The Responsibilities of the National Council
Legislation and Control
Jointly with the Federal Council the National Council is responsible for legislation at the federal level. As an organ directly elected by the people it also has important control functions. It scrutinises the work of the Government by various means, such as written or urgent questions, and it can withdraw its confidence from the entire Government or individual Government Members and thus force them to step down.
Members of the National Council can address resolutions to the Government to raise political questions of concern to them. The supervision of the budgetary management of federal authorities and institutions is exercised by the Court of Audit on behalf of the National Council.
Another important function of the National Council is to ensure the transparency of political processes and decisions. The National Council is the stage on which the different positions of the various parties are presented. This is why most of its sittings are open to the public, and anyone interested has access to the items of business transacted by the National Council.
The Legislative Period
The legislative period of the National Council comes to an end after five years at the latest. However, the National Council can decide at any time to dissolve by a simple majority. In addition, the Federal President may dissolve the National Council prematurely upon a proposal by the Federal Government. In practice, however, this has never happened in the Second Republic.
Sessions of the National Council
The sessions of the National Council start in principle in mid-September and last until mid-July of the following year. However, the Federal President may convene it for extraordinary sessions. This must be done at the request of the Federal Government, the Federal Council or at least one third of the Members of the National Council. The National Council can also instruct individual committees to carry on with their work during parliamentary recess.
With the accession of Austria to the European Union on 1 January 1995, the National Council had to relinquish some legislative competences to the EU. In exchange, the Constitution gives it extensive power to participate in the political decision-making process within the European Union.