Austria in Europe

According to the work “Guide to Foreign and International Citations”, by the Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University School of Law):

“The Constitution of 1920 (Bundesverfassungsgesetz – reinstated in 1945) distributes authority between the relatively autonomous provinces, which have their own constitutions (Landesverfassungsgesetz) and parliaments (Landtag), and the federal government (Bund). The provinces are further divided into administrative subunits (Gemeinden).

The head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected directly by the people for a six-year term. The President formally represents the Republic internationally and is constitutionally authorized to conclude international agreements. Furthermore, the Constitution vests (in theory) considerable powers on the President, such as the power to dissolve the National Council, to appoint or dismiss the Prime Minister and on the latter’s proposal to appoint as well as dismiss the other members of the government; he is also designated as Chief of the Army.

Nonetheless, the office is generally perceived as ceremonial.

The main executive organ is the government (Bundesregierung), which consists of the Prime Minister (Bundeskanzler) and the Ministers (Bundesminister). The Prime Minister is appointed by the party or parties that form a majority (through a process of political negotiation) of the National Council. The Ministers are appointed on the basis of the Prime Minister’s proposal.

The bicameral Parliament consists of a National Council (Nationalrat) and a Federal Council (Bundesrat). They together form the National Assembly (Bundesversammlung). The 183 members of the National Council are elected directly by the people every four years. The Federal Council consists of fifty-eight members who serve as delegates representing the separate provinces; its members are elected by the provincial parliaments. All laws are published in the Federal Legal Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt), which covers all forms of legislation, regulatory
enactments and treaties.

Austria is a civil law country. The judiciary, which is within the exclusive competency of the federal government, consists of civil and criminal courts. There are no state courts. The lowest courts are the Bezirksgerichte, for smaller claims, and the Landesgerichte, for matters of more importance. Appeals are generally brought before the Oberlandesgerichte. Appellate decisions can be further appealed to the Supreme Court (Obersten Gerichtshof). In Vienna in addition to the normal courts, specialized courts exist: two commercial courts (Handelsgericht
and Bezirksgericht für Handelssachen) and one labor court (Arbeitsgericht). While the Arbeitsgericht has the same competence as a Landesgericht, the two commercial courts equal the structure of the normal courts. There are 4 Oberlandesgerichte, which as courts of appeals have competence over every subject matter – both criminal and civil law. There is only one Supreme Court which hears all matters.

While administrative procedures (regulations and decisions) do not per se fall under the judiciary branch, as a last resort they may be challenged before an administrative tribunal (Verwaltungsgerichtshof). Additionally, Austria has also implemented independent quasijudicial tribunals (Unabhänginge Verwaltungssenate) within the federal provinces as appellate tribunals for administrative matters. The Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof) has the authority to test the constitutionality of legislation and administrative acts. Individuals who claim a violation of their fundamental rights must exhaust all possible remedies before bringing
the claim before the Constitutional Court.”

Online Resource: Austrian Press & Information Service (

Description of Austria

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes austria in the following terms: [1] Divided after World War II into four occupied zones, but with a single government, the Republic of Austria was not re-established as an independent state until 1955, when the Soviet troops withdrew after Austria had committed itself to neutrality. In 1960 the country became a founder member of EFTA.Germany, however, remained its main trading partner and for over 20 years before the introduction of the single currency in 1999 the schilling was closely linked to the D-Mark.

For most of the post-war period, Austria had grown at a higher rate than the European average, despite a stagnant political system (‘proporz’) in which much of the country’s economic and civic life was controlled and shared out between the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Party. In 1989, as the Cold War drew to a close and the single market gained momentum, Austriaapplied to join the EC, being formally admitted in 1995 to what had now become the European Union. Hopes that membership would provide an easy passport to sustained expansion soon gave way to the reality of austerity in order to meet the EMU criteria. Elections saw a sharp increase in the vote of the Freedom Party of the Eurosceptic Jorg Haider, who was much criticised as a chameleon and a xenophobe but was perhaps equally guilty of exposing political corruption in the traditional parties which formed the coalition government.

Accustomed to looking east, Austria has much to gain from the future accession to the EU of its neighbours, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia. The prospect of a prosperous Mitteleuropa and peaceful democracy on its borders has been unheard of since before World War I; on the other hand, the spectre of low wage competition and a flood of economic immigrants is easily raised. Sharper competition within the existing EU, added to globalisation, has also brought doubts over Austria’s consensus-based Rhine model style of industrial relations. At the turn of the century, Haider’s Freedom Party had gained more ground, threatening the ability of the coalition partners to continue governing the country. But Haider was moderating his tone and in 2000 the Freedom Party replaced the Social Democrats to form a rightist administration with the People’s Party. The EU responded furiously. Nevertheless, with its wealth and tranquillity it is hard to imagine Austrialapsing into genuine political extremism or turning its back on an acceptance of its future as an integral part of the Eu (see more in this European encyclopedia). (See also Austrian crisis.)


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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