Negotiating with the hereditary enemy. The Franco-German case.

  • Valérie Rosoux
    Université catholique de Louvain, Belgigue


How can we imagine that former enemies can become partners? To answer this question, the contribution will concentrate on one single case study: the relationship between France and Germany since 1945. There is indeed a consensus to present this case as a success story. This model could be questioned in many ways. However, on the international stage, the transformation of relationships between the two ‘hereditary enemies’ is frequently presented as a textbook case to be studied and replicated. Whether it is in Tokyo, Karachi, Islamabad or Warsaw, the Franco-German case is depicted as an inspiring example. The objective of the paper is not to present a kind of panacea to refer to in any circumstances. It is to emphasize some major lessons in terms of interstate rapprochement. The core thesis that will be developed is that this particular rapprochement is all about negotiation – at all levels. To show it, the argument will be divided into three parts. The first part focuses on the main contextual elements. The second part stresses the questions of agency and timing. The third and last part demonstrates that this process is not only about negotiating issues but also, and maybe above all, about negotiating identities.