The principle of local self government shall be recognised in domestic legislation, and where practicable in the constitution.
B-VG specifically recognises the first core element of local self-government, namely, the existence of “local authorities endowed with democratically constituted decision-making bodies”. Firstly, Articles 6 to 8 identify the municipal level, as one where fundamental rights of the Austrian citizens need to be protected. Secondly, Chapter VI on Municipalities, and more specifically, Article 117 enumerates the municipal authorities, namely: a) the municipal council (Gemeinderat), the general representative body to be elected by those entitled to vote in the municipality; b) the municipal executive board (city council) (Gemeindevorstand / Stadtrat), or in Statutory cities, the city senate (Stadtsenat); c) the mayor (Bürgermeister).
Pursuant to Article 117.2, B-VG, the municipal council is elected on the basis of proportional representation by equal, direct, personal and secret suffrage by the male and female federal nationals who have their main domicile in the municipality. And although specific election regulations may occur, the conditions for suffrage and electoral eligibility may not be more restrictive than in the electoral regulations for the Land Parliament. Paragraph 6 indicates that the mayor is elected by the municipal council. B-VG recognises, however, the possibility of the Länder to stipulate in their constitutions that the mayor shall be elected by those with municipal council suffrage.
Local self-government is also enshrined in Municipal codes of all Länder,44 namely, in Burgenland Municipal Code (Burgenländische Gemeindeordnung 2003),45 Carinthian Municipal Code (Kärntner Allgemeine Gemeindeordnung 1998),46 Lower Austrian Municipal Code (NÖ Gemeindeordnung 1973),47 Upper Austrian Municipal Code (Oö. Gemeindeordnung 1990),48 the Municipal Code of Salzburg (Salzburger Gemeindeordnung 1994),49 Styrian Municipal Code (Steiermärkische Gemeindeordnung 1967),50 The Municipal Code of Tyrol (Tiroler Gemeindeordnung 2001),51 The Municipal Code of Vorarlberg (Vorarlberg Gesetz über die Organisation der Gemeindeverwaltung 1985).52 These documents include references to the two other core components of local self-government, namely: autonomy in exercising local power and resources necessary to accommodate local needs.
In Burgenland, the Municipal Code (Article 14) identifies the following organs of the municipality: the municipal council, the municipal board, the mayor and the municipal treasurer. Elections are direct, free, secret, proportional and all Austrians residing in the municipality can vote, as well as members of another EU country who are registered in the municipality. The members of the municipal council as well as the mayor are elected for a period of five years (Articles 16-17). Burgenland differentiates between Marktgemeinde – of greater economic importance for the surrounding areas, and Stadtgemeinde – municipalities that have gained particular importance for the wider area due to their economic structure, their cultural institutions, their population or traffic situation (Article 3.1).
In Carinthia, according to the Municipal Code, the municipal council is elected by all municipality citizens for a mandate of six years (Articles 2, 18 and 19). Similar provisions apply to the mayor as well (Article 23).
The Lower Austrian Municipal Code describes the organs of the municipality (the municipal board, the municipal council, the mayor) (Article 18). The mayor is elected from among the municipal councillors by the municipal council (Article 26).
The Upper Austrian Municipal Code enumerates the municipal organs in Article 17 and states that the mayor is elected by the municipal council (Article 25). In addition, Article 3 recognises the right of the Land government to create municipalities of different kinds, upon their request, and in the limits of the population (municipalities with more than 2 000 inhabitants may apply to become Marktgemeinde and those with more than 4 500 inhabitants, Stadtgemeinde).
In Salzburg, the municipal council, the municipal leadership, the mayor, and the committees are the local authorities (Article 18). The mayor is directly elected by all the eligible voters in the municipality (Article 35).
The Styrian Municipal Code enumerated the following local authorities: the municipal council, the municipal board (Gemerindevorstand), the mayor, the management committees, the specialised committees, and the municipal treasurer (Article 14). Styria enjoys directly elected municipal councils and mayors elected by the municipal council for a term of five years (Articles 16, 17 and 19). In addition, Article 3 states that the designation Marktgemeinde may be given only to municipalities of more than 3 000 inhabitants, whereas that of Stadtgemeinde to those of at least 10 000 inhabitants.
In Tyrol, the Municipal Code describes the local authorities in Article 21 and stipulates the length of the mandate: six years (Article 25).
The Municipal Code of Vorarlberg indicates in Article 20 that the municipal council is to be directly elected by Austrian citizens and foreign citizens of the Union who have the right to vote according to the municipal electoral law; and in Article 61 that the municipal council elects the mayor. The political mandate is for five years (Article 35).
During the monitoring visit, the members of the Austrian National Delegation to the Congress as well as of the National Associations acknowledged the legal recognition and substantial implementation of the principle of local self-government in Austria.
The rapporteurs observe that elements of the principle of self-government are present in the Federal Constitution, as well as in the Land Municipal Codes, and therefore conclude that Austria complies with Article 2.
44 The enumeration does not include Vienna, as its distinctive character has been already presented in section 2.2.
45 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrBgld&Gesetzesnummer=20000221
46 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrK&Gesetzesnummer=10000276
47 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrNO&Gesetzesnummer=20000105
48 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrOO&Gesetzesnummer=10000288
49 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrSbg&Gesetzesnummer=10000813
50 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrStmk&Gesetzesnummer=20000218
51 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrT&Gesetzesnummer=20000101
52 Document available online at: https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/GeltendeFassung.wxe?Abfrage=LrVbg&Gesetzesnummer=20000047