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The Principle and Practice of ‘Reconciliation’ in German Foreign Policy: Relations with France, Israel, Poland and the Czech Republic

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Germany has sought ‘reconciliation’ with former foes as an ideal in foreign policy since 1949. Reconciliation remains a priority of new the SPD-Green coalition, as for all previous German governments since the Second World War, for both moral and pragmatic motives. In four bilateral cases of reconciliation in German foreign policy–with Israel, France, Poland, and the Czech Republic–the mix of pragmatism and morality differs depending on history, institutions, leadership, and the international context. Reconciliation with France and Poland is more institutionalized, more open, more embedded in the European Union, and more pragmatic than in the other two cases. In relations with Israel and the Czech Republic, history and moral claims are more prominent. Institutions are important in all four cases, but they are not as dominant in the latter two cases. Political leadership is central in all four cases, navigating the relationships through periods of domestic opposition to bilateral partnership in processes of reconciliation that strive for an unachievable idea.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for German and European Studies, Georgetown University, Washington DC

Publication date: April 1, 1999

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