“The West, the East and the Rest”

The foreign policy orientations of Central Eastern European countries

Authored by: Elsa Tulmets

The Routledge Handbook of East European Politics

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138919754
eBook ISBN: 9781315687681
Adobe ISBN:


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After over four decades of communist domination, Central Eastern European (CEE) countries have claimed their “return to Europe” through European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) accessions in the 1990s and 2000s (cf. Drulák 2001; Lindstrom 2003; Batt 2007; Tulmets 2009, 2014; Cadier 2012). Given CEE countries’ varied national histories, a thorough analysis of their foreign policies has to rely on older as well as more recent aspects of their nations’ external relations. Many CEE nations have gone through years of occupation or fights against occupation by Germany, Russia, and Sweden in the North and East, but also by the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires in the East and South. Only a few of them have been independent states in recent history, contrary to other European countries like France, Germany, the UK, or Spain, which claim long foreign policy traditions. The first part of the chapter will show how the past of each nation and country affects the way to analyse CEE countries’ external relations. Difficulties to draw on past foreign policy traditions and resources partly explain why the “modern” foreign policies of the CEE countries, as defined in the 1990s and 2000s, decided to focus on “the West”, “the East”, and sometimes “the rest”.

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