles and values and for saving lives, particularly in the battlefield. They should be ready even to sacrifice themselves in the struggle against evil.

Here, in the island of Rhodes, the cultural beacon and the geopolitical crossroads of Eastern Europe, the values of democracy and peace are still lightening and this is the guideline of Parliamentary Diplomacy, especially in times of crisis. Because, this is what every civilized society seeks and needs. Therefore, we have no right to deprive from ordinary people, from our civilized societies the successful accomplishment of such a noble task.  Because this is real culture! And, as the Austrian writer Karl Kraus said: "When the sun of culture is low on the horizon, even dwarfs project long shadows!"

 

 
 
 
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