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Member State law - Austria

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Introduction — This page provides information on the Austrian legal system and gives an overview of Austrian law.


Legal sources

Austrian law is primarily a statutory (“aged”) law. Common law, on the other hand, plays only a very limited role. The case law of the highest courts, which provides guidance on the application of the law, is of great importance. However, the law of the judiciary is not formally recognised as a source of law.

The Austrian Federal Constitutional Act (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz) declares the generally recognised rules of international law as an integral part of federal law and provides for the incorporation of state treaties into the Austrian legal system (general and specific transformation). The status of the national contractual regime in the domestic legal system is determined by the content of the scheme.

Amendments to the constitution and/or supplementary state treaties require the same qualified majorities as decisions on federal constitutional laws for their approval in the National Council. Decisions on amending or amending public contracts are subject to the same requirements as those laid down for legislative decisions.

In principle, at the request of the Federal Government or the Federal Minister empowered by the Federal President, the Federal President will close. Political agreements, amendments or supplementary agreements must be approved in advance by the National Council. The Federal President may authorise the Federal Government or the competent members of the Federal Government to enter into certain categories of State treaties, which are neither subject to political nor legislative amendments.

In accordance with the Federal Constitution of Austria, there is, in addition to the federal (constitutional) law in the nine federal states, a national (constitutional) law. State constitutional law must not contradict and therefore subordinate to the Federal Constitutional Court’s right to constitutional law. However, such a ranking principle does not, in principle, apply between federal and provincial regulations. Since 1988, the Länder have also been able to conclude international treaties (State contracts) on matters of their competence. There is, however, still a predominance of the Federal Government on external matters.

Typology of acts — hierarchy of norms

A constitutional standard in the National Council of 2/3-Mehrheit of the votes, with at least half of the members present. In addition, the standard so produced must be explicitly marked as ‘constitutional law’ or ‘constitutional provision’.

On the other hand, the presence of at least one third of the members and an absolute majority of the votes cast is necessary for a valid decision in the National Council concerning federal regulations.

1 Principles of the Federal Constitution

The following guiding principles of the Austrian Federal constitution set out the main pieces of legislation in the Austrian legal system:

  • democratic principle
  • the principle of separation of powers
  • the rule of law
  • the republican principle
  • the federal principle
  • the liberal principle

In their entirety, these guiding principles form the constitutional rule of law.

They are of paramount importance in the constitution. If a change in the federal constitution of one of the guiding principles is abandoned, or the relationship between the principles is fundamentally changed, this is considered a total change and requires the holding of a referendum.

2 Primary and secondary EU law

The accession of Austria to the European Union on 1 January 1995 brought about an overall change in the Austrian constitution. Since accession, Austrian constitutional law no longer determines the basic legal order, but also the law of the European Union (constitutionalism). The prevailing opinion is that EU law deals with domestic law and simple federal constitutional law, but not the basic principles of the federal constitution.

3 “Simple” federal constitutional law

Constitutional law defines the “rules of the game” of political action by providing for:

  • the legislative procedure
  • the position of the supreme institutions in the State
  • the relationship between the Federal Government and the Länder with regard to legislation and implementation
  • the control of state action by courts of public law

4 Federal Laws

In accordance with the constitutional principle of the rule of law, all implementation (administration and jurisdiction) is bound by the law. The Federal Constitution shares the legislative powers between the Federal Government and the Länder.

5th Regulations

Regulations are general standards which are adopted by the managing authorities and apply equally to all persons subject to legislation. There is a general constitutional authorisation for the adoption of implementing regulations aimed at clarifying other general standards, mostly laws. Supplementary regulations require an explicit constitutional authorisation.

6 Decisions

Decisions are primarily an act of administrative law, which only applies to the persons referred to therein.

Institutional framework

Bodies of the legislature

According to the constitutional separation of powers between the Federal Government and the Länder, different bodies are involved in the legislative process.

The National Council adopts the federal laws, usually with the involvement of the Bundesrat. The 183 members of the National Council are directly elected by the people. However, the Bundesrat is elected by the Landtage. As a rule, the Bundesrat has only a right of appeal.

Provincial legislation is the responsibility of the Länder.

Legislative procedures

Legislative initiatives for federal laws are submitted to the Nationalrat as follows:

  • in support of requests from Members (own-initiative opinion)
  • as a submission by the Federal Government (government bill)
  • as a request by the Bundesrat

In addition, the National Council is required to submit a petition for discussion with more than 100 000 signatures of persons entitled to vote or to one-sixth of the electorate of three countries.

In practice, the federal government has most legislative initiatives. Government proposals must be adopted unanimously by the Federal Government (Council of Ministers). Before that, the draft law prepared by the relevant Federal Minister is published for evaluation by other bodies (Länder, membership organisations).

