Tools for an EU Science Diplomacy

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Luk van Langenhove

Executive Summary 

1. Science Diplomacy is globally becoming a crucial issue at a time of major crises, but it is still scarcely known and perhaps not optimally used. Europe, in particular the EU, has a high level of scientific excellence and should therefore be able to mobilise its scientific potential as a main means of action within its external policies. 

2. There is no uncontested definition of science diplomacy, but there is a general agreement that three varieties of Science Diplomacy can be distinguished: Diplomacy for Science is mainly about the facilitation of international scientific collaboration. With Science in Diplomacy the roles are reversed: here the scientists are prompted towards supporting foreign policy. Science for Diplomacy goes one step further: here science is used as a tool to build and improve relations between states. 

3. Science Diplomacy policy or Science Diplomacy practices that are labelled by the stakeholders as such can be referred to as explicit Science Diplomacy. But there are also relevant policies and practices that are not labelled as, Science Diplomacy. They can be referred to as implicit Science Diplomacy. In order to avoid a too broad approach to Science Diplomacy, one should limit the use of the concept to the explicit policies and practices that involve both S&T policy and Foreign Affairs policy. 

4. The EU’s competence in science diplomacy is embedded in how S&T policy is dealt with in the European treaties. As such, it can be said that the EU’s science diplomacy has to be seen as a shared responsibility. This poses two major challenges: (i) how to carve out a specific role for the EU that complements the Science Diplomacy policies of its Member States? and (ii) how to integrate that role in the overall EU’s Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy? 

5. Science diplomacy practices can take many forms and can be classified in three categories: 

Strategic tools for Science Diplomacy are policy documents that aim to give directions to what actors want to achieve and how to realize their policy goals. Here we are mainly talking about governmental communications that set out policies for Science Diplomacy. 

Operational tools for Science Diplomacy are policy instruments used to put Science Diplomacy into practice. They involve the allocations of specific resources as well as mechanisms on how to use them. 

Finally, there are so-called support tools for Science Diplomacy that aim to promote or facilitate Science Diplomacy activities. 

6. The literature review and internet search revealed that it is not easy to find strategic documents at the level of EU Member States with regard to Science Diplomacy. 

7. There exist many different operational tools across the different EU Member States that put Science Diplomacy in action. However, in most cases we are dealing with implicit forms of Science Diplomacy as the concept is not always mentioned. Furthermore, in line with the observed absence of strategic tools, the operational tools are not always clearly linked to Foreign Affairs policies. 

8. In general there is no evidence of a lot of support initiatives for Science Diplomacy at the national level in EU Member States. 

9. From the review of national Science Diplomacy initiatives it can thus be concluded that most EU Member States do not have a Science Diplomacy strategy. In most cases however, Member States are engaged in some activities that can be labelled as Science Diplomacy. But the national efforts remain in most cases very limited and there are little support structures. On top of it, most national Science Diplomacy activities are at best only loosely connected to Foreign Affairs policies. In other words, Science Diplomacy is not well developed within most of the EU Member States. 

10. A Science Diplomacy policy of the EU should consist out of two strands: (i) support of the Member States Science Diplomacy policies and practices; and (ii) support of the EUs own Foreign and Security Policy. This can be achieved through implementing the following six recommendations to the EU with regard to the elaboration of an EU Science Diplomacy strategy and structure: 6 

11. Supporting the EU Member States in their Science Diplomacy practices: 

Recommendation 1: Monitor the development of Science Diplomacy in the EU 

Recommendation 2: Create a support structure for Science Diplomacy activities at the level of EU Member States 

12. Supporting the EUs Foreign and Security Policy trough a EU Science Diplomacy Strategy: 

Recommendation 3: Link the EU’s RTD policy with the EFSP 

Recommendation 4: Create a culture of Science Diplomacy in the EEAS 

Recommendation 5: Improve dialogue and collaboration with regard to Science Diplomacy between all relevant EU institutions 

Recommendation 6: Develop a focused EU strategic plan on Science Diplomacy that incorporates the above recommendations. 

13. The above recommendations can be put in practice through the development of a proper EU Science Diplomacy strategy, similar to what exists for the EU cultural diplomacy. But such a strategy needs not only to focus on the organisational issues. It also needs a vision. One proposal is to focus upon three areas that are a mix of self-interests and aspirations to have a positive impact on the world. These areas are: (i) Science and Technology contributions towards enhancing regional security in its neighbourhood and (ii) Science and technology contributions towards improving European trade in the world and (iii) Science and Technology contributions towards tackling global problems.