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Are there any cases - anywhere in the world - of municipal governments maintaining something like a diplomatic mission 'abroad' in other municipalities, or of state/provincial governments doing the same in other states/provinces?

Obviously, not being sovereign states with immigration restrictions, the all-important embassy function of handling visa applications would be moot, but I imagine that there could still be certain uses for a local government to having permanent representatives on the ground somewhere else.

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    In a way, the delegations representing states to federal parliaments/senates/councils are such "embassies" - they often maintain offices in the capital, which is typically located in another (federal) state.
    – Hulk
    Dec 16 '20 at 13:37
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    Would you count sister cities for this question? Most of them are purely ceremonial, but some of the agreements do have legal obligations towards each other and I can think of at least one where both cities own a building in the other one.
    – DonFusili
    Dec 16 '20 at 13:44
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    Yes, this is known as paradiplomacy: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradiplomacy
    – henning
    Dec 17 '20 at 13:31
  • Well, there is the Ständige Vertretung, representing Cologne in Berlin...
    – Erlkoenig
    Dec 19 '20 at 9:14

15 Answers 15

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Yes.

I believe all 16 German states maintain ‘representations’ in Brussels to the EU. Brussels obviously not being part of Germany and the EU not being a nation state and thus (critically) not handling immigration issues. The aim of these representations is to provide the input of the various German states to the European Union.

Fun fact: the Bavarian representation is termed Neuwahnstein among Brussels Germans, a pun on Neuschwanstein (the castle in Bavaria) incorporating Wahn (delusion/illusion) because Bavaria purchased a rather expensive-looking castle which was deemed crazy by the other German diplomats in Brussels.

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    Similarly, there are also representational buildings of the states in Berlin ("Vertretung des Landes ... beim Bund"), which may answer the "within their country"-part of the question. (Though those are representations on the federal level, not really representations in Berlin as a state itself)
    – ManfP
    Dec 17 '20 at 2:05
  • @ManfP that came to my mind as well. Although I do not understand the second part of your comment ("Though..."). Dec 17 '20 at 14:02
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica what I meant was: Seems like OP was asking more about one region being represented in another region of the same organizational level (say, if Bavaria had representation in Saxony); but here, while the physical buildings are in Berlin, the representational function is on a federal level, not with the state Berlin (note that apparently even Berlin itself has a "Landesvertertung" in Berlin, though it is physically located inside city hall instead of having its own building)
    – ManfP
    Dec 17 '20 at 22:08
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A number of US states maintain representation abroad for trade and investment promotion purposes. This list is a couple of years out of date, but gives you an idea of the variety of such offices. Note that not everyone listed there may be an employee of the state sent abroad; Pennsylvania's "Authorized Trade Representatives" are apparently local contractors, and some are multi-state or even international consortia, such as the offices operated by the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers

For example, California (which would have the 5th largest economy in the world if it were its own country) maintains an overseas presence in China, Mexico, and Armenia (covering "California’s Trade and Investment Representative for Europe, MEA, and India") for trade and investment promotion.

Another sort of example is that some universities, including state-owned universities, have a foreign presence. For example, the University of California system owns La Casa de la Universidad de California en México to facilitate partnerships and exchanges with educational institutions in Mexico.

US states may have an office in Washington DC to help bend the ear of the federal government on matters of interest. The Governor of California has a representative in DC, as do a number of other states (see all those listed with a DC address). Puerto Rico has the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration to represent its interests with the federal government. States can also hire lobbying firms to represent them in Washington DC even if they don't have a physical presence there. It's also not uncommon for large state university systems to have a federal Governmental Relations office in Washington DC, such as the University of California or Ohio State.

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As Jan already answered for Germany, most member states of European countries maintain some kind of representation to the EU in Brussels.

For example, Lower Austria is represented through Lower Austrian Liaison Office to the EU in Brussels (NÖVBB). Some states share a common, multi-national regional representation, as is the case for Tirol, where the Austrian federal state Tirol and the Italian provinces of South Tirol and Trentino represent a region that is currently not a political entity itself.

So many states do maintain representations abroad, but they do not necessarily have their focus on bilateral diplomatic relations or providing services in the way embassies usually do. I.e. the focus is not on the relation to the local government of Brussels, but on the EU.

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Over the years, Québec (a province in Canada) has maintained Délégations in several cities; in the US, in Paris and in other French-speaking capitals. This article (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/delegations-du-quebec) says that they are mostly now closed. And, as @Nimloth points out, the Québec government's website on the subject lists about 30 offices, plus La Francophonie and Unesco.

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As Jan pointed out, various German states have offices at the EU.

Some of them also have offices in other countries, like the Bavarian offices in Canada, the Czech Republic, and others. The goal is to promote business and cultural exchanges.

(On that note, the main purpose of embassies isn't granting visa. That's want is usually done by consulates. Embassies conduct diplomacy.)

