Bibliographic data

Kremb, Klaus: Geschichte und Geschehen. Stuttgart; Leipzig: Ernst Klett Verlag, 2009, 236–237.

"Difficult Neighbours – Germany and France; Germany and Poland"

[p. 236]

10.3 Difficult Neighbours – Germany and France; Germany and Poland

Difficult Neighbours

There are many difficult relationships between neighbouring countries in Europe, especially where state borders are not also ethnic boundaries. Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria constitute an example. The state of Macedonia evolved in 1991 in the course of the collapse of Yugoslavia, opening a wound of mutual historic claims that can be traced back to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century.

But difficult relationships between neighbours can also repeatedly cause problems even within historically established states. The interaction between the Flemish and the Walloons in modern-day Belgium, which has existed since 1831, has, for instance, led to many a government crisis (such as in 2008).

Both examples show that difficult neighbours are a result of political instrumentalisation. This is particularly noticeable in the neighbouring 20th-century histories of Germany and France and Germany and Poland.

Germany - France

The political instrumentalisation of the Franco-German neighbours was defined by the idea of the ‘hereditary enemy’ during the first half of the 20th century. Both the Germans and the French understood this political construct to be their respective perceptions as the conquered or conqueror. The war experiences of 1870/71, 1914/18 and 1939/45 gave rise to concepts of conflict that were duly ‘passed on’ to the next generation on both sides. The French synonym, ennemis hereditaires, demonstrates that the feeling was mutual.


Germany - Poland

The 1991 ‘Good Neighbours and Friendly Cooperation’ treaty was to Germany and Poland what the Elysée Agreement means for Franco-German relations. The preamble emphasises its aim to ‘bring the painful chapters of the past to an end’.


In comparison with the Franco-German relationship, the German-Polish dialogue is therefore no less important in terms of its socio-political function. The extent to which it can and will be able to relate to the Franco-German experience is explored, for instance, the ‘German-Polish Youth Office’ (founded by the ‘Good Neighbours Agreement’). Poland’s membership of the EU since 1 May 2004 provides further opportunities. [...]


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