File No. 125.0055/4

The Belgian Minister ( Havenith ) to the Secretary of State

No. 898]

Mr. Secretary of State: By a note dated January 25 last your excellency was so good as to acquaint me with the text of a telegram embodying the answer of the American Government to the German Government’s notice to the neutral powers of its intention to cancel the exequaturs issued by the Belgian Government to the foreign consuls.

I am instructed by the King’s Government and have the honor to forward herewith to your excellency a copy of the German Government’s [Page 920] reply1 to the Belgian Government’s protest together with a copy of another note from the Belgian Government which the Spanish Government kindly undertook to deliver at Berlin.

I embrace this opportunity [etc.]

E. Havenith

The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the German Foreign Office

Note Verbale

Germany claimed, in her communication of December 5, that the occupant of an invaded country had the right to regard as “annulled” all exequaturs previously issued to consuls in office by the lawful power of that country.

The claim is untenable.

By reason of the character of the occupant’s power which flows from mere possession and is in no wise final, Article 43 of the fourth convention of The Hague sanctions, in principle, the continuance of civil and administrative laws and, consequently, of existing conditions.

It is idle for Germany to invoke, in her note of January 3, military and administrative considerations. These both may justify the withdrawal of the exequatur of a consul who should indulge in hostile acts or behave in a manner inconsistent with the duties of his office. But they can not warrant either a general right of cancellation as claimed by Germany nor her assuming to upset the whole consular organization to reduce the number of consuls to three for each nation and to bar from consulates, on the sole ground that they are Belgians, men who have committed no act antagonistic to military interests and honestly acknowledged the occupant’s rights as defined by The Hague convention.

The German proposition, if accepted, would carry the consequence of throwing into a state of disastrous uncertainty the consulates established in parts that are occupied one day and retaken the next.

  1. Not printed; the same, except for the introductory and concluding paragraphs, as the note to the American Embassy, ante, p. 918.