During the period of Germany’s reunification in the early 1990s, disagreement between Germany and Vietnam over the return of Vietnamese individuals to Vietnam escalated into a diplomatic dispute that also spilled over into Vietnam’s negotiations with the European Union over a major eu–Vietnam treaty. In mid-1995, however, the German and Vietnamese governments finally agreed on a repatriation arrangement that allowed Germany to begin deporting about 40,000 Vietnamese who were living in Germany illegally.
This article explores the episode in the wider context of diplomatic dispute resolution. While Germany was demanding full cooperation from Vietnam on the issue of returning Vietnamese nationals, the Vietnamese government initially resisted large-scale repatriation for economic and social reasons. Hanoi attempted to frame the discussion within bilateral negotiations, economic costs and human rights, whereas Bonn argued from the perspective of customary international law and applied increasingly coercive diplomacy. German authorities escalated the disagreement and made economic threats with the aim of changing Hanoi’s behaviour.
In order to frame this approach analytically, this article uses a modified form of coercive diplomacy. The analysis proceeds in three stages: first, the article analyses the origins of the dispute, which had its roots in German reunification; second, it evaluates the legal arguments advanced by each side; and third, it investigates Germany’s ‘soft’ coercive diplomacy and Vietnam’s response. The article concludes with an evaluation of Germany’s approach, benchmarking 1995’s diplomatic outcome against results on the ground, namely the number of returnees to Vietnam.
Lauren, Craig and George, Force and Statecraft, pp. 198-219; Robert J. Art and Patrick M. Cronin, The United States and Coercive Diplomacy(Washington, dc: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2003); and Daniel Byman and Matthew C. Waxman, The Dynamics of Coercion: American Foreign Policy and the Limits of Military Might, rand studies in policy analysis (New York, ny: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
Antje Ellermann, ‘The Limits of Unilateral Migration Control: Deportation and Inter-state Cooperation’, Government and Opposition, vol. 43, no. 2, 2008, pp. 168-189 at p. 173; and ‘Wer will Menschen das antun?’, p. 41.
Ellermann, ‘The Limits of Unilateral Migration Control’, p. 18; and Gregor Noll, Rejected Asylum Seekers: The Problem of Return, New Issues in Refugee Research, Working Paper no. 4 (Lund, Sweden: University of Lund, Centre for Documentation and Research, 1999), p. 15.
Andrew Clapham, Brierly’s Law of Nations: An Introduction to the Role of International Law in International Relations(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 520-523; Malanczuk, Akehurst’s Modern Introduction to International Law, p. 261; Vitzthum, Völkerrecht, p. 255; and Valerie Epps, International Law (Durham, nc: Carolina Academic Press, 3rd edition 2005), p. 324.
Craig R. Whitney, ‘Hanoi to Accept Refugees Now in Germany in Exchange for Aid’, New York Times, available online at http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/12/world/hanoi-to-accept-refugees-now-in-germany-in-exchange-for-aid.html?gwh=5D187BF1597C66641C1750BBDF6D0105; ‘Vietnam nimmt Rückkehrer auf’, Berliner Zeitung, available online at http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/archiv/vietnam-nimmt-rueckkehrer-auf,10810590,8900164.html; and ‘German Citizenship Changes Proposed’, University of California at Davis, available online at http://migration.ucdavis.edu/mn/more.php?id=564_0_4_0.
Williamson, ‘Boat People — Tobacco Road’; and ‘Three Vietnamese Former Cigarette Smugglers Receive Life Sentence for Murder’, Associated Press International, 24 April 2002, accessed on 3 April 2014 via LexisNexis at http://www.lexisnexis.com/ap/academic/.