Bilateral Relations

  • Alice Pannier
Part of the The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy book series (SPIRP)


Bilateral relations are the founding element of international relations and the core of diplomatic work. In the contemporary international system, they are coming back to the forefront and see to overshadow multilateralism. Since their emergence and their formalization in Europe with modern state in the seventeenth century, bilateral relations have become more complex and diverse, and come to encompass an ever-greater array of actors and issues. Bilateral relations between states are not only conducted by heads of government and embassies, but also parliaments, political parties, companies, and civil societies. Bilateral relations and negotiations are also at the heart of multilateral forums, be they regional or international organizations. Not all bilateral relations are equivalent however. Scholars, just like practitioners, have sought to qualify and conceptualize bilateral relations, which range from enmity to friendship, and from limited diplomatic contact to specialness. It is usually hard to qualify bilateral relationships however, as they are all prone to both conflictual and cooperative dynamics, and are subject to change.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alice Pannier
    • 1
  1. 1.Johns Hopkins UniversityWashingtonUSA

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