Accreditation (diplomacy)

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In the diplomatic service, accreditation means the approval of a member of a diplomatic or consular mission by the host country or by an international organization . The term is not precisely defined under international law . Although the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (WÜD) and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (WÜK) regulate the details of the registration procedure for foreign representatives, the term is not used in either agreement.

Word origin

The term is borrowed from the Latin accredo , which means something like believe, believe (want to) . In French means accréditer about doing something credible or likely officially as: true, legitimize something . In German it is understood more soberly as granting (sb.) Credit, certifying (sb.) .

The term is fuzzy, because it cannot be taken precisely by which process the accreditation is triggered. In some cases, accreditation is already understood to mean the issuing of a power of attorney by the sending state (in the sense of: certifying, authorizing a diplomatic representative with regard to a specific function ). This relates first of all to the public document drawn up by the head of state confirming the function of diplomat.

For an accreditation, however, not only the mere certification of the function of the diplomat, but also the acceptance of the authorization by the receiving state is understood. Only the official admission of the representative in the receiving state (in the sense of: authentication of the ambassador to the government ), i.e. the granting of the diplomatic status desired by the sending state by the receiving state, results in accreditation. For the admission of the diplomat, the submission of the credentials is only one of several requirements.

The different meanings of the word are likely to go back to the different appointment procedures of the diplomats. In the case of heads of mission, an appointment and certification of their function is only possible if the receiving state has approved the appointment beforehand ( Agrément , see next section). The subsequent handing over of the credentials then only has protocol significance, in particular for the question of which day is to be regarded as official commencement of duty and which rank the head of mission thus occupies within the diplomatic corps ( anciency ). Other diplomats lack such an act of prior approval by the receiving state. For them there is only a simple notification of their person to the Foreign Ministry by the respective head of mission. Accreditation is only achieved here when the grade is received without contradiction.

Accreditation of diplomatic staff

Accreditation of ambassadors and envoys

Handover of the credentials of the new US ambassador Daniel Shapiro to Israeli President Shimon Peres

The accreditation of ambassadors and envoys is multilevel. First of all, the sending state must use diplomatic channels to ensure that the receiving state agrees with the appointment of the chosen person ( Art. 4 Para. 1 VUD). The receiving state must formally consent through Agrément . He does not have to give any reasons for a possible rejection (Art. 4 Para. 2 VÜD). The process is discreet and confidential; neither side makes any announcements to the public. If consent is refused, the sending State must choose another suitable person.

If the receiving state agrees, the ambassador is appointed by the sending state. He is now the designated ambassador and receives from his head of state a letter of credence (English letter of credence , French lettre de créance ), which contains a brief appreciation of his person.

Credentials from Czechoslovak President Václav Havel for the new ambassador to Lithuania
An ambassador-designate is brought to the Queen in a coach from the Dutch court in The Hague to present his letter of credentials.
The new US Ambassador to Canada hands Michaëlle Jean , Governor General of Canada and as such Deputy Head of State Queen Elizabeth II , his letter of credential.

There are no specific formal requirements for the content of the credentials. It is customary to provide the name and title of the person concerned, as well as the particular characteristics and general purpose of his mission. The letter includes a request to believe the statements made by the representative on behalf of his government and to receive him favorably.

The content of the credentials that the Czechoslovak President Václav Havel wrote in March 1992 to certify the new Czechoslovak ambassador to Lithuania (see picture opposite) read as follows:

Václav HAVEL
President of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic
his Excellency
President of the Supreme Council
of the Republic of Lithuania
Mister President,
In an effort to maintain and further develop the good relations that fortunately exist between the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic and the Republic of Lithuania, I have decided to certify to you, Your Excellency, Mr Juraj NEMES as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
The qualities, talents and merits of Mr. Juraj NEMES are sure guarantors of the zeal that he will put on his high mission, which obliges him to earn the trust of Your Excellency in order to be worthy of my consent.
With this conviction, I ask you, Your Excellency, to give him a benevolent welcome and to believe in all the communications he makes on my behalf and on behalf of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, especially when he gives you my respect and best wishes that I cherish for your personal happiness and for the prosperity of your country.
Vaclav Havel
Done at Prague this 11th March 1992

On a day agreed with the head of state of the receiving state, the ambassador-designate introduces himself to the head of state at his office. It is customary internationally that he is picked up from his mission or residence in a car of the head of state and greeted with a small military ceremony on arrival. After he has entered himself in the guest book, he hands over his credentials and often the dismissal letter from his predecessor. After a first conversation, which serves to get to know each other, he is bid farewell again with a small military ceremony. As a sign of his official assumption of office, the flag of the country he represents is briefly hoisted at the official residence of the head of state.

