Promoting bilateral relations
According to the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and the 1979 decree on ambassadors’ powers, the promotion of friendly relations, in particular economic relations, is one of the purposes of diplomatic missions. In fact, here relations in all fields should be mentioned.
A friendship charter for the use of states. In 1970, the United Nations devoted a long declaration to the issue of friendly relations between states.
President Chirac and the
German Chancellor Schröder
in Berlin in June 2000
© F. de La Mure / M.A.E.
Friendly relations and political relations
The Vienna Convention talks about friendly relations but does not say anything about political relations. The implication is that political relations can only be friendly. Although the convention could hardly say otherwise, it is nonetheless not always the case. It may be that a state openly condemns the policy of another, for example for human rights contraventions - yesterday it was South Africa, today it is Burma. The diplomatic mission on the spot has to maintain a deliberate coldness. Nevertheless, as long as relations have not been severed, the embassy has to preserve whatever it can. It is another a way of promoting friendly relations.
From self interest to mutual advantage
That said, it is however true to say that diplomatic missions should promote bilateral relations in all areas, the same ones in which they have to defend their country’s interests. However, here matters are viewed in a different light, taking the fundamental reality of international relations into account, that of reciprocity. We cannot obtain price or other concessions for exports without giving something in return. Defending the interests of one party is paid for by granting an advantage to the other - in the end resulting in progress being made in their relations...or, if neither is prepared to bargain, by paralysis. In short, the positive outcome of protecting interests is the furtherance of mutually advantageous relations.
From relations between states to relations between public figures
Improving relations as a way of protecting interests primarily concerns states. It takes place by exchanging official visits at all levels - those of ministers and heads of state and governments trigger those of top civil servants and specialists. In addition, there are contacts between bodies with legislative powers and between territorial authorities, the motor for rapidly developing decentralised co-operation. The head of the mission should also encourage bilateral relations between private or semi-public bodies: universities, research and study institutes, trade unions, employers’ organisations, professional organisations. Individual bodies themselves are vehicles of influence. A Nobel Prize does much for the prestige of a country, as does a successful singer or a footballer. In the last analysis, if a diplomatic mission really wants to improve bilateral relations, it has to act on all the things that make up public opinion - it is about communication.
Promoting relations between states focuses on the same areas as protecting their interests, but with a more dynamic approach. It doe not only concern states but all the life forces that make up a country.
Local authorities: In 1992, a law was passed giving them the right to negotiate -within specific limits- with their foreign counterparts.