Condominium (international law)

In international law, a condominium (plural either condominia, as in Latin, or condominiums) is a political territory (state or border area) in or over which multiple sovereign powers formally agree to share equal dominium (in the sense of sovereignty) and exercise their rights jointly, without dividing it into "national" zones.

Although a condominium has always been recognized as a theoretical possibility, condominia have been rare in practice. A major problem, and the reason so few have existed, is the difficulty of ensuring co-operation between the sovereign powers; once the understanding fails, the status is likely to become untenable.

The word is recorded in English since c. 1714, from Modern Latin, apparently coined in Germany c. 1700 from Latin com- "together" + dominium "right of ownership" (compare domain). A condominium of three sovereign powers is sometimes called a tripartite condominium or tridominium.

Current condominia

  • The International Space Station is a de facto space condominium, via a program of complex set of legal, political and financial agreements between all parties.
  • Antarctica is a de facto continental condominium, governed by parties to the Antarctic Treaty that have consulting status.
  • The Moselle and its tributaries, the Sauer and the Our, constitute a condominium between Luxembourg and Germany, which also includes bridges, about 15 river islands of varying size,[1] and the tip of one island, Staustufe Apach,[2] near Schengen (the rest of the island is in France). The condominium was established by treaty in 1816.
  • Pheasant Island (also known as Conference Island, Konpantzia in Basque, Île de la Conférence in French or Isla de los Faisanes in Spanish) in the Bidassoa is a condominium between France and Spain. It was established by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. It is formally controlled by Spain between 1 February and 31 July each year and by France for the following six months. The island has no permanent population and has been eroded significantly by the river.[3]
  • El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua exercise a tridominium over parts of the Gulf of Fonseca and of the territorial sea outside its mouth.[4][5][6]
  • Austria and Germany consider themselves, together with Switzerland, to hold a tripartite condominium (albeit on different grounds) over the main part of Lake Constance (without its islands). On the other hand, Switzerland holds the view that the border runs through the middle of the lake.[7][8] Hence no international treaty establishes where the borders of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria in or around Lake Constance lie.[8]
  • The part of the Paraná River between the Salto Grande de Sete Quedas and the mouth of the Iguassu River is shared in condominium by Brazil and Paraguay.
  • Colombia and Jamaica share a maritime condominium (called a "Joint Regime Area") by mutual agreement as an alternative to delimiting their sea boundary. The outer portion of the EEZ of each country otherwise would overlap in this area. Unlike other "joint development zones", this condominium appears not to have been purposed simply as a way to divide oil, fisheries or other resources.
  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Brčko District forms a condominium between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska.[9]


Under French law, Andorra was once considered to be a French–Spanish condominium, although it is more commonly classed as a co-principality, since it is itself a sovereign state, not a possession of one or more foreign powers. However, the position of head of state is shared ex officio by two foreigners, one of whom is the President of France, currently Emmanuel Macron, and the other the Bishop of Urgell in Spain, Joan Enric Vives Sicília.[10]

Former condominia

  • In 688 the Byzantine Emperor Justinian II and the Arab Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan reached an unprecedented agreement to establish a condominium (the concept did not yet exist) over Cyprus, with the collected taxes from the island being equally divided between the two parties. The arrangement lasted for some 300 years, even though in the same time there was nearly constant warfare between the two parties on the mainland.
  • Fellesdistrikt (Common District) (Norwegian: Fellesdistrikt, Russian: Общий район) was a Russo-Norwegian condominium from 1684 until 1826.

Proposed condominia

  • In a 2019 essay, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd suggested that Australia should consider a "formal constitutional condominium" with Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Nauru as a solution to the impacts of climate change. Rudd outlined that the people of these countries would be offered citizenship and relocation to Australian territory in exchange for Australian ownership of their territorial seas, Exclusive Economic Zones, and fisheries.[21]
  • In 2001, the British government held discussions with Spain with a view to putting a proposal for joint sovereignty to the people of Gibraltar. This initiative was pre-emptively rejected by Gibraltarians in the 2002 referendum.[22][23]
  • In 2012, the Canadian and Danish governments were close to an agreement to declare Hans Island a condominium, after decades in dispute. Another considered alternative was to divide the island in half. Negotiations continued.
  • Some proposed two-state solutions to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict involve a State of Israel and State of Palestine sharing sovereignty over part or all of Jerusalem.
  • In the talks between the UK and the People's Republic of China in 1983–84 over the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, one of the British proposals was to transfer the sovereignty of Hong Kong and its dependencies to the People's Republic of China while the UK would retain the rights of administration of the territory.[24] The proposal was rejected and negotiations ended with the UK agreeing to relinquish all rights over Hong Kong to China in 1997.
  • In one proposed case of the Partition of Belgium, Brussels would become a condominium of Flanders and Wallonia.
  • In 1984, the New Ireland Forum suggested a proposal for joint UK/Irish authority in Northern Ireland to try to bring an end to the Troubles conflict. This idea was dismissed by the British government. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 led to the establishment of a devolved power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland led jointly by the First and Deputy First Minister, positions nominated separately by the largest parties in each of the two largest community designations in the assembly. The proposal of joint authority by the UK and Irish governments over Northern Ireland was raised again in 2017 after the collapse of the power-sharing executive.[25]