From now on, the ambassador is the official representative of his country and is generally authorized to accept the text of a contract between the sending and receiving countries.

The same ceremony is valid for nuncios and heads of mission, the ambassador rank equally with, for example, in the British Commonwealth , the High Commissioners ( High Commissioner ) ( Art. 14 para. 1 letter a) WÜD) and envoys , ministers and internuncios (Art. 14 para. 1 Letter b) VÜD), if you are certified as head of mission.

Sometimes there is no formal ceremony. The date on which the head of mission has notified the foreign ministry of the receiving state of his arrival and a true-to-format copy of his credentials ( Art. 13 para. 1 WÜD) is then deemed to be the date on which the head of mission takes office in the receiving state .

In Switzerland both is common: In general, a ceremony will be held at which the new ambassador presented his credentials in the premises of the Federal Council of the Federal President presented. However, this is always preceded by the handing over of an accurate copy of his credentials and the letter of recall from his predecessor to the chief of protocol, who visits the new ambassador in the first few days after his arrival. The new head of mission can already exercise his functions without restrictions from this point in time.

In any case, the head of mission already enjoys diplomatic privileges, exemptions and immunities when he enters the receiving state or, if he is already there, from the time the Foreign Ministry is notified of his appointment ( Art. 39 para. 1 VCDR ).

According to Art. 5 VCDR a diplomat can be accredited in several states, just as it is possible for a diplomat to represent several different states in one state ( Art. 6 VCDR). However, this requires the agreement of the states involved.

For details see: multiple accreditation

Chargé d'affaires accreditation

Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl receives Pierre Randrianarisoa ,
Chargé d'affaires of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar in 1986 in Bonn .

Chargé which have been ordered by the sending dispensing with the posting of an ambassador or envoy for mission boss (engl. And French. Chargé d'affaires en titre or de pied ), also subject to the obtaining of a previous Agréments when receiving state. If it is granted, however, they are received with reduced ceremony. Since they are subordinate to ambassadors and envoys, they receive their credentials not from the head of state, but from the foreign minister. The handover of the credentials takes place at the same stage, namely with the foreign minister of the receiving state (Art. 14, Paragraph 1, Letter c) VCDR).

If a person only temporarily takes over the management of the mission as charge officer ad interim (e.g. due to dismissal or absence of the ambassador), no special ceremony takes place.

Accreditation of other diplomats

The other members of the diplomatic staff (including embassy councilors , embassy secretaries, attachés such as economic, commercial, financial, agricultural, cultural, press, military attachés and the embassy chaplains and doctors) are not appointed in any formal process. The appointment of some functionaries (military, naval and air force attachés) can, however, be made dependent on the prior consent of the receiving state ( Art. 7 sentence 2 VÜD).

These diplomats can be given power of attorney.

Such members of the mission must notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of their appointment, their arrival and their final departure or the termination of their duties with the mission ( Art. 10, Paragraph 1, Letter a) VCDR).

Since the notification should take place as far as possible before the diplomat enters the country and begins work (Art. 10, Paragraph 2 VCDR), the receiving state regularly has the option of declaring the notified diplomat as undesirable, even if no prior consent is required. Such a declaration can be issued prior to entry ( Art. 9 Para. 1 Sentence 3 VÜD) and does not require a justification (Art. 9 Para. 1 Sentence 1 VÜD).

Administrative and technical staff of the missions

The appointment procedure of the members of the administrative and technical staff of the missions (this includes clerks , ciphers , translators and typists ) is not regulated in the VÜD. The sending state is in principle free to choose the person.

The appointment of members of the administrative staff, their arrival and their final departure or the termination of their official duties at the mission must be notified to the receiving State (Art. 10, Paragraph 1, Letter a) i. V. with Art. 1 letters b) and c) VUD).

Since this group of people should also be notified before entry and commencement of work (Art. 10, Para. 2 WÜD), the receiving state also has the option of declaring the advised employee to be an undesirable person before entering the country.

The private domestic staff is not accredited; the names of the officials are only given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Family members of Mission members and private domestic workers

Family members of the members of the mission and private domestic workers are not accredited because family members and private domestic staff do not perform official functions. This group of people, however, has diplomatic privileges to varying degrees. You are entitled to a diplomatic ID.

Therefore, the arrival and final departure of family members of members of the mission and of private domestic staff, if necessary the employment and dismissal of persons resident in the receiving state as members of the mission or as private domestic workers, will be notified to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Art. 10 para. 1 Letter b) to d) VUD).

Such a declaration should, if possible, be issued prior to entry (Art. 10 Para. 2 VCDR).

Accreditation of members of international organizations

The new US Ambassador David Carden presented his credentials to ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan in Jakarta ( Indonesia ).

