Rule of Law in Austria

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

yellow
The perceived level of independence of the judiciary is consistently very high.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The procedures for the appointment of administrative court presidents are subject to debates.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The right of the Minister of Justice to instruct prosecutors in individual cases is under discussion.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Quality

green
The resources for the judiciary have been increased.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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A large-scale project to further improve digitalisation of the judiciary is ongoing.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The court fee regime will be subject to an evaluation.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Efficiency

yellow
The justice system manages its caseload in an efficient manner, but faces some challenges for administrative cases.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

green
In the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, Austria scores 77/100, and ranks 6th in the European Union and 12th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The criminal anti-corruption legislative framework is broadly in place.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Anticorruption policies are set at the federal level.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Prevention

yellow
The rules on political party financing, including the role of the Court of Audit, are undergoing reforms.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Gaps remain in the framework ensuring the integrity of members of Parliament.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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A number of measures for preventing corruption for civil servants and top executive functions are in place.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Post-employment for members of Government and Parliament is not regulated.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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A lobbying register exists, but only limited information is publically available.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A framework for whistleblower protection is in place.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Repressive measures

green
The fight against corruption is shared between several authorities with specific competences.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Central Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption is the main authority competent to fight corruption.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
The media regulatory authorities function in an independent manner.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Austrian Press Council (Ă–sterreichischer Presserat) operates as a self-regulatory facility for the press.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

yellow
Media ownership is subject to transparency rules, but information is not always fully available in practice.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Austria allocates high levels of state advertising to media companies.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Journalists' Protection

red
The Government is reflecting on a reform to improve access to information.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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There is no specific framework for journalists’ protection.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Stakeholders raised concerns over safeguards for editorial independence.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

yellow
The process for enacting laws regularly involves the consultation of stakeholders, but there is no formal framework for such consultations.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Civil Society

yellow
The Government intends to further develop dialogue with civil society.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Accessibility

green
The Constitutional Court is reviewing measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Independent Authorities

green
Several different Ombudsman authorities contribute to upholding fundamental rights in different areas.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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