The Austrian Association of Cities and Towns - Der Österreichische Städtebund
More than 50% of the Austrian population lives in urban areas, 44.5% live in cities with 10.000 and more inhabitants. Cities and Towns contribute significantly to the prosperity of regions and their people. They are places of social and cultural diversity and provide innovative strength beyond country borders.
Cities and towns provide infrastructure and public transport facilities, assist the business world and create jobs. Moreover, they support art, culture and sports and safeguard a healthy local environment. They grant a high quality of life and basic social care.
With today’s increasing complexity, cities and towns are strongly stipulated to make political decisions concerning the economy, security, public transport, education, culture and social stability. Austrian cities are becoming more and more attractive – the highest rates of growth will be registered in Vienna, Linz, Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Bregenz, Dornbirn, Hohenems and Feldkirch. Moving to cities and towns is known as an international trend as half of the world's population lives in cities. In future Austrian cities will play a prominent role - for this reason they need a common representation.
The Austrian Association of Cities and Towns represents 255 members, including all towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants. The smallest city member accounts for 1,000 inhabitants.
The association was founded in 1915. The principal task is to represent the interests of local government in negotiations over the sharing of budgetary funds and taxing rights between the federal government, the provinces and local authorities (revenue sharing).
The Austrian Association of Cities and Towns is involved in the preparation of legislation and, among other things, comments from the point of view of local government on some 100 federal regulations every year as the cities and municipalities see it. Representatives of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns are moreover active in a number of advisory bodies in such fields as the environment or welfare.
Some 40 technical committees explore innovative measures and programmes adopted by the towns and communities, develop statements regarding new legislation and discuss the implementation of new policies.
In the regions ("Bundesländer"), the members of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns meet within the context of provincial level groups to discuss "regional" issues and to represent them vis-à-vis the regions.
The Austrian Association of Cities and Towns is the first association of local authorities in Europe to have set up an office in Brussels (August 1994), which is connected, physically and organisationally, with Austria's diplomatic representation at the European Union. The Austrian Association of Cities and Towns is therefore in a position, on the basis of a constitutional regulation (Art. 23 c & d B-VG, BGBl. 1013/1994), to take part in the information and decision-making process both on the domestic and the European level.
Representatives of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns participate both in the meetings of the EU's Committee of Regions and the meetings of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (The Congress) at the Council of Europe.
The Austrian Association of Cities and Towns is a member of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and thus also of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). The representation in the committees of all international organizations takes place on equal terms respectively between the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns and the Gemeindebund (the Association of smaller municipalities). Mayor Michael Häupl was president of the CEMR from 2004 until 2010.
As early as 1887 regular “Conferences of Cities” (Städtetage) or General Assemblies of the Cities, were held aimed at discussing issues of common concern and interest, especially in the financial sector. On 24 September 1915, the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns was set up with a permanent secretariat. In the early years, the German-speaking towns of the present-day Czech Republic, South Tyrol and Slovenia were also members of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns.
Article 115, subsection 3 of the Austrian Constitution lays down the functions and tasks of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns, which consists chiefly in representing the interests of local government. Thus, the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns is to a large degree embedded in the general political context of Austria.
Today the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns has 258 members among the total of 2100 local authorities in Austria. Approximately 55% of the total population of Austria live in member municipalities of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns. Members include, over and above Vienna and the capitals of the provinces, virtually all communities with more than 10,000 inhabitants. The smallest member counts less than 1,000 inhabitants. Membership in the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns is on a voluntary basis.
The supreme body of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns is the Austrian Conference of Cities (Österreichischer Städtetag) which is the General Assembly of the Cities, in which each member community has seats and votes according to its size. The Austrian Conference of Cities is held every year.
The Policy Committee (Hauptausschuss) is in charge of all work. The Committee is composed of some 60 representatives from 39 towns and cities.
All important business is conducted in accordance with the decisions of the 26 members of the Management Board:
Michael Ludwig, Mayor of the City of Vienna
The Mayor of Vienna has traditionally been the President of the Austrian Association of Cities and Towns. He/She is the Association's representative in all external affairs. The Secretary General is in charge of the Secretariat, which includes 20 staff members, one of them at the Brussels office. The Secretary General prepares and/or implements decisions in conjunction with the President. In the provinces, regional work of the provincial level groups is usually handled by staff of the capitals of the provinces.