Members of an international organization including its head are not accredited by the host country. It would not be compatible with the sovereignty of an international organization within the community of states - also in relation to the host state - if, for example, the UN Secretary-General had to be accredited by the American President because the headquarters of the United Nations are in New York .

Double accreditation in Geneva: Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations on the one hand (second shield) and Embassy of Nepal in Switzerland on the other (third shield)

International organizations can, however, have accreditation rights themselves. Entertain States at the headquarters of the International Organization a Permanent Representation (Engl. Permanent mission , fr. Mission permanent ), the members of the assigned by the International Organization Permanent Representation to be accredited to the head of the International Organization. The permanent representations are made up of diplomatic staff, often headed by an ambassador. Sometimes the activities are carried out in personal union with another function (e.g. that of ambassador in the host country). Double accreditation with different bodies is permissible according to Art. 5 Para. 3 VED.

Examples of international organizations with permanent representations accredited to them are:

In these cases the head of the permanent mission, usually an ambassador, gives the head of the organization a letter of credence from his government. An Agrément from the International Organization will not be obtained; the ambassador is merely notified in advance to the international organization. The ambassador has no legal relationship with the host state; an accreditation of the members of a permanent representation in the host state is therefore not carried out.

However, the officials of the international organizations, including their heads, and the members of the permanent missions assigned to them are also notified to the Foreign Ministry of the host state so that diplomatic privileges can be granted to them and a diplomatic card issued. By virtue of the headquarters agreement , they often enjoy the same diplomatic immunity from the host country as the diplomats accredited to the host country. This sometimes has the strange consequence that diplomats who are accredited to an international organization must be granted privileges and immunities by the host state, with whose home country they have no diplomatic relations themselves.

The head of the international organization also often takes part in events intended for the diplomatic corps of the host country, e.g. B. at the New Years reception of the head of state.

Accreditation of consular staff

Exequatur by American President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the new French Consul General in New York in 1938.

The accreditation of consular staff follows its own principles according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (WÜK) and is less ceremonial.

The sending State issues the head of a consular post a letter of appointment certifying his status, his category and class, the consular district and the seat of the consular post. The sending state then sends the letter of appointment through diplomatic channels to the government of the state in which the head of the consular post is to perform his duties ( Art. 11 WÜK).

The head of a consular post is authorized to perform his duties by means of an authorization from the receiving state which, regardless of its form, is called an exequatur . The receiving state does not have to justify any refusal to issue the exequatur ( Art. 12 WÜK).

The other members of consular posts are appointed by the sending State at its own discretion. The name, category and class of all consular officers must be notified to the receiving state in good time so that it can declare them to be an undesirable person before their arrival ( Art. 19 WÜK). The appointment must then be canceled ( Art. 23 Para. 3 WÜK).

Breaking off diplomatic relations between two countries does not necessarily mean breaking off consular relations ( Art. 2 Para. 3 WÜK).

Two states can also agree that a consular officer takes on diplomatic functions in the absence of diplomatic missions. However, this does not give the consular officer diplomatic privileges and immunities ( Art. 17 para. 1 WÜK).

It is also possible that a consul also represents the sending state at an international organization . In this capacity he is entitled to all the privileges and immunities which a representative of such an organization is entitled to on the basis of customary international law or international agreements; However, insofar as he performs consular duties, he has no claim to any further immunity from jurisdiction than under the WÜK (Art. 17 Para. 2 WÜK). It is also possible for the same consular officer to represent two or more states if the receiving state agrees ( Art. 19 WÜK).

Termination of accreditation

The American ambassador to Moscow George F. Kennan was declared persona non grata in September 1952 after comparing the Soviet government with Nazi Germany.

The accreditation of diplomatic members ends when the sending state notifies the receiving state of the end of the diplomat's official activities (e.g. because the person concerned returns to his home country or is assigned to another post). The accreditation also ends if the receiving state notifies the sending state that it refuses to recognize the diplomat as a member of the mission in accordance with Art. 9 Para. 2 VCDR ( Art. 43 VCDR).

The last case is preceded by a declaration by the diplomat about the undesirable person ( persona non grata ) or - if it is another member of the staff - a declaration that the receiving state does not accept this person (Art. 9 Para. 1 VCDR ). From this declaration follows the duty of the sending state to recall the person concerned or to end his activity within a reasonable period of time.

Consular staff also have the option of declaring them persona non grata or not acceptable without giving reasons . In these cases, the sending State must either recall the person concerned or terminate their official activities at the consular post. In the event of refusal, the exequatur can be withdrawn or the person can no longer be regarded as a member of the consular staff by the receiving state ( Art. 23 WÜK).

