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Austria: IALS Library Guides

An introduction to legal research in the jurisdiction of Austria

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Guide last updated by Alfred Ye, May 2024

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This guide was created by Alfred Ye, Graduate Trainee Library Assistant at the IALS Library.

Email: alfred.ye@sas.ac.uk

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Introduction

Austria (Republik Österreich) is a federal semi-presidential republic with a civil law legal system. It consists of nine federal states (Bundesländer) that are translated as ‘provinces’ by the European Commission. Its capital Vienna is both a statutory city and one of the nine autonomous provinces. Each province has its own unicameral legislature (Landtag) and a government (Landesregierung) headed by a governor.

The federal government of Austria is headed by the Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) who is the chief executive of the government and is accountable to the lower house of the Austrian parliament, i.e. the National Council. The Chancellor is appointed by the President of Austria (Bundespräsident), who is the head of state and is directly elected by popular vote once every six years. The federal legislature consists of two chambers: the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat). The members of the National Council are elected through proportional representation in the general election that occurs every five years, while the members of the Federal Council are selected by the provincial legislatures.

Most of the territories of today’s Republic of Austria were part of the Holy Roman Empire for roughly one thousand years until its formal dissolution in 1806. The Empire of Austria was established in 1804 and it became a dominant power within the German Confederation. The Confederation ended in 1866 as a result of the Austro-Prussian war, and in 1867 the Empire of Austria-Hungary was established. The empire’s collapse after World War I led to the formation of the Republic of German-Austria in 1918 and subsequently the First Republic of Austria in 1919. In 1934, the parliamentary democracy of Austria was replaced by the Austrofacisist dictatorship before Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. After being liberated in 1945 and after a decade of Allied occupation, Austria regained its sovereignty and declared its perpetual neutrality in 1955. Austria joined the European Union in 1995 and adopted the euro currency in 1999.

IALS Library has a good collection of both primary and secondary legal materials for Austria. The Austrian materials have the classmark of GO5 (or FOL GO5 for oversized titles).

Constitution

The Constitution of Austria, i.e. the Federal Constitution Law (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz, abbreviated B-VG) was drafted and first enacted in 1920 during the First Republic of Austria. In 1929, the Constitution was significantly amended to broaden the power of the federal president. This constitution remained in force until 1934. After World War II, the 1920 Constitution as amended in 1929 was re-established by a constitutional act in 1945.

The following versions of the Austrian Constitution are available in print at the IALS Library:

Electronic version of the current consolidated Constitution in German is freely available on the website of The Legal Information System of the Republic of Austria (Das Rechtsinformationssystem des Bundes, RIS). RIS also has an English translation of the Constitution that was last updated on 14 March 2024. 

The World Constitutions Illustrated on HeinOnline database, which IALS Library subscribes to, contains the original 1920 text of the Austrian Constitution (in both German and English), the text of each federal act that amended the Constitution (in German only), as well as current and historical consolidated versions of the Constitution (some in both German and English, and some in German only).

Legislation and Codes

Federal Law (Bundesrecht)

Austrian federal law becomes effective when it is published in the Federal Law Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt, BGBl). The Gazette has been published since 1849 but under various names. Federal laws are published chronologically in the Gazette and are cited in the following format: BGBl. I Nr. 42/2024 (= the 42th law published in Teil I of the 2024 Gazette).

IALS Library has the Gazette in print from 1920-1948, excepting 1939-1944. They are under the title Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich between 1920-1934 and between 1945-1948. Between 1934-1938 they are under the title Bundesgesetzblatt für den Bundesstaat Österreich.

The Legal Information System (RIS) website offers free access to the Federal Law Gazette from 1945 to the present. From 2004 the Austrian Federal Law Gazette has become legally binding immediately after it has been published on the RIS website. Federal laws published since then can be found on the Bundesgesetzblatt authentisch ab 2004 (Authentic Federal Law Gazette since 2004) database of the RIS. Older copies of the Gazette can be found on the database Staats- und Bundesgesetzblatt 1945-2003 (Austrian Federal Law Gazettes 1945-2003), but these electronic versions are not legally binding.

