Austrian Chamber of Commerce
|State level||Federal level , country|
|position||Legal representation of interests|
|legal form||Public corporation|
|founding||1839 as an Austrian trade association|
|Headquarters||Vienna 4 , Wiedner Hauptstraße 63 (central office)|
|management||Harald Mahrer (President)|
|Budget volume||850 million euros (2013)|
The Austrian Chamber of Commerce ( WKO ), formerly the Federal Chamber of Commerce (in short: Federal Chamber of Commerce ), is a corporation under public law . It coordinates the activities of the regional chambers, the legal representatives of commercial interests.
The Austrian Chamber of Commerce is part of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce organization . Each of the nine Austrian federal states has its own Chamber of Commerce (Landeskammer), of which all commercially active businesspeople (with the exception of agriculture and the liberal professions, which have their own chambers) are members ( statutory membership ) due to the Chamber of Commerce Act . The Austrian Chamber of Commerce, based in Vienna, is the tenth Chamber of Commerce in which all members of the individual regional chambers are combined (active membership in 2017: 517,477) and, in addition to leading and coordinating functions among the Economic Chambers, exercises Austria-wide agendas of interest representation and membership services, including the representation of Austrian economy abroad. The largest regional chamber is the Vienna Chamber of Commerce.
The focus of the tasks is on helping to shape the economic framework in the state legal system as well as in foreign trade promotion. This is achieved through advocacy, advice, service and training for the entrepreneurs and, in the field of foreign trade, through the global presence in Austrian foreign trade centers .
The legal representation of interests of the national economy is the Chamber of Commerce organization, consisting of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (with seat in Vienna) and the chambers of commerce in the 9 federal states.
Both the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and the chambers of commerce in the federal states are divided into seven branches:
- Trade and craft
- Bank and insurance
- Transport and traffic
- Tourism and leisure industry
- Information and Consulting
The divisions are departments of the respective chamber and serve as a link between the specialist organizations - each grouped in them - and the respective chamber.
Professional organizations: professional groups and professional associations
The divisions are in turn divided into specialist organizations. These are called specialist groups in the economic chambers of the federal states and specialist associations in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
Guilds and committees
In the state or federal section “Trade and Crafts”, the specialist organizations are not called specialist groups or specialist associations, but rather guilds (e.g. state guild Vienna of bakers). In the state or federal section “Trade”, the specialist organizations are mostly called committees (e.g. the Carinthian regional committee for retail food and luxury goods).
If the economic importance of a group is too low to justify the establishment of a specialist group, its interests are represented by the specialist association. This professional association makes use of its own bodies with specialist representatives (e.g. specialist representatives for the construction industry in Burgenland). In contrast to the specialist groups (guilds, committees), specialist representatives do not have their own legal personality.
In addition to these divisions, the Austrian Chamber of Commerce at its headquarters in Vienna-Wieden has 23 departments that fulfill political, organizational and service-oriented tasks:
- political departments for z. For example: economic policy, finance and trade policy, legal policy, social policy and health, environmental and energy policy, transport and infrastructure policy or education policy.
- Central departments for service facilities of the members such as Aussenwirtschaft Austria , ICC Austria (International Chamber of Commerce), Women in Business , Young Business , Economic Development Institute (WIFI), etc. a. m.
- Departments for internal organization such as personnel and organizational development, finance and accounting etc.
The approximately 120 specialist organizations represent the various industries. They work together in 7 areas:
- Trade and craft
- Bank and insurance
- Transport and traffic
- Tourism and leisure industry
- Information and Consulting
The largest single professional organizations are the Association of Gastronomy and the Professional Association of Management Consulting and Information Technology .
Salaried employees provide free consulting services in the following legal areas, with regional differences. Not every Chamber of Commerce offers every consulting service:
- Labor and social law (including free representation of members before the labor and social court)
- Vocational training law
- Tax law
- Commercial and industrial plant law
- Tenancy law
- Environmental law
- Company and competition law
- Commercial law
- Foreign trade law
- Traffic law
Each Chamber of Commerce is represented by elected officials who are elected every 5 years in the Chamber of Commerce election by all members.