It is controversial whether the states in whose territory an international organization is based have the right to declare a member of the permanent representation of a state to the international organization to be persona non grata in the absence of authorization in the headquarters agreement . In particular, the home states of international organizations claim such a right. However, according to the prevailing view in the international community, the host states do not have such a right. The Vienna Conference of States from February 4 to March 14, 1975 passed the Vienna Convention on the Representation of States in their Relations with International Organizations of a Universal Character , which, despite requests from Great Britain , Canada and the USA , does not provide for such a right. However, the agreement has not yet entered into force (as of December 28, 2019). Among other things, most of the 15 host states concerned abstained from voting on the adoption of the text of the convention. In their opinion, the agreement offers the host state only a few possibilities to protect its interests, which could be impaired by the behavior of the diplomat with whom the host state has no legal relationship.

Scope of staff on a mission

The size of the embassy is determined by agreement between the states.

If no express agreement has been made on the staffing of the mission, the receiving State may request that this staff be kept within the limits which it considers appropriate and normal in view of the circumstances and circumstances at hand and the needs of the mission concerned ( Art . 11 para. 1 VÜD). The receiving state can also refuse the admission of employees of a certain category within the same limits, but without discrimination (Art. 11 para. 2 VCDR). Upper limits specified by the receiving state are also possible.

Germany and Russia have mutually dispensed with setting an upper limit.

The sending state may not set up any offices belonging to the mission in places other than where the mission itself is based without the prior express consent of the receiving state ( Art. 12 VCDR).

In the case of consular missions, too, it applies that their existence must be kept within the limits that the receiving state considers appropriate and normal in view of the circumstances and circumstances in the consular district and the needs of the consular mission concerned ( Art. 20 WÜK).


  • Georg Dahm : international law. Volume I, Part 1: The Basics. The subjects of international law. 2nd completely revised edition, de Gruyter, Berlin [u. a.] 1989, ISBN 3-11-005809-X .
  • Knut Ipsen : International Law . 5th, completely revised edition. CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-49636-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Accreditation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Pons dictionary , keyword accredo , accessed January 5, 2013.
  2. Larousse dictionary , keyword accréditer , accessed on January 6, 2016.
  3. Meaning of the word according to Duden , accessed on January 5, 2013 and the ABC of Diplomacy of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs , keyword accreditation . (PDF; 3.1 MB) accessed on June 26, 2017.
  4. Bausback : Core sentences on diplomatic law ( memento from February 23, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), keyword Accredited , No. 3, university script (PDF; 105 kB), accessed on January 7, 2016; See also The Free dictionary , accessed January 5, 2013.
  5. ABC of Diplomacy of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs , keyword credentials (PDF; 3.1 MB) (PDF) accessed on June 26, 2017.
  6. Cf. Art. 7 Paragraph 2 Letter b) Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (WÜRV).
  7. Second Part No. III 1 of the Protocol Regulations ( Memento of the original from December 10, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 50 kB) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs ; Retrieved January 7, 2013. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. ^ Fischer, in: Ipsen, Völkerrecht , § 35 Rn 20 and 23 (p. 565).
  9. See Wolfrum, in: Dahm / Delbrück / Wolfrum, Völkerrecht , § 33 II 2 (p. 267).
  10. ^ Fischer, in: Ipsen, Völkerrecht , § 37 Rn 3 (p. 599)
  11. Wolfrum, in: Dahm / Delbrück / Wolfrum, Völkerrecht , § 41 II 2 (p. 300).
  12. Press release on the New Year's reception of the German President on January 12, 2012 (at the end), accessed on December 31, 2012.
  13. Bausback : Core sentences on diplomatic law ( memento of February 23, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), keyword persona non grata , No. 4, university script (PDF; 105 kB), accessed on January 7, 2013; Fischer, in: Ipsen, Völkerrecht , § 37 Rn 3 (p. 599); Wolfrum, in: Dahm / Delbrück / Wolfrum, Völkerrecht , § 41 II 2 (p. 300), both with reference to Art. 9 of the Vienna Convention of 1975 cited below.
  14. ^ Engl. Vienna Convention on the Representation of States in Their Relations With International Organizations of a Universal Character , text version in engl. Language on the UN homepage (PDF; 535 kB) accessed on January 7, 2016.
  15. ^ Status of the ratification on the homepage of the UN.
  16. See Lang, The Vienna Convention on the Representation of States in their Relations with International Organizations of a Universal Character (PDF; 3.4 MB) In: ZaöRV , 37, 1977, p. 43 (47).
  17. Wolfrum, in: Dahm / Delbrück / Wolfrum: Völkerrecht , § 41 II 2 (p. 301).
  18. ^ Exchange of notes from December 1, 1994 ( Federal Law Gazette 1995 II p. 269 and p. 270 ).