A Foreign Policy Analysis of the “German Question”: Ostpolitik Revisited1
Karl Cordell, University of Plymouth

Stefan Wolff, University of Nottingham


Taking a constructivist approach to foreign policy analysis and using German policy vis--vis Poland and Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic as an example, we examine Ostpolitik since the 1960s as a case of a norm-driven foreign policy. We argue that the content of Ostpolitik, including changes over time, can be explained by reference to a prevailing norm consensus in Germany about the country‘s foreign policy towards Central and Eastern Europe, which began to develop in the 1960s.

1 The authors wish to thank the British Academy for their support through LRG-35361 in the preparation of this paper. They also extend their thanks to Klaus Bachmann, Andrzej Dybczyski and Zdenk Hausvater. This article partially draws on findings presented in Cordell and Wolff (2005a).

1. Introduction

During his historic visit to Warsaw in December 1970 for the signing of the second of the so-called Ostvertrge,2 German Chancellor Willy Brandt undertook a momentous and unprecedented gesture. During a commemorative act for the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April/May 1943, he fell to his knees in an act of apology for German atrocities committed against Poland and especially Polish Jews during the Second World War. Some 24 years later, In August 1994 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the (Home Army‘s) Warsaw Uprising of August/October 1944, German President Roman Herzog similarly apologised for German actions during the war in a speech in Warsaw and expressed Germany‘s unconditional support for Polish accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Another ten years later, German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder further demonstrated the consistency of German policy...