In the last election in March 2010, the Austrian Economic Association (ÖWB), a sub-organization of the ÖVP , again emerged victorious (70.9% of the votes). The ÖWB was able to improve its 2010 result somewhat. However, the turnout was only 41% compared to 48% in the last election in 2005. The other parliamentary groups represented in all regional chambers are the Social Democratic Economic Association (SWV), which is closely related to the SPÖ, with 11.5%, and the Ring of Freedom Economists (RFW) with 8 , 6%, the green economy (GREEN) 5.8% and the industrial list of the Austrian Federation of Industrialists .
The 2015 Chamber of Commerce elections took place from February 23 to 26. All over Austria, 8905 mandates were awarded in 857 specialist groups, only one list was candidates in over 200 specialist groups. UNOS (Entrepreneurial Austria), the NEOS Chamber of Commerce organization , also ran for the first time .
The economic association achieved more than 50 percent in all nine federal states, and in Vienna, too, the absolute majority was just barely maintained with a result of 50.6 percent. The turnout was 38.9 percent. Nationwide, the Austrian Economic Association achieved 66.6%, the Social Democratic Business Association 10.8%, the Ring of Freedom Businesses 9.4%, the Green Economy 9.1% and the UNOS, which appeared for the first time, 2.0%.
The Greens expressed doubts about the Vienna election result, the Vienna Chamber of Commerce rejected the allegations. According to the Greens, the ÖVP-Wirtschaftsbund in Vienna actually only got 36.7 percent of the vote. The high official result was only achieved because, for example, votes for non-partisan unit lists in the overall result were only awarded to the Wirtschaftsbund. According to the Social Democratic Business Association, the ÖVP business association in Vienna received 45 percent of the vote.
The 2020 Chamber of Commerce elections took place from March 2nd to 4th. The ÖVP-Wirtschaftsbund received 69.6 percent of the vote and thus a plus of three percentage points, the Freedom Economy lost 3.2 percentage points, reached 6.2 percent and fell to fourth place behind Social Democrats and Green Economy. The Social Democratic Business Association (SWV) lost 0.5 percentage points and landed 10.8 percent of the vote. The green economy gained 0.5 percentage points to 9.5 percent, UNOS, the NEOS list, gained 0.7 points to 2.7 percent of the vote. The Wirtschaftsbund thus got 74.7 percent of the mandates (plus 5.6 percentage points), the SWV 8.7 percent, the Green Economy 6.3 percent, the FW halved to 4.1 percent. The turnout was 33.7 percent, after 38.9 percent in 2015.
The President of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce is Harald Mahrer . A staff of employees, the chamber employees, is available to the functionaries to support them with the organizational tasks and to carry out the services. At the head of the employees is a general secretary (federal chamber) or a director (regional chambers).
President since 1946
- Julius Raab (1946–1953)
- Franz Gustav Dworak (1953–1961)
- Julius Raab (1961–1964)
- Rudolf Sallinger (1964–1990)
- Leopold Maderthaner (1990-2000)
- Christoph Leitl (2000-2018)
- Harald Mahrer (since 2018)
The Chamber of Commerce is financed through the basic levy and chamber levies 1 and 2.
- Basic levy: The levy to be paid by all members of the economic chambers to finance the specialist organizations. The amount is decided autonomously by the respective specialist group.
