In Austria, Parliament has two chambers – the National and Federal Councils. The 183 Members of the National Council are elected by all citizens entitled to vote, every five years or sometimes sooner. The second chamber of Parliament, the Federal Council, is not directly elected by popular vote. Its composition depends on the relative strength of the parties in the Diets of the Federal Provinces, whose interests it represents at the legislative level.
The history of Austrian parliamentarianism is strongly connected to the eventful history of Austria. While the MEPs' main task during the multi-ethnical Habsburg Monarchy was to represent Austria's different various ethnic groups, parliament faced all new challenges in the time of the First Republic. It was only in the time of the Second Republic that stable parliamentarianism made its way. Since then, parliamentary democracy has adapted constantly to changes in society and politics.
In the end, the Austrian Parliament is not only the heart of political activity – the historic building breathes history and stories, art and noble architecture. At the moment, the building is undergoing extensive renovations.
The Parliament was built at the end of the 19th century, according to the plans of Theophil Hansen, and never has undergone major renovation since then. It is an important challenge to adapt, with great sensitivity and care, the historic building to the needs of a modern Parliament. Significant work needs to be done to preserve the architectural jewel and to ensure it can continue to serve as a modern home for Austrian parliamentarism and democracy in the 21st Century.
Besides repairing damage to the building, the goal is to renovate sustainably by improving the functionality of the building, by repurposing unused areas and increasing energy efficiency. Furthermore, the whole renovation aims at making the Parliament more accessible and transparent to the public.
While the Parliament’s home has turned into a building site, parliamentary business is continuing unhindered and undisturbed at different locations which form a coherent area: the DemocracyQuarter. The Austrian Parliament and its work will thus enjoy high visibility, and it will, of course, remain possible for the interested public to visit the National Council and the Federal Council in the Redoutensaal of the Hofburg and to obtain information on parliamentary activities. The Main Entrance at Josefsplatz is the entrance for visitors of National and Federal Council sittings and also the starting point of Guided Tours.
Due to current restrictions regarding public gatherings, and in order to minimise the risk of being infected with the coronavirus, the Parliamentary Administration has currently suspended all indoor guided tours until further notice. This affects guided tours through the Hofburg as well as the Palais Epstein.
Visitors are welcome to explore the Austrian Parliament in the Hofburg via live stream with Virtual Guided Tours.
On Heldenplatz, services for the public are offered at two additional locations: the Democracy Workshop in the Ring Pavilion, and the Info Point Platz.Mit.Bestimmung in the Burg Pavilion. In front of the historical Parliament Building, the Info Point Bau.Stelle informs about the ongoing renovation. The Parliamentary Library’s services are available at the Palais Epstein.
Stay tuned for virtual or possibly in-person guided tours through the DemocracyQuarter in September!
The Democracy Workshop (“Demokratiewerkstatt”) is an institution of the Austrian Parliament for children and young people aged 8 to 15 years, in which they can learn about democracy and parliamentarism in an interactive way. Due to a wide range of focal points in six different workshops, various interests and approaches can be covered in an age-appropriate manner. The basics in democracy, parliamentary processes, and political participation - such as media skills, the willingness to express personal opinion and how to position themselves as players in the democratic system - are on the agenda. Particular attention is paid to ambitious didactic communication and sustainability. The children and adolescents deal with the topics in small groups using age-specific research assignments and process the results in the form of a media report that can be accessed on the Internet.
As part of the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, two workshops of the Democracy Workshop will take place with school classes from Vienna at the Austria Centre Vienna. Anyone interested is cordially invited to stop by and follow the work in the workshops live!
Where? Hall B, Austria Centre Vienna
When? Tuesday, 7 Sept, 13.30-17.00
Wednesday, 8 Sept,11.00-14.30
In addition, further information on the democracy education programmes of the Austrian Parliament is available on Tuesday and Wednesday all day at the information booth in Foyer A.