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Germany: an attractive location for international organisations

Flags on the Platz der Vereinten Nationen in Bonn

Flags on the Platz der Vereinten Nationen in Bonn, © dpa / www.jokerphoto.de

22.10.2019 - Article

Around 50 international organisations have their own headquarters in Germany. The Bundestag has now adopted a new law to ensure that Germany remains an attractive location for international exchange in the future.

Multilateralism made in Germany

Germany is committed to international cooperation as a means of tackling global problems. The work of a wide range of international organisations plays an important role in this regard. This commitment is not only a feature at the UN headquarters in New York, but also in the heart of Germany. A large number of international organisations cover a wide range of issues, from bilateral youth offices to space travel to molecular biology. In Germany, countries hold exchanges in a wide variety of fields. Approximately 6000 staff members work at the 20 non-UN organisations represented in Germany alone.

United Nations in Bonn

Bonn – capital of the UN in Germany

Platz der Vereinten Nationen in Bonn
Platz der Vereinten Nationen in Bonn© dpa

A large number of UN organisations have established offices in the former German capital and the UN Campus is currently home to 20 UN institutions.

New law standardises rules

The Bundestag adopted the Host State Law on 17 October. The law, which is referred to in its long form as the “Law on the Privileges, Immunities, Exemptions and Facilitations of International Organisations in the Federal Republic of Germany as Host State” governs the status of international organisations establishing premises in Germany in the future. It stipulates similar rules for international organisations and foreign embassies and UN organisations alike. The UN and its organisations are not governed by the law. The rules of international agreements will continue to apply in this case.

Before the new legislation can enter into force, the Bundesrat must approve the draft bill and the Federal President must sign it into law.

Why new rules?

It goes without saying that regulations already exist for international organisations based in Germany. For a number of these organisations, these regulations are based on international law, which governs the status of UN organisations, for example. Where such regulations did not exist, what is known as a “headquarters agreement” regulating all status issues had to be negotiated for each organisation. Such agreements then had to be implemented by law. Until the adoption of the law, there was therefore no certainty as to which legal framework conditions would apply to them in Germany.

In the future, the new law will establish clarity in this area as well as a more uniform treatment of international organisations in Germany. A headquarters agreement that spells out the details for the respective organisation will continue to exist. However, its substance will be geared to the legal framework, and the agreement will be implemented in the future by a statutory instrument as opposed to a law.

International standards

The Host State Law stipulates regulations that are customary on the international stage. This comprises exemptions from direct taxes for the organisations. Such taxes include corporate, land transfer and motor vehicle tax, as well as, under certain circumstances, value-added tax. Employees enjoy immunity in accordance with the international regulations for UN staff. The Federal Government is confident that the new legal regulation will create an attractive and uniform framework for international organisations in Germany.

Further information about the law is available on the Bundestag Website.

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