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Legal and Constitutional Service

The Legal and Constitutional Service is organised as a Directorate-General within the Federal Chancellery.

Organisation

The Legal and Constitutional Service is organised as a Directorate-General within the Federal Chancellery. Its internal organisation reflects the ministerial responsibilities, the relations between federal and regional authorities and the relations between Austria and the European Union.

The offices of the Federal Communications Senate and the Advisory Boards for Ethnic Groups are also situated at the Legal and Constitutional Service.

History

The Legal and Constitutional Service has a long tradition. During the Austro-Hungarian monarchy a "Legal State Department" existed until 1918 at the Central Executive Office of the Council of Ministers (Ministerratspraesidium).

The Legal and Constitutional Service in its present form goes back to the early First Republic. The term "Verfassungsdienst" was first mentioned in 1945. Since then, it has considerably increased in size and importance. Renowned constitutional law experts worked at the Legal and Constitutional Service. Even today distinguished jurists in top-level positions – especially at universities and at the highest Austrian and European courts – have their professional roots in the Legal and Constitutional Service.

Tasks

In pursuing its various tasks, the Legal and Constitutional Service is essentially engaged in the preparation of legal texts and acts as legal expert and counsel:

Preparation of legal texts

The Legal and Constitutional Service prepares Austrian laws in numerous important areas, in particular federal constitutional law and administrative procedural law. Moreover, the Legal and Constitutional Service is in charge of preparing the Federal Ministries Act as well as legislative texts in the fields of data protection, media, public procurement, funding of political parties and ethnic groups.

In all these areas, the Legal and Constitutional Service drafts bills for the Austrian Chancellor, which – in general after having been subject to a public consultation – are subsequently adopted by the Federal Government as government act and submitted to Parliament. In these areas, the Legal and Constitutional Service also represents the Republic of Austria in bodies of European and international organisations.

Legal expert at the federal level

The Legal and Constitutional Service acts as legal expert and advisor in various fields. All bills and drafts for regulations from other ministries are reviewed with regard to their compatibility with Austrian constitutional law, including fundamental rights.

In addition, the Legal and Constitutional Service supervises general legislative questions. In this regard it scrutinizes the legal language, legal technique and formal set-up of laws to ensure a uniform legislation. It also reviews legal acts of the regions (Laender) and resolutions by the regional parliaments.

Moreover, all public authorities may request expert opinions of the Legal and Constitutional Service on constitutional issues and other legal questions concerning the activities of the Legal and Constitutional Service.

Counsel for the Republic

The Legal and Constitutional Service represents the Federal Government before the Austrian Constitutional Court. It represents the Republic of Austria in proceedings before the European Commission, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and together with the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Other activities

The tasks of the Legal and Constitutional Service also include the publication and administration of the Federal Law Gazette and the electronic Legal Information System(Rechtsinformationssystem;RIS) which provides free access to the federal, regional and local law as well as selected judgments and decisions.

The Legal and Constitutional Service is also responsible for coordinating federal and regional relations. Some divisions of the Legal and Constitutional Service also have executive functions, including activities such as the administration of the funding of political parties, their academies and of ethnic groups.

Contact

Gerhard Hesse
Bundeskanzleramt, Verfassungsdienst
Ballhausplatz 2, 1010 Wien
Telefon:  +43 1 531 15-20 22 29
Fax: +43 1 531 15-20 26 16
E-Mail: v@bka.gv.at

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