The failure of the structural reform of the federal state in 1994 has led to a standstill in reforms in Austria’s federal system. Since Austria’s accession to the EU in 1994 and its loss of competencies towards the EU, various other competencies have been transferred to the federal level, but in turn the Länder have not been compensated.
The Länder have only succeeded in improving their position with regard to the Pact of Consultation and the Pact of Stability. In addition, the restrictions concerning the competencies for civil servants of the Länder and the municipalities were lifted in 1999, paving the way for bureaucratic reform in the Länder.
Nevertheless, cooperative federalism plays an important role in Austrian federalism. Cooperation between the various levels of government takes place in the negotiations between the federal level and the conference of Land governors, sometimes including representatives of the cities and municipalities.
The procedure of regional participation in the EU decision-making works well. There are informal instruments of coordination within the executives of the Länder which allow them to react in time and to represent the Länder’s position in the working groups on the European level.
The Financial Constitution and the Fiscal Equalisation between Federation, Länder and Municipalities are lacking a bottom-up reform. Presently the Länder are reliant on transfer payments on the federal level, but it would be better to strengthen the responsibility of the Länder for their expenditures and income. Fiscal federalism could be an option, but this would need a far-reaching reform of the financial constitution, bringing more autonomy for the Land jurisdictions and more differences into Austrian federalism. Until then we cannot recognise any real drive for reforms in this direction.
For the full report on Austria, visit this page.
The story behind the report
Early 2014, as the new programming period started, the Assembly of European Regions (AER) decided to look into the role regional authorities play in European politics and in Europe in general. To what extent is the subsidiarity principle implemented in European countries? Have Regions seen their competences and influence developed in the last years? How does multilevel governance look like in the various European states? If we consider the case of EU regional policy, to what extent has the partnership principle been respected for the setting up and implementation of this key policy for European regions?
These questions have been at the heart of a first study run in 2014-2016. More than 40 academic experts accepted to give their contribution to this work, by delivering detailed reports about the state of regionalisation and multilevel governance in chosen European countries. The study covers 41 countries, and each country report is based on a similar structure, thereby allowing a comparative approach among all studied countries.
Over the next months, we will be focusing on a different European country’s approach to regionalisation. During these months, look out for #RoR2017 on Twitter and/or Facebook and follow us at @europeanregions.
Strong European regions are a pathway to a stronger Europe.