Commercial publishers such as Manz and LexisNexis have published many codes and subject compilations of Austrian law usually accompanied with commentaries. Some of the main Austrian codes include the Civil Code (Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, ABGB), the Civil Procedure Code (Zivilprozessordnung, ZPO), the Business Enterprise Code (Unternehmensgesetzbuch, UGB), the Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch, StGB), and the Criminal Procedure Code (Strafprozessordnung, StPO). IALS Library has the most recent editions of the codes on the open shelves, with a selection of older editions kept in the depository area in the basement. Below is an overview of the latest editions of the codes held at IALS:

ABGB

Peter Barth,  Dietmar Dokalik, and Matthias Potyka (eds), Das allgemeine bürgerliche Gesetzbuch: samt den wichtigsten Nebengesetzen: mit der wichtigsten OGH-Judikatur im Überblick sowie weiterführenden Anmerkungen und Verweisungen (27th edn, Manz 2022, classmark GO5.D.1 DIT)

Peter Rummel (ed), Kommentar zum Allgemeinen bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch: mit wichtigen Nebengesetzen und EU-Verordnungen (4th edn, Manz 2014-, classmark GO5.D.1 RUM) [Commentary on ABGB]

Peter Andreas Eschig and Erika Pircher-Eschig (trs), Das österreichische ABGB: Gesetzestext inklusive Glossar = The Austrian Civil Code (2nd edn, LexisNexis 2021, classmark GO5.D.1 ESC) [This title has an English translation of the code]

ZPO

Alexander Klauser and Georg Kodek (eds), Jurisdiktionsnorm und Zivilprozessordnung: samt Einführungsgesetzen und Nebengesetzen sowie den Vorschriften des europäischen Zivilprozessrechts: mit erläuternden Anmerkungen, Verweisungen, Literaturhinweisen und einer Übersicht der massgeblichen Rechtsprechung (18th edn, Manz 2018, classmark GO5.D.3 STO)

UGB

Manfred Straube (ed), Wiener Kommentar zum Unternehmensgesetzbuch. Band I, [§§1-188, §§343-454: mit ausgewählten Nebengesetze] (4th edn, Manz 2009-2013, classmark GO5.D.2 STR) and Manfred Straube (ed), Wiener Kommentar zum Unternehmensgesetzbuch. Band II, [§§189-283]: Rechnungslegung. (3rd edn, Manz 2011-2012, classmark GO5.D.2 STR) [IALS has not subscribed to these two looseleaf commentaries on UGB since 2013 and 2012, respectively]

Peter Andreas Eschig and Erika Pircher-Eschig (trs), Das österreichische UGB: Gesetzestext inklusive Glossar = The Austrian Business Code (LexisNexis 2020, classmark GO5.D.2 ESC) [This title has an English translation of the code]

StGB

Ernst Eugen Fabrizy, Alexandra Michel-Kwapinski, and Babek Oshidari (eds), Strafgesetzbuch: (StGB) samt ausgewählten Nebengesetzen: Kurzkommentar: mit einer Einführung und Anmerkungen unter Berücksichtigung der Rechtsprechung des Obersten Gerichtshofes und des Schrifttums (14th edn, Manz: 2018, classmark GO5.D.4 FAB)

Andreas Schloenhardt, Frank Höpfel, and Johannes Eder (eds)Strafgesetzbuch = Austrian Criminal Code (2nd edn, NWV 2021, classmark GO5.D.4 SCH) [This title has an English translation of the code]

StPO

Ernst Eugen Fabrizy and Kurt Kirchbacher (eds), Die österreichische Strafprozessordnung (Strafprozessordnung 1975): Kurzkommentar mit den wichtigsten Nebengesetzen (14th edn, Manz 2020, classmark GO5.D.4 FAB)

Andreas Schloenhardt, Johannes Eder, an Frank Höpfel (eds), Strafprozessordnung = Austrian code of criminal procedure (NWV 2019, classmark GO5.D.4 SCH) [This title includes an English translation of the code]

Electronic versions of the ABGB, ZPO, UGB, StGB, and StPO can be found on the Legal Information System (RIS) website. These web pages have the text of the codes in German only and do not include commentaries. They are usually reliably up-to-date and each web page also provides a list of all the federal acts that have amended the corresponding code.

