LAST UPDATE: 30.05.2018; 18:37

The Federal Council and the EU

The Federal Council entrusts deliberations on EU projects and the adoption of opinions thereon to its EU Committee, which is composed of 13 members. Its procedure is specified in detail in the Rules of Procedure on the Federal Council (§§ 13a and 13b GO-BR).

Committee Deliberations

Sittings of the EU Committee are open to the public unless the European Community provides otherwise, as is the case when confidential (designated as “confidentiel”) or secret (designated as ”secret“) EU documents are up for discussion. The degree of confidentiality is determined by the EU institutions. The degree of confidentiality is determined by the EU institutions. However, the public may also be excluded by a majority decision taken upon the proposal of a committee member. Sound and video recordings may be made if the committee so decides.

The Participation of Austrian Members of the European Parliament

Austrian Members of the European Parliament (EP) have the right to attend committee sittings in an advisory capacity, so that they can inform the committee members about the current state of negotiations in the European Parliament. All other Members of the Federal Council can also attend the sittings of the EU Committee in an advisory capacity.

The deliberations of the Main Committee on matters of the European Union are summarised in records which are published on the internet as Annex IV to the stenographic records.

Introductory Statements by the Federal Government

Prior to inception of the debate on an EU project the competent member of the Federal Government or a representative of the competent ministry delegated by him/her will usually be given an opportunity to make an introductory statement. The object is to inform committee members of the current state of negotiations und Austria’s position on the project in question. In the subsequent debate every committee member is free to table motions concerning the opinion to be adopted. These will be put to the vote once the discussion has ended.

Opinions

Like the National Council committees, the EU Committee of the Federal Council can adopt opinions on EU projects. They are adopted by a majority of the committee members present and are intended to contribute to the process of defining Austria’s negotiating position vis-à-vis the EU authorities. An opinion is binding for an Austrian government member if the EU project in question has to be transposed into national legislation by a federal constitutional act for which the assent of the Federal Council is required. For more information, see Participation Rights of the Austrian Parliament and the Federal Constitutional Law ( Art. 23 e para 6 B-VG).

Room to Negotiate at EU Level: Binding Opinions Are Rare

Opinions that would be binding for Austria’s representatives in the EU Council are rare, and even those that commit the Government member in question will still leave him or her some elbowroom. This is, above all, due to the fact that many politicians have come to consider this instrument to be of little practical value. In difficult negotiations in the Council it may be highly important to keep one’s negotiating position fairly flexible. As a result, there is a tendency make recommendations rather than adopt rigid opinions.