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Representing Germany in matters of international law

The first sentence of Article 59 (1) of the Basic Law grants the Federal President the authority to represent the Federal Republic of Germany in matters of international law. The Federal President thus has sole responsibility to act on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany in the sphere of international law. A distinction has to be made here from the conduct of foreign policy, which is largely the task of the Federal Government. That the Federal President acts for the Federal Republic in matters of international law is in keeping with the German constitutional tradition and international state practice, under which, in most cases, heads of state have the authority to represent their state in this realm.

Representing Germany in matters of international law means acting on behalf of state organs or the state as a whole. Under the first sentence of Article 59 (1) of the Basic Law, therefore, the Federal President officially represents Germany in the international sphere. Although other constitutional organs can be active in the foreign policy field, their actions must either be authorized by the Federal President or relate to tasks formally anchored in the Basic Law.

Alongside the examples referred to in the second and third sentences of Article 59 (1) of the Basic Law, these include unilateral actions of relevance to international law – for instance, the termination of agreements, protests or renunciations, as well as speeches abroad, messages, receiving state guests and state visits to other countries.

The official recognition of foreign states is also granted by the Federal President. However, the political decision on recognition is made by the Federal Government.