See also


  1. Jacobs, Frank (12 January 2012). "The World's Most Exclusive Condominium". Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  2. "Select DEFRLUBEDELU.PDF (Map of condominium boundaries)". Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  3. The island that switches countries every six months, BBC News, 28 January 2018. Retrieved 2018-01-28.
  4. Gómez Cruz, Ricardo Alonso (October 2004). Elementos Jurídicos para la Construcción de una Propuesta Tendente a la Recuperación Material y la Soberanía de la Isla Conejo en el Golfo de Fonseca (Legal Elements for the Construction of a Proposal to the Material Recovery and Sovereignty of Isla Conejo in the Gulf of Fonseca) (PDF) (Thesis). Universidad de El Salvador, Ciudad Universitaria, San Salvador, El Salvador. p. 33, 36, 46, 49 and 50. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  5. Case Concerning Land, Island, and Maritime Frontier Dispute (El Salvador/Honduras, Nicaragua Intervening) (International Court of Justice 1992). Text
  6. Huezo Urquilla, Luis Salvador (July 1993). La controversia fronteriza terrestre, insular y maritima entre El Salvador y Honduras, y Nicaragua como país interviniente (Thesis). Universidad Dr. José Matías Delgado, San Salvador, El Salvador. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  7. Daniel-Erasmus Kahn (2004). Die deutschen Staatsgrenzen: rechtshistorische Grundlagen und offene Rechtsfragen ("The German national borders: legal-historical foundations and open legal questions"). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9783161484032.
  8. Smith, Barry. "Fiat Objects" (PDF). Department of Philosophy, Center for Cognitive Science and NCGIA, SUNY at Buffalo (NY): 24–25. Retrieved 2 June 2013. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. Coprince d'Andorre, Hollande rend visite à la principauté, Le Parisien, 12 June 2014
  11. Jozo Tomasevich. "The Chetniks". War and Revolution in Yugoslavia. Stanford University Press, 1975. Pp. 103. "The condominium in Croatia was the most important example of Italo-German collaboration in controlling and despoiling an occupied area [...]".
  12. Stephen R. Graubard, (ed.).Exit from Communism. Transaction Publishers, 1993. Pp. 153–154. "After the Axis attack on Yugoslavia in 1941, Mussolini and Hitler installed the Ustašas in power in Zagreb, making them the nucleus of a dependent regime of the newly created Independent State of Croatia, an Italo-German condominium predicated on the abolition of Yugoslavia."
  13. Günay Göksu Özdoğan, Kemâli Saybaşılı. Balkans: a mirror of the new international order. Marmara Üniversitesi. Dept. of International Relations, 1995. Pp. 143. "Croatia (with Bosnia-Hercegovina) formally became a new Axis ally – the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). This was in fact, Italo-German condominium, [...]".
  14. John R. Lampe (ed.), Mark Mazower (ed.). Ideologies and National Identities: The Case of Twentieth-Century Southeastern Europe. Central European University Press, 2003. Pp. 103. "[...] the Independent State of Croatia (hereafter NDH, Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska), in reality an Italo-German condominium[...]"
  15. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. The UAE: Internal Boundaries and the Boundary with Oman. 6. pp. 477–478. ISBN 1-85207-575-9.
  17. "Ajman/Muscat condominium". I don't know when the Hadf zone agreement was terminated, but it certainly was.
  18. Bromley, J S (editor) 1970, The New Cambridge Modern History Volume 6: The Rise of Great Britain and Russia, 1688-1715/25, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521075244 (p. 428)
  19. Namibia Yearbook, Issue 3, pages 18
  20. The Complacent Country Kevin Rudd. 4 February 2019
  21. CIA – The World Factbook – Gibraltar US Central Intelligence Agency
  22. BBC News | Europe | Country profiles | Regions and territories: Gibraltar BBC News
  23. How Mrs Thatcher lost Hong Kong, The Independent, Robert Cottrell, 30 August 1992
  24. SDLP backs British-Irish rule if Northern Ireland devolution fails, The Guardian, 11 January 2017
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