Österreichische Volksanwaltschaft / Austrian People’s Advocates

Handakte WebLAWg quotes the Kurier reporting that the people’s advocates are getting more work, or at least were in 2002, as the result of a TV series about them. The Volksanwalt (Hausmaninger in The Austrian Legal System – ISBN 3-214-00239-2 – calls them People’s Advocates) is a kind of ombudsperson introduced in 1977. Ombudsmen or ombudspersons act as intermediaries between the public and the administration. There are three Volksanwälte, one from each of the three strongest parties in parliament; they serve for six years and can be reelected once. The Volksanwaltschaft/People’s Advocates’ Office is a federal office intended to help the legislature supervise the administration. About one-third of last year’s complaints from citizens were outside their jurisdiction, however.
There isn’t anything quite like this in Germany. Some Länder have Bürgerbeauftragte: Rhineland-Palatine has had one since 1974 (German); and there is a Petitionsausschuss (German), a committee on public petitions to which people can apply on federal level.

For any language enthusiasts who have read this far, there is a Volksanwaltschaft in Südtirol / South Tyrol too, and there is a website giving the details in German, Italian and Ladin. I heard of a child in South Tyrol who spoke Ladin at home, German at kindergarten and Italian everywhere else. Here is what is apparently a Ladin news site (but I’m open to correction here).

4 thoughts on “Österreichische Volksanwaltschaft / Austrian People’s Advocates

  1. Yeh. All of the Volksanwälte/anwältinnen (VA) are TV stars and use surprisingly simple language when making guest appearances.
    I still wonder what the difference is with the Finanzprokurator (FP): cf. the Scottish Procurator-Fiscal and whether the VA are really necessary. But I suppose the FP acts for the Republic and not for individual citizens.

  2. I don’t know the Finanzprokurator and had to look it up in Russwurm. Sounds more like the attorney general or solicitor general or something, definitely a lawyer. The procurator fiscal is a Staatsanwalt/public prosecutor, whereas the Volksanwälte are just a kind of ombudsman, sorting out problems between administration and public. Are they even lawyers?

  3. Yes. You’re on the right lines. The FP performs approx. the function of the AG or Treasury Solicitor acting for charities etc. The Staatsanwaltschaft – a different body it seems – is the DPP’s office acting in criminal matters only.
    I thought all of the VAs were 1. lawyers and 2. chosen on merit but I could be mistaken.

  4. I’m sure you’re right about the Volksanwälte being lawyers by profession – I’m just guessing. I don’t even get Austrian TV here!

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