Third country

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Third country (or third country ), from the perspective of an international treaty , each State which is not party to this contract.


Contracts do not create any rights or obligations for anyone other than the contracting parties without their consent . This determination was made in Articles 34–38 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties . A third country is only obliged by a contractual provision if the contracting parties intend to establish an obligation through the contractual provision and the third country expressly accepts this obligation in writing (Art. 35); this also applies to rights (Art. 36). According to Art. 2 of this convention, a third country is any country that is not a party to the contract.

The term “third country” is used in many contexts and each has specific meanings.

European Union

In European law, the term is mainly used to denote those citizens who are excluded from the right to free movement under European law . It is often the third-country nationals or third one nationality spoken.


Right of residence

Third countries within the meaning of German residence law are generally those countries that do not belong to the European Economic Area (EEA) - the latter are all member states of the European Union (EU) and Iceland , Liechtenstein and Norway . The third country aspect here refers to the failure to grant the fundamental European freedoms of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Swiss Confederation - although not an EEA country - is not a third country in terms of residence law from the German point of view, as the mutual granting of fundamental European freedoms between the EU and Switzerland is agreed in individual contracts .

Right of asylum

In asylum law, the term occurs in the phrase safe third country . In accordance with Section 26a (2) AsylG, safe third countries are, apart from the member states of the European Union, the countries named in Annex I of the law, currently Norway and Switzerland . Anyone who enters Germany through a safe third country cannot be recognized as a person entitled to asylum ( Article 16a, Paragraph 2, Sentence 1 of the Basic Law ).

Foreign trade law

In foreign trade law , the situation is different: According to Section 2 (8) Foreign Trade Act (AWG), third countries are the areas outside the EU customs area with the exception of Heligoland .

Customs law

The customs law , in particular the Customs Code of the EU , on the other hand does not know the concept of the third country. In publications of the German customs, the island of Helgoland and the area of Büsingen on the Upper Rhine are referred to as third countries in terms of customs and sales tax law.

Individual evidence

  1. Rolf Schwartmann (Ed.), Völker- und Europarecht , 2015, p. 147
  2. General Customs Directorate : Table of the special features of the customs territory of the Union , accessed on January 19, 2020.