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  • On your last line: No, not really. In some cases, a consulate will not be able to process visa applications because they lack the required equipment and staff. Likewise, a consulate may not be able to provide services such as passport renewal to its citizens in the foreign country (when I needed it in Finland in 2010, only the embassy in Helsinki and the consulate in Oulu were able to process passport renewal applications; not, e.g. the one in Turku). As far as I understood it, an embassy’s main task is diplomacy while a consulate’s main task is more creating business relations.
    – Jan
    Dec 19 '20 at 11:35
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    @Jan The German consulate in Turku is an honorary consulate, those typically cannot do much. But the Oulu example does show that consulates can in fact process passport renewals. Furthermore, there are embassies that cannot do it (most embassies in the Hague for example, for Germany you are supposed to ask the Generalkonsulat in Amsterdam) and those that can call the relevant department a Konsularabteilung.
    – Relaxed
    Dec 21 '20 at 9:41
  • @Jan the US similarly has no consular services at its embassy in The Hague. Passport and visa applications are processed only at the consulate general in Amsterdam. While business relationships are an important part of a consul's traditional duties, passport and visa applications are another. US laws and regulations refer to the officer who grants (or refuses) visas as a "consular officer." English for Konsularabteilung is "consular section"; see for example ba.usembassy.gov/embassy/sarajevo/sections-offices/….
    – phoog
    Jul 20 at 1:11
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The Brazilian state of São Paulo recently opened a business office in Shanghai, China. According to Agência Brasil (dated 3 April 2019):

São Paulo Governor João Doria announced the opening of a business office in the Chinese municipality of Shanghai. The announcement was made after a meeting with China’s Ambassador to Brazil Yang Wanming this week at the seat of the São Paulo state government.

From August 3 to 10 this year, a commission is set to fly to China and visit Beijing and Shanghai for the inauguration of the premises, aiming to facilitate the promotion of trade, investment, and exchange in several fields. This will be the first commercial office of São Paulo state outside of the country, and, the government added, the initiative is expected to be expanded to other Chinese cities.

This is the announcement by the government of São Paulo (in Portuguese-BR, but the browser can auto translate).

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Some states of former British Imperial Dominions maintained separate representation to London after formal independence, so-called Agents-General. Queensland even maintained a separate building, Queensland House, on The Strand, until 2015.

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Yes.

In Russia there exist “embassies” of provinces in other provinces.

For example, here is the website of the embassy of Arkhangelsk Region in St. Petersburg (which are two distinct Russian federal subjects): http://arhpred29.ru/ (in Russian only).

According to the website, the embassy’s purpose is to facilitate Arkhangelsk government’s communication with the federal agencies located in St. Petersburg and to organize trade fairs promoting Arkhangelsk businesses.

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In Canada, the Quebec government has a number of embassies across the Globe, including in London as a hub for representation across Nordic countries, and in Dakar for representation in North Africa, particularly Francophone African countries. In fact, I count as many as 29 areas for which Québéc has embassy buildings in 19 countries (The U.S. and China have multiple embassies).

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The three constituent countries (besides the Netherlands) that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands have their own "embassy" in The Hague. While they are not exactly embassies, they are official representations of the other constituent country in the Netherlands.

Similarly, the government of the Netherlands maintains representations in the three other constituent countries.

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The Channel Islands' two UK Crown dependencies, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, maintain the Bureau des Îles Anglo-Normandes in France. BIAN has an office in France at 12 rue Ferdinand Buisson in Saint-Contest (Calvados).

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Catalonia has a Foreign Ministry and "Government Delegations" to several European and non-European countries - being official, they cannot be called "embassies", but these are probably the closest equivalent to a subnational embassy status.

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It is common in Argentina. All provinces have an office in the city of Buenos Aires (the country's capital).

They seem to be dedicated mostly to promotion, but they do offer some administrative services (mostly tax and health related, in the examples I checked).

Complete list.

One example. It actually uses the word "embassy" to describe itself.

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Wales has 21 offices abroad in 12 countries.

Scotland has offices in 8 countries.

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Yes, here in Spain at least Catalonia and Euskadi (Basque Country) have them.

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    Welcome to Politics! This post would benefit from adding further details. Being a one-line post, it may attract downvotes and criticism. Please edit it to add further relevant information — preferably with references to credible sources.
    – bytebuster
    Dec 19 '20 at 15:07
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    Can you add some more details? Where do they have those representations? What is their primary purpose?
    – Philipp
    Dec 20 '20 at 10:57
  • Hi! i dunno why I was downvoted, im from Spain, and here in Madrid Catalonia has an "embassy": delegaciomadrid.gencat.cat/es/inici and you have Diplocat diplocat.cat/en Some news from a center-left newspaper: english.elpais.com/elpais/2020/01/17/inenglish/…
    – algoy
    Apr 13 at 15:22

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