There is a recent question on Skeptics SE concerning the peace treaty between Germany and the allied powers, the validity of the German constitution, and consequently the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany. Together with the excellent juridical answers there, I think the most important argument for the legality of modern day Germany is that >99% of Germans are living happily in the FRG and also the country's tight integration in the UN, EU, NATO, OSCE and other international organizations.

However, international treaties are complex, so let's imagine there is really some flaw in one of the underlying contracts (say some technicality like a missing signature in the small print or whatever). What would be the consequences, particularly in the light of recently cooling relationships with three of the four allied powers? Could there simply apply some sort of common law of international politics and the missing signature would silently be added by the next occasion? And finally, is there any precedent for such a case?

  • 3
    Related: What are the steps to become an independent country once independence has been declared? It's related because the top answer has a very good explanation of state recognition which is very relevant to this question.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 12:33
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    "Germany, you are illegal". "Says who and whose army?".
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 12:38
  • I think there s a philosophic problem with a legal ruling that the state (and therefore the court) is illegal.
    – user9389
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 14:22
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's politic fiction at best, and not a good-faith question at worst. Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 19:42
  • @DenisdeBernardy Good faith often lies in the eye of the beholder. I think my personal look on things is stated rather clearly in the second sentence. I hope the question is somewhat relevant in terms of claims of so-called sovereign citizens in Germany and elsewhere that their disliked government is illegitimate. Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


If the German (or any) government was declared illegal or illegitimate, there are no definite consequences. Opponents of the government would have something to point at to defend their claims, but nothing new would actually happen unless they use this news to convince others to support them.

This is because no government is legal or illegal, because their is no world-wide law to follow or break. The only laws that the German government could break that could potentially make the government 'illegal' are German laws, such as those in their constitution. However, a law is only a law if it is enforced, and they are only enforced by the people that made them: I doubt the German government would arrest itself for breaking a law.

This may seem circular, but a government is the government if it can act like the government, nothing else is needed. Here is an example of de facto government existing, and an example of a de jure government not existing:

Somaliland: A self-declared state in eastern Africa, which does not have a 'legal' government since it should legally be part of Somalia. However, it is a fully functioning, independent government in an otherwise unstable area: if it looks like the government and acts like the government, it is the government.

Republic of China: The opposite of the Somaliland situation, the Republic of China is the 'legal' government of China because the People's Republic of China was a result of an 'illegal' civil war. However, it is clearly not governing mainland China: if it doesn't look like the government and doesn't act like the government, it is not the government.

In short, if the German government was found to be illegal due to some obscure part of a treaty or agreement, nothing would happen. If nobody felt like enforcing it before, nobody would feel like enforcing it now, and I imagine the news of it would go like this:

"Huh? An ambassador 60 years ago forgot to sign a treaty? Weird. Anyway, if we can lower tariffs on bananas by 3% then we can save several thousand..."

  • "The only laws that the German government could break are German laws" What about the constitution of the EU?
    – SK19
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 18:25
  • @SK19 Germany can leave the EU at any time. There's no magical EU police to force them to obey anything. Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 0:25
  • @JonathanReez And until they do, they have to stick to the constitution. Or am I wrong?
    – SK19
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 3:02
  • @SK19: Good point, I meant laws relating to the legality of the government, not necessarily laws in general. I edited that line to be more clear.
    – Giter
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 13:39
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    +1 for the examples. Interesting to see how absurd the discussion about formal legality is after 60 years. It might be interesting to consider what could happen if a third party had interest in revoking a previous decision of the FRG government, such as the reunification or the German-Polish border treaty. But that might rather be a question for SE worldbuilding... Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 19:52

If it comes to the worst, Germany is protected by the European Union

In case some claims are made about the illegitimacy of FRG by some influential nation instead of a small group of people, it wouldn't really do anything. Many states in the UN are dictatorships and they are left mostly alone, why would any bother about Germany. But if someone does, the EU is likely to defend Germany, at least because Germany pays most into the EU. So most likely there wouldn't be any notable consequences. Other nations (including Germany) make trades with dictatorships, why wouldn't they make trades with "illegal" nations as long as they get money out of it.

You don't need illegitimacy to have an influence on Germany's stance on the relationship between the U.S./U.K. and Russia

Ever heard of the Atlantik-Brücke? It is an influential group of lobbyists initially installed by the U.S. in Germany promoting good relations with the U.S. no matter what. Here in Germany, the news are often pro U.S. and again Russia sometimes to such a high degree it hurts. Most recent event was that the boulevard newspaper Bild was printing a story that the Jusos (basically the youth of the SPD) were influenced by Russia in their recent campain against a great coalition between CDU and SPD. This turned out to be a simple fake. (Couldn't find English source.) Just you know, the former CEO of Bild Kai Diekmann and the CEO of the mother company of Bild Axel Springer are also part of the Atlantik-Brücke (Ctrl+F for "Bild").

Personally, I know that Russia isn't a democracy or anything similar and does a lot of bad things, but I don't like the portrayal of our media like the U.S. doesn't.

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    The first part is answering the question, but the second half is really not adding anything relevant. It is just criticizing a German tabloid newspaper.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 18:17
  • @Philipp I thought giving an example how the country is manipulated on "the light of recently cooling relationships with three of the four allied powers" even without anyone questioning legitimacy about it. You are a mod, so if you are really sure that the second part adds nothing to the question I will follow your expertise and remove it.
    – SK19
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 18:21

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