IALS also has the following two looseleaf titles that compile federal legislation regarding different areas of Austrian law:

State Law (Landesrecht)

IALS Library does not hold any Austrian state legislation in print. State legislation can be found on the RIS website. Electronic versions of the state legislation from 2015 onwards (or from 2014, depending on the province) that are published on the RIS website are legally binding and can be accessed via the Landesgesetzblatt authentisch (Authentic State Law Gazettes) database. Earlier state legislation can be accessed via the Landesgesetzblatt nicht authentisch (Not authentic State Law Gazettes) database.

Law Reports

All courts in Austria are federal institutions. The Austrian judiciary is divided into two categories: courts of ordinary jurisdiction (Gerichte der ordentliche Gerichtsbarkeit) for civil and criminal cases, and courts of public law (Gerichte des öffentlichen Rechts) for administrative and constitutional cases. The Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof, OGH) is the highest court for civil and criminal matters in ordinary jurisdiction. The two highest courts for public law are the Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof, VwGH) and the Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof, VfGH). The Administrative Court can review the legality of the decisions of the executive branch of the government, while the Constitutional Court can review the legality of statutes.

IALS Library has in print law reports for the Austrian Supreme Court, the Administrative Court, and the Constitutional Court. These reports are in German only. The decisions of the Supreme Court are published in two series for civil cases (Zivilsachen) and criminal cases (Strafsachen), respectively:

Judgements from the Administrative Court can be found in the title:

Since 1991 this series has split into two parts called Administrativrechtlicher Teil and Finanzrechtlicher Teil, but they are still under the same classmark at IALS. IALS also has older copies of this title from 1876 to 1933. Note that they were published under slightly different names during different time periods: between 1919-1934 it was called Sammlung der Erkenntnisse des Verwaltungsgerichtshofes, between 1900-1918 it was called Budwinski's Sammlung der Erkenntnisse des k.k. Verwaltungsgerichtshofes, and between 1876-1899 it was called Erkenntnisse des k.k. Verwaltungsgerichtshofes.

Judgements from the Constitutional Court can be found at:

IALS has this law report from 1919 onwards but older copies of the report have different names. Between 1968-2011 it was called Erkenntnisse und Beschlüsse des Verfassungsgerichtshofes, and between 1919-1967 it had the title Sammlung der Erkenntnisse und wichtigsten Bechlüsse des Verfassungsgerichtshofes.

Apart from these law reports, cases from these highest courts can also be found in the leading Austrian law journals. Noteworthy examples are the Juristische Blätter and the Österreichische Jurist:innen-Zeitung. In the Juristische Blätter there is a section called Rechtsprechung in which one can find commentaries on important cases from the OGH, VwGH, and VfGH. In the Österreichische Jurist:innen-Zeitung, the section called Evidenzblatt has commentaries on important Supreme Court (OGH) decisions on both civil and criminal cases.

In terms of online resources, the Judicature section of the RIS website contains many databases that cover a wide range of federal court decisions. These are freely accessible online. Generally, only cases later than 1980 are covered in these databases, and they are only available in German.

Books

IALS Library has a large number of treatises and textbooks on Austrian law in both German and English. A selection of recent titles in German include:

Merve Cetin, Julia Wallner, and Tugce Yalcin, Praxishandbuch Kapital in der GmbH: Kapitalaufbringung, Kapitalerhaltung, Kapitalmaßnahmen (Linde 2021)

Monika Hinteregger, Familienrecht: Lehrbuch (10th edn, Verlag Österreich 2022)

Susanne Kalss and Ulrich Torgller (eds), Reform des Gesellschaftsrechts: Beiträge zum 9. Wiener Unternehmensrechtstag (Linde 2022)

