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date: 07 December 2022

Foreign Policy Changelocked

Foreign Policy Changelocked

  • Spyros BlavoukosSpyros BlavoukosDepartment of International and European Economic Studies, Athens University of Economics and Business
  •  and Dimitris BourantonisDimitris BourantonisAthens University of Economics and Business, Department of International and European Economic Studies


Foreign policy change entails the redirection to a lesser or greater extent of a state’s foreign policy. The parameters that account for such a change can be clustered according to their nature (structural or conjunctural) and origin (domestic or international). Domestic structural parameters comprise the politico-institutional setting within which foreign policy decisions are made and advocacy groups in support of alternative foreign policy options. The focal point of analysis for both is the “authoritative decision unit” that can take the form of a powerful leader (e.g., a monarch, dictator, or a predominant political figure in a democratic system), a single group (e.g., the Politburo in the former Soviet Union, a group of Army officers collectively engaged in a military coup, or Cabinet under a Prime Minister with a collective policy-making style), or a multitude of autonomous actors (e.g., coalition governments and actors with veto power over foreign policy decisions). Whether these units are “open” or “closed” to international pressures and the degree of their insulation from domestic societal pressures are key issues that determine how conducive to change domestic political settings are. Advocacy groups comprise adherents to an alternative political culture, socioeconomic groups with divergent views and interests, and policy entrepreneurs in position to engineer foreign policy change. International structural parameters refer on one hand to systemic changes that may bring about a foreign policy realignment and on the other hand to the country’s role in the international system (e.g., participation in international organizations) that may activate foreign policy changes through socialization processes. Conjunctural parameters, either domestic or international, account for unexpected developments that may upset the existing status quo (e.g., the death or succession of a political leader, unexpected domestic political crises, human disasters and humanitarian crises, and international security or economic crises).

This eclectic list of parameters helps account in a comprehensive way for two cases of major foreign policy realignment. The first deals with the incremental Greek-Turkish rapprochement in the late 1990s. Greece altered its way of approaching the bilateral disputes with Turkey by moving away from its earlier confrontational approach to a more engaging one. This change owed much to domestic political changes (new political leadership as an outcome of the sudden death of Prime Minister A. Papandreou), which led in turn to a reprioritization of the Greek foreign policy objectives related to the accession to the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union. It was further assisted by the participation of Greece in the European Union, which helped put the bilateral Greek–Turkish relationship in the frame of the EU enlargement policy. The second case accounts for the Israeli reorientation in the early 1990s vis-à-vis the Palestinian issue. Following the international upheaval after the end of the Cold War, the societal concerns after the Palestinian Intifada, and domestic political changes, the new Israeli political leadership orchestrated the foreign policy change that enabled the signing of the Oslo Peace Agreement.


  • World Politics

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