The Austrian legal system is based on Roman law and is structured in hierarchical layers. The General Civil Code - Allgemeine Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch (ABGB) - is one of the world's oldest codes of civil law.
Structure of the Legal System
The legal system is structured according to a so-called tier system of laws, which decrees that laws and regulations must comply with the standards set by the higher tiers (eg. the constitution, constitutional laws). In the top tier are the Austrian Federal Constitution and individual constitutional laws, as well as the EU Acts of Accession. General federal laws and laws of the federal provinces are in the lower tiers. Statutory authorities can enact regulations or individual administrative rulings (Bescheide) in accordance with these.
There is no Case Law system in Austria. This means that the judge is free to reach his own decision or ruling, although previous rulings may be adduced in hearings.
With entry to the EU on 1.1.1995, Austria adopted the EU legal framework. Austria is also a member of numerous international legal conventions such as the New York Arbitration Agreement of 1958 and the 1980 Vienna Convention on Contracts (international UN purchasing law).