National territory

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The state territory or state territory ( ugs. Sometimes simply referred to as land ) is one of the three elements of a state in the sense of international law , along with the state people and state authority . It is the territorial area that dominates the state permanently and ordered and where he one for this area applicable administrative and legal system has, inter alia, the legality and the legitimacy of the state monopoly for those living in it people ( citizens ) manufactures . As a result, legal security and legal peace are largely ensured in a constitutional state and, for this purpose, legitimate (=  legal / constitutional ) compulsion is exerted within the national territory on both citizens and public institutions in order to influence the behavior of both parties in the interests of the common good . The German lawyer Ernst Zitelmann therefore described the state as the “arena of state rule”. It is to be distinguished from the sovereign territory in whose area a state actually exercises its sovereign rights .

Legal meaning

From a legal point of view, the national territory is a spatial area of ​​application of certain legal norms (area of competence ). However, it does not follow from this that the scope of all state norms must be restricted to the territory (e.g. prosecution of crimes committed abroad by own nationals according to their own criminal law). In contrast, the competences of the territorial state to carry out sovereign acts - e.g. B. for the issuance and enforcement of court judgments from the above-mentioned criminal laws - limited to their own national territory.

This does not mean territorial sovereignty . As a rule, however, both terms coincide. An example of a national territory deviating from territorial sovereignty is Guantánamo Bay in Cuba . It is under the sovereignty of the USA , but territorial sovereignty rests with Cuba.

The sovereign state rule in the state has a positive and a negative side:

  • On the positive side, it means that, in principle, everyone who is on the territory of the state is subjected to state power . This does not exclude the possibility that the state, by virtue of its own state authority, in compliance with an international legal obligation z. B. exempts foreign diplomats, including their buildings and vehicles, from his sovereign access and grants them immunity or subordinates parts of his own national territory that are difficult to reach in terms of traffic to the currency and economic area of ​​a neighboring country. The status of diplomatic buildings is often misleadingly referred to as "extraterritorial" or extraterritorial , but with some special legal positions they belong to the normal national territory.
  • In the negative, it means that no sovereign power may be exercised within the national territory that is not derived from the state's regulatory power. Nevertheless, a state can grant certain institutions sovereign powers on its territory (e.g. churches to collect church taxes) or grant other states sovereign powers on its territory or give supranational organizations (e.g. the European Union ) the power to issue legal acts with direct domestic effect.


In its national territory, a state basically has unrestricted state authority (“ sovereignty ”) over all things and people located there. In addition to your own citizens, this also extends to foreigners . Necessarily, the “negative” function arises directly from this, according to which other states are prohibited from exercising sovereign power on foreign national territory. Nevertheless, a state can grant other states sovereign powers on its territory via an intergovernmental treaty (e.g. a state service ) or other organizations (e.g. churches to collect church taxes ) and even give them the power to implement legal acts with direct domestic effect (e.g. in the case of the European Union ).

In addition, the scope of national standards does not have to be restricted to national territory. For example, a state can also prosecute crimes committed abroad by its nationals according to its own criminal laws ( personality principle ), even if it cannot enforce them there directly. Ships on the high seas are not part of the national territory of the flag country, but are part of its territory . Conversely, a state does not inevitably exercise its sovereign rights over its entire national territory (see e.g. diplomatic missions ).

Extent of the national territory

The national territory is composed three-dimensionally of the land area, the territorial waters , the air space and the soil. A necessary condition for the allocation of a space to the national territory is the factual possibility of its controllability.

Above and below ground, the legal territorial sovereignty therefore only extends as far as state activity can technically advance. At the same time, not every space that is actually controllable belongs to the national territory. The discussion is about limiting territorial power to air space ( air sovereignty ) and not - despite factual controllability - extending it to space ; space would therefore be free of the state. In the so-called space treaty of January 27, 1967 (UNTS, vol. 610, p. 205; Federal Law Gazette 1969 II, p. 1969) no precise definition of the sovereignty limit was made. According to today's general principles of international law, however, the national territory cannot continue vertically at an unlimited height in space, but in a truncated cone- like shape only up to the so-called Kármán line at a height of about 100 km, then space begins and air traffic dependent on air buoyancy is no longer physically possible . Into the earth, the territory could conical theoretically up to the center of the earth extend.