According to the Nationalrat’s decision, the Bundesrat must approve the bill. (Federal laws do not have to be submitted to the Bundesrat — Federal sovereignty of the National Council). Then, the Federal Chancellor submits the Act to the Federal President for authentication.

The National Council may decide to hold a referendum. This may also require the majority of Members. Then the bill that the National Council has already passed must be approved by referendum before it can be recorded. Moreover, a referendum must be held for each amendment of the Federal Constitution.

The Federal President recorded the constitutional formation of the law by signing it. The deeds are then countersigned by the Federal Chancellor.

Following the countersignature by the Federal Chancellor, the Federal Act is published in the Federal Law Gazette. Unless otherwise specified in the Act (retroactivity or vacatio legis), a law enters into force at the end of the day of its publication in the Federal Law Gazette and publication of the issue.

A law can either be expressly repealed (formal derogation) or, by means of a new Federal Act, which regulates a matter which has already been legally standardised (substantive derogation), without the formal entry into force of that law (lex posterior derogat legi priori). The more specific law deals with the general laws (lex specialis derogat legi generali). In addition, the duration of a law may be limited in time.

Legal databases

Austrian legislation can be consulted online via the Link opens in new windowlegal information system of the Federal Republic of Germany (RIS), which is provided by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs (Bundesministerium für digitale und Wirtschaftsstandort).

Is access to the database free of charge?

Access to the Link opens in new windowlegal information system of the Federal Republic (RIS) is free of charge.

Brief description of content

The Federal Legal Information System informs about:

Federal law

  1. Consolidated federal law
  2. Federal Law Gazette as of 2004
  3. Federal Law Gazette 1945-2003
  4. State, Federal State and Federal Law Gazette 1848-1940
  5. Legislative and regulatory collections 1740-1848 (external)
  6. German Reichsgesetzblatt 1919-1945 (external)
  7. Draft assessments
  8. Government Bills

Provincial law

  1. Provincial law in consolidated form
  2. Authentic and non-authentic Land gazettes of the Länder (different periods)

Municipal law: selected legal standards of municipalities in the following Länder:

  1. Carinthia (all municipalities)
  2. Niederösterreich
  3. Oberösterreich
  4. Salzburg
  5. Steiermark
  6. Vienna

Case law

  1. Constitutional Court (VfGH)
  2. Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof (VwGH))
  3. List of standards of the Administrative Court
  4. Justice (OGH, OLG, LG, BG, OPMS, EXCLUDING)
  5. Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) (BVwG)
  6. Regional Administrative Courts (Landesverwaltungsgerichte) (LVwG)
  7. Federal Finance Court (Bundesfinanzgericht) (external)
  8. Data Protection Authority (Datenschutzbehörde) (pre-2014: Data Protection Commission (Datenschutzkommission))
  9. Disciplinary Commissions (Disziplinarkommissionen), Supreme Disciplinary Commission (Disziplinaroberkommission), Appeals Tribunal (Berufungskommission)
  10. Staff representation authority (before 2014: Staff Committee — Supervisory Commission)
  11. Compliance committee from 2014
  12. Equality Commissions from 2008 (external)
  13. Financial documentation, Independent Finance Centre (external)
  14. Independent administrative Senate — Selected decisions from 1991 to 2013
  15. Asylum Court (Asylum Court) — July 2008 to 2013
  16. Independent Federal Asylum Senate — Selected decisions from 1998 until the end of June 2008
  17. Environmental Senate — Selected decisions from 1994 to 2013
  18. Federal Communication Senate — Selected decisions from 2001 to 2013
  19. Public procurement control authorities — selected decisions up to 2013
  20. Decisions by the High Court of Cassation and Justice in civil and criminal matters (1885-1897) (external)
  21. Collection of findings of the Austrian National Court 1869-1918 (external)
  22. Collection of findings of the Austrian Constitutional Court 1919-1979 (external)
  23. Collection of findings of the Austrian Administrative Court 1876-1934 (external)

Other notices:

  1. Inspection regulations pursuant to the Gewerbeordnung (Trade, Commerce and Industry
  2. Official Social Security announcements — authentic from 2002
  3. Structural plans Health (ÖSG, RSG)
  4. Official Veterinary News (AVN) as of 15.09.2004

Decrees (Erlässe)

  1. Decrees of the federal ministries
  2. Guidelines and decrees of the Federal Ministry of Finance (external)
  3. Decrees of the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection on social security matters (external)

Austrian Laws

Some Austrian laws are also available in English.

Further information

Further information is available on the website of Link opens in new windowthe Federal Legal Information System.


This is a machine translated version of the content. The owner of this page accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to the quality of this machine translated text.

Last update: 22/10/2019