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The Republic of Abkhazia has diplomatic missions in Russia, Venezuela, and Syria, all of which recognise the independence of Abkhazia. It also has "representative offices" in other countries, such as Germany, Austria, and Turkey. Those countries do not recognise the independence of Abkhazia. Can they stop Abkhazia from opening such an office? On the one hand, anyone can rent an office as long as the landlord will have them and they are not engaged in criminal activities, but on the other hand: is it really as simple as that in case of unrecognised countries? Could, for example, Germany block such an office from opening or operating?

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TLDR: a host country must consent to the existence of any type of diplomatic mission in its territory (this includes the representative offices). This includes countries or regions not officially recognized by the host nation (typically called a De Facto Embassy). If the mission is not recognized then it is, for all intents and purposes, illegal. Notorious examples of illegal diplomatic intervention are resident spies, and undeclared intelligence officers (see also this article).

So, in your example, Germany could indeed block the opening or continued operation of an office spying or lobbying for a foreign power. Someone renting an office with the purpose of doing an undeclared diplomatic mission is an (illegal) Foreign Agent.


The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Missions and Optional Protocols states:

Article 2

The establishment of diplomatic relations between States, and of permanent diplomatic missions, takes place by mutual consent.

...

Article 4

  1. The sending State must make certain that the agreement of the receiving State has been given for the person it proposes to accredit as head of the mission to that State.

  2. The receiving State is not obliged to give reasons to the sending State for a refusal of agreement.

There are several more articles regarding the rights of the host country expelling diplomats or declare the ambassador as Persona Non Grata.

The most notorious example of a sovereign entity with plenty of diplomatic missions in countries that do not recognize is Taiwan (and this includes a presence in Hong-Kong and Macau). Another that is currently on the news is Northern Cyprus.

In the case of Abkhazia, Germany has showed an interest in brokering relations in the region. As so, it would be nonsensical to forbid the diplomatic operations of Abkhazia in its territory.

For more about the foreign policy of Abkhazia see The foreign policy options of a small unrecognised state: the case of Abkhazia (Frear, 2014).

  • Nice answer, but the rules about the host country expelling diplomats would not be of application if the host country did not recognize the validity of the diplomat credentials (or the existence of the country the diplomat represents) to begin with, as then that person would not be oficially a diplomat. – SJuan76 Jul 24 '19 at 15:19
  • @SJuan76 I agree. This is why I've only quoted articles regarding the consent of the host nation. Otherwise these persons would be considered undeclared foreign agents with no diplomatic immunity, and susceptible to any laws within that nation (lobbying, foreign interference, etc.). To give an example, a notable recent case is the one from Maria Butina in the US. She was literally charged for being an unregistered foreign agent. – armatita Jul 24 '19 at 15:36
  • Note that the requirement to register or license "foreign agents" differs wildly between nations. A citizen or legal immigrant might well find lobby work on behalf of a foreign ethnic group covered by freedom of speech. That wouldn't be a "representative office," it would be an activist or public relations professional with a political agenda who is known to have good contacts in the region. – o.m. Jul 24 '19 at 16:13
  • @o.m. True, but almost all would be covered, at least, by international law, specifically dealing with non-intervention or non-interference (for example UN charter 2.4). A citizen lobbying for a foreign power is still considered a foreign agent, regardless of the actions. Two people doing exactly the same thing but with different objectives have different legal consequences. Mens rea or intention applies. Whistleblower's are a notable example. – armatita Jul 25 '19 at 9:13
  • @armatita, note that I mentioned citizens or residents lobbying on behalf of a foreign group. Democracies allow this kind of activism. – o.m. Jul 25 '19 at 14:30

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