Published : 2020-06-27

Polish Consular Law and Practice after Regaining Independence in 1918 – the Selected Key Issues of the Interwar Period

Section: Articles

Abstract

The article discusses the selected issues of Polish consular law and practice in the period 1918-1939. The complicated interwar political situation had a direct impact on the practice of Polish consular offices. The consular relations with the Germans were particularly difficult. The enormous scale of the political problems in the Polish-German relations increased particularly during the years 1933-1939. The efficiency of consular intervention in favour of Polish citizens was insignificant. The relations with Soviet Russia were even more difficult. In the interwar period, Poland was the only country to have a consular convention signed with the Soviet state. The convention was considered to be very innovative with regard to immunities and privileges. However, the Soviets did not feel obligated by the treaties signed. As a result, Polish consuls and diplomats had no knowledge of the scale of the tragedy of the Polish population in the Soviet Union i.e. mass genocide committed by the NKVD in 1938. The exercise of consular functions, in this case, was practically impossible. The paper demonstrates that regardless of the difficult experiences with the neighbours, Poland after the rebirth of the statehood constructed a professional consular service, which performed its legal and supportive tasks. Consular functions were also successfully pursued by numerous Polish honorary consuls. International consular law explicitly provides the activity of honorary consuls. However, the performance of these activities depends on the consent of both interested parties – sending and receiving State. In the interwar period, this institution was very popular in international practice. It was practised simultaneously with the so-called ‘etatisation’ of honorary consulates. In Polish honorary consular offices, such a solution was very common. The article indicates that Polish law and consular practice in the interwar period was characterised by a modern approach to supportive and protective activities regarding the citizens. To a limited degree, Poland also provided consular activities for the citizens of the Free City of Danzig, which usually caused practical difficulties. Only exceptionally, the consuls would act for the citizens of other countries (in favorem tertii).

Keywords

Polish consular service in 1918-1939 ; honorary consuls ; consular protection ; consular activity in favorem tertii


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