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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Austria is a constitutional democracy with a federal parliamentary form of government. The Austrian president convenes and concludes parliamentary sessions and under certain conditions can dissolve Parliament. However, no Austrian president has dissolved Parliament in the Second Republic. The custom is for Parliament to call for new elections if needed. The president requests a party leader, usually the leader of the strongest party, to form a government. Upon the recommendation of the Federal Chancellor, the president also appoints cabinet ministers. No one can become a member of the government without the approval of the president. The Federal Assembly (Parliament) is composed of two houses--the National Council (Nationalrat), or lower house, and the Federal Council (Bundesrat), or upper house. Legislative authority is concentrated in the National Council. Its 183 members are elected for a maximum 4-year term in a three-tiered system, based on proportional representation. The National Council may dissolve itself by a simple majority vote or it may be dissolved by the president on the recommendation of the Chancellor. The 64 members of the Federal Council are elected by the legislatures of the nine provinces for 4- to 6-year terms. The Federal Council only reviews legislation passed by the National Council and can delay but not veto its enactment.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The highest courts of Austria's independent judiciary are the Constitutional Court; the Administrative Court, which handles bureaucratic disputes; and the Supreme Court, for civil and criminal cases. Cases in the Administrative and Supreme Courts concerning constitutional issues can be appealed to the Constitutional Court. Justices of the three courts are appointed by the president for specific terms.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Austrian Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in 2001; however, there were problems in a few areas. There were some reports of abuse by police, which involved occasional beatings but mainly involved verbal abuse, threats, and harassment. Stringent slander laws were criticized as detrimental to press reporting. The Government passed a media reform bill to make the oversight board for the state radio and television company more independent of political influence; however, the board continued to be dominated by political appointees. There was some governmental and societal discrimination against members of some nonrecognized religious groups, particularly those considered to be "sects". Violence against women was a problem, which the Government took steps to address. Interior Ministry statistics for 2000 showed a decrease in the number of official complaints of neo-Nazi, rightwing extremist, and xenophobic incidents. Trafficking in women for prostitution remained a problem, which the Government took steps to combat.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Legal Profession

Law Schools

Study Law in Austria

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