The Role of the European External Action Service in Climate Diplomacy

Adapted from a paper presented by Dr Diarmuid Torney for a workshop at Governance Innovation Week, University of Pretoria, 1-5 June 2015.

June 2015

The 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit highlighted the European Union’s (EU) inability to shape international outcomes in line with its own preference. Similarly, the EU’s, responses to the Arab Spring and the Iraq war revealed the Union was either unable or unwilling to respond effectively to global crises. Some explanations for the varied and sometimes limited effectiveness of the EU on the world stage focus on the institutional complexities of the EU and its apparent inability to “speak with one voice” internationally. Other explanations link broader changes in world politics, since the 2008 global financial crisis, with a decline in the power of the EU.1 2 While these two perspectives explain important parts of the story, they each tend to neglect the importance of the other. Perspectives emphasising intra-EU factors often fail to adequately appreciate how the international context conditions the scope for EU external governance. Equally, perspectives focusing on the international context often seem to strip the EU of agency, viewing it simply as a passive receiver of that international context.

Read more: PB Torney