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Austria: Between single territorial reforms and its preference for inter-municipal cooperation

Federalism
Institutions
Local Government
Public Administration
Dalilah Pichler
KDZ Centre for Public Administration Research
Dalilah Pichler
KDZ Centre for Public Administration Research

Abstract

The presentation will start with a brief overview of the structure of local government in Austria. The fragmented and small-structured municipal landscape in Austria has changed slightly by amalgamation efforts in the past, with the most recent municipal structural reform that took place from 2010 to 2015 in Styria. The process of the structural reform in Styria was driven by the regional government, the Land. Accompanying measures, direct involvement of the affected municipalities through participation and financial incentives were intended to ensure that the amalgamations of municipalities proposed by the Land were voluntary. Due to strong resistance of numerous municipalities, the structural reform needed in the end both voluntary and coercive mergers. One reason for the reluctance to territorial reforms in Austria is the clear preference for inter-municipal cooperation. While there is no political program for amalgamations in Austria, the federal government, the Länder and the local government associations support the further development of inter-municipal cooperation. Inter-municipal cooperation in Austria has a long tradition and is based on the principle of voluntariness. Nonetheless, the level of cooperation of municipalities is still rather weak. The often long and resource intensive initiation processes, conflicts of interest or only the reluctance to give up own structures for joint projects still hinders inter-municipal cooperation. However, there are interesting examples of regions excelling in urban-rural cooperation such as the inter-municipal development process “Lienzer Talboden future space”. In this presentation, I will focus on the examples “Styrian structural reform” and “Lienzer Talboden future space” to showcase benefits and challenges in structural reforms and inter-municipal cooperation in Austria.