Susanne Kalss, Christian Nowotny, and Martin Schauer, Österreichisches Gesellschaftsrecht: systematische Darstellung sämtlicher Rechtsformen (2nd edn, Manz 2017)

Franz Marhold, Elisabeth Brameshuber, and Michael Friedrich, Österreichisches Arbeitsrecht (4th edn, Verlag Österreich 2021)

Bernhard Raschauer, Allgemeines Verwaltungsrecht (6th edn, Verlag Österreich 2021)

Marianne Roth, Zivilprozessrecht (17th edn, Jan Sramek Verlag KG 2022)

Ulrich Torggler (ed), UGB: Unternehmensgesetzbuch: Kommentar (3rd edn, Linde 2019)

 

Recent titles in English include:

Giacinto della Cananea, Angela Ferrari Zumbini and Otto Pfersmann (eds), The Austrian codification of administrative procedure (Oxford University Press 2023)

Dieter Heine, Theresa Nindl, and Katharina Linhart, Intellectual property law in Austria (Wolters Kluwer Law International 2023)

Aline Leischner-Lenzhofer et al., Medical law in Austria (Wolters Kluwer 2022)

Nora Melzer, Labour law in Austria (Wolters Kluwer 2023)

Nora Melzer, Social security law in Austria (Kluwer Law International B.V. 2021)

Willibald Posch, Contract law in Austria (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2015)

Walter Rechberger, Civil procedure in Austria (Kluwer Law International 2016)

Viktoria Robertson, Competition law in Austria (Kluwer Law International 2021)

Manfred Stelzer, The constitution of the republic of Austria: a contextual analysis (Hart Publishing 2022)

Todd Zywicki and Peter Boettke (eds), Research handbook on Austrian law and economics (Edward Elgar Publishing 2019)

Journals

IALS Library has the following journals on Austrian law in print:

Juristische Blätter (1947-). It has a supplemental title Wirtschaftsrechtliche Blätter (1987-).

Österreichische Jurist:innen-Zeitung (1960-). Before 2023 the journal was called Österreichische Juristen-Zeitung. From 2023 a new associated title Österreichisches Juristisches Archiv (ÖJA) has been published alongside the main title ÖJZ.

Die Rechtsprechung (1919-1938)

Zeitschrift für das Privat- und öffentliche Recht der Gegenwart (1874-1916)

Zeitschrift für Europarecht, internationales Privatrecht und Rechtsvergleichung (1991-). This journal was published under the name Zeitschrift für Rechtsvergleichung, internationales Privatrecht und Europarecht between 1991-2007.

Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht (2010-). This journal is the continuation of the title Austrian Journal of Public and International Law (1991-2009).

Articles from the Juristische Blätter, the Österreichische Jurist:innen-Zeitung, the Zeitschrift für Europarecht, internationales Privatrecht und Rechtsvergleichung, and the Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht are indexed in The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (available through IALS Library’s subscription to HeinOnline).

Online Resources

Free resources:

Rechtsinformationssystem des Bundes (RIS, Legal Information System of the Republic of Austria), which is operated by the Austrian Federal Chancellery, is a comprehensive online portal that offers free access to a wide range of Austrian law materials, including federal legislation, state legislation, and court decisions. There is a helpful webpage in English that explains the content covered by its various databases.

GlobalLex has a research guide article on Austrian legal system 'A Brief Overview of the Austrian Legal Information System and Laws' by Helmut Weichsel published in August 2021.

Eagle-i Internet Portal for Law, maintained by IALS Library, provides a guide to good quality law websites relating to Austrian law and the Austrian legal system.

FLAG Foreign Law Guide is a database that helps one locate the holdings of foreign law materials across a wide range of libraries in the UK.

World Law: Austria is a resource guide to Austrian law on the WorldLII website. It includes links to the websites of the Austrian government, courts, and parliament.

European e-Justice Portal has a webpage that provides an overview of the courts in Austria.

IALS subscriptions:

Brill's Foreign Research Guide provides an overview of the Austrian legal system and the main publications regarding different areas of Austrian law.

HeinOnline's Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals allows one to search for articles on Austrian law via the 'Country Subject' search option.