The land area of ​​a state is the mainland surface including the island surfaces. The inland waters , estuaries, harbors, bays or fjords are added.

Boundaries of the national territory

Imaginary lines act as the land border between two states, which are determined either by geographical description (mountain ridge, longitude or latitude, etc.) or by artificial markings.

River limit

If a river is to be a border, the border line for non-navigable rivers runs on the center line between the two banks, for navigable rivers on the valley path , i.e. on the deepest continuous channel of the river bed. If the course of the river changes significantly, i.e. it is looking for a completely new bed, the boundary remains in the old river bed. In the case of minor changes (a few meters are lost on one bank, a sandbank appears on the other), the boundary moves with the change. River islands are treated like open water and assigned to the nearer bank or divided if necessary. Since many rivers are constantly changing and form many islands, tributaries, etc., completely chaotic border lines arise, for example between Croatia and Serbia. Border conflicts between these states, as well as on the Amur between Russia and China or between the two Congos cannot be resolved by treaty. That is why one goes over to precise drawing of boundaries using satellite technology; areas are swapped after each change.

In inland waters with different riparian states, the middle between the two banks is also decisive. However, other international agreements can be made for both river borders and borders in inland waters. If the river dries up, the border is of course preserved.

Sea border

Territorial sovereignty is gradually restricted towards the sea. The basis for these delimitations is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of ​​1982 (UNCLOS) . The national territory includes:

For states that consist of archipelagos , there is a special regulation with regard to the archipelago waters .

The state territory does not include the sea zones according to UNCLOS that protrude further out to sea; these are the connecting zone (24 nautical miles from the baseline), the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) (max. 200 nautical miles from the baseline, cf. Art. 55-75 UNCLOS) and the continental shelf . In these areas, the respective coastal state has limited sovereign rights, in particular with regard to economic use.

Exclave and enclave

The land area of ​​a state can include areas that are spatially separated from its core area ( exclave ); it can also include land areas of foreign states ( enclave ), which therefore no longer belong to its national territory. Sometimes these areas are connected to the motherland by a corridor . The connection route belongs to the territory of one state, but is administered by the other state. Landlocked states such as Bolivia have often made agreements to operate a free port in a neighboring coastal state . Your maritime trade is no longer subject to the coastal state's customs policy .

Social science aspect

From a social science point of view, the national territory is an important factor in the integration of a community or nation . It fulfills this function, for example, as a shared home , as a natural and cultural landscape experienced together, as a field of activity for shared cultural and civilizational-technical effectiveness and efficiency, and as the ground for shared political fate.

See also


  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of ​​10 December 1982 . German version z. B. in: Shipping law: Laws of the sea, ordinances, conventions , MAP Handelsgesellschaft mbH, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 978-3-9801222-1-4 .
  • Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency : North Sea Sea Limit Map No. 2920, Baltic Sea Sea Limit Map No. 2921 , Hamburg / Rostock.
  • Proclamation of the Federal Government on the expansion of the German territorial sea of November 11, 1994, Federal Law Gazette 1994 I p. 3428.
  • Walter Maier: State and Constitutional Law. Green series, Erich Fleischer Verlag, Achim, ISBN 3-8168-1014-4 .
  • Bischoff, Haug-Adrion, Dehner: Constitutional law and tax law. Orange series, Schaeffer Poeschel Verlag, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-7910-1786-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: State territory  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Maier, Staats- und Verfassungsrecht , p. 27.
  2. ^ Bischoff, Haug-Adrion, Dehner, Staatsrecht und Steuerrecht , p. 17.
  3. Cf. Marcus Schladebach, Lufthoheit. Continuity and Change , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2014, p. 178 f.