Located in Central Europe and bordered by several countries that include Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, the federal republic of Austria is a parliamentary, semi-presidential representative democracy consisting of nine federal states. Currently one of the richest countries in Europe and the world, Austria has an excellent standard of living rating on the Human Development Index.

The Bundespräsident (Federal President) is the "head of state" and elected according to the results of a popular vote. The Federal Chancellor (chairman of the Federal Government) is appointed by the Bundespräsident and holds power similar to a Vice President.

Austria's Legal System

Private and criminal law are primarily practiced by lawyers employed individually or with a firm in Austria. Private law concerns civil, commercial and employment legal matters and is regulated by the Allgemeine Buergerliche Gesetzbuch, a comprehensive law code that, although decisive, is not always legally binding in certain litigations.

Many of Austria's private law principles come from Roman Law, such as the principle of individual freedom, or Privatautonomie and Konsensprinzip, the principal of consensus. Other facets of Austrian private law include legal capacity, contracts, torts and business partnerships.

Criminal lawyers in Austria must work under certain fundamental principles that guide cases led by state prosecutors and involve juries, judges and magistrates. This includes the "Fair Trial" tenet which promotes the acquittal of anyone accused of a crime if doubts about the accused's guilt exists at the end of a trial.

Findings and verdicts are always proclaimed in the name of the Austrian Republic, with distinctions made between courts of ordinary jurisdictions and courts/tribunals dealing with legal matters concerning public law.

Verfassungsgerichtshof (Austria's Constitutional Court) protects the civil rights of Austrian citizens and guarantees that trials and rulings conform to the guidelines set by the Austrian Constitution. However, the Oberster Gerichtshof (Supreme Court) is the most powerful Austrian court that hears criminal and civil cases which have exhausted all other routes.

Universities in Austria