- Chamber levy 1 (KU 1): 3 ‰; The assessment basis is the sales tax invoiced to the chamber member, furthermore the import sales tax owed by the chamber member as well as the sales tax liability that has been transferred to the chamber member due to the services provided to the chamber member for his company by other entrepreneurs (reverse charge) minus the sales tax on personal consumption not applicable. The exemption limit is 150,000 euros. 60% of the chamber levy 1 goes to the respective regional chamber and 40% to the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
- Chamber levy 2 (KU 2): 0.36% to 0.44% as a surcharge on the employer's contribution
In 2013, the total income of the Chamber of Commerce nationwide amounted to around 850 million euros, of which around 500 million euros came from compulsory contributions (basic levy as well as chamber levy I and II). A further 154 million euros were collected through fees for special services , for example for notarizations in international transactions or for issuing certificates of origin . In addition, the professional associations and professional groups that represent their own legal personality have a budget of around 200 million euros.
The Austrian Trade Association , founded in 1839 , pursued the idea of creating a representation of interests which - beyond the guilds - should have all economic operators in a region as members and which, as an institution (chamber), should also have more hearing and a say in economic policy decisions. For the time being, however, it remained with individual regional trade associations.
Vienna experienced several bloody upheavals in 1848 in which the citizens fought for more freedom . The uprisings were carried out by students, workers and now also tradespeople, as the emerging economy was massively hindered by official controls and state interference. The taxes were very high and the administration was anti-citizen. The emperor now had to give in to political pressure and allow the institutions to be established. The establishment of chambers of commerce was one of the enduring achievements of the revolutionary year of 1848.
The first legal basis was the decree of December 15, 1848 on the provisional provisions for the establishment of chambers of commerce, subject to the later enactment of a chamber law. The chambers of commerce were intended as advisory institutes which were to be directly subordinate to the ministry, whose members were to be determined by election and which were allowed to bring their views and opinions to the attention of the state authorities.
On January 15, 1849, the first Austrian Chamber of Commerce was established in Vienna . Its first president, Theodor Hornbostel, was largely responsible for this . The new organization was based in an apartment at Am Hof with space for eleven employees. The Vienna Chamber of Commerce was not only the first to be founded, it also remained the spokesman and leader of all Austrian chambers of commerce for decades.
With the ordinance of March 26, 1850 , the provisionally sanctioned law on the establishment of chambers of commerce and industry was announced. The chambers of commerce and trade were intended as advisory institutes, directly subordinate to the ministry, whose members were to be elected in two sections (trade, industry) and who were allowed to bring their views and reports to the attention of the state authorities. The institutional costs were passed on to all eligible voters through a direct tax.
With the law of June 29, 1868 , the chambers of commerce and trade, then for 29 districts, were finally established as advisory bodies. The two sections (trade, industry) were retained and the number of representatives to be determined by direct elections was increased. The active and passive right to vote was dependent on the tax payment. The chamber was subject to state supervision by a sovereign commissioner and could be dissolved at any time by order of the Minister of Commerce.
1873 was the year of the world exhibition in Vienna's Prater and the huge stock market crash on May 9th, which went down in history as Black Friday . In that year the Chamber of Commerce received the right to send two members to the Reichsrat, which also increased its political influence. In July 1873 the first delegates' day of the Austrian Chambers of Commerce and Industry was held, in which representatives from 22 chambers already took part.
Meanwhile, the chambers of commerce and industry expanded their field of activity. Business promotion was already an important concern back then. The foundation of today's Vienna University of Economics and Business in 1898 can also be traced back to an initiative of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce.
The next few decades were marked by efforts to reorganize the chamber electoral law and to expand the sectioning. This development was not fully completed when the First World War broke out.
In the meantime, the Vienna Chamber of Commerce moved from the first Am Hof quarter to Strauchgasse, then to Herrengasse and, in 1877, to the stock exchange. It was not until 1907 that the Vienna Chamber moved into its own house on Stubenring , designed by the architect Ludwig Baumann , which was the headquarters of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce until 2019.
In the 1st republic
After the First World War and the collapse of the monarchy, the National Assembly demanded a reorganization of the chamber system, which in 1920 resulted in a modern chamber law. With the law of February 25, 1920 , the federal law on the chambers for trade, commerce and industry is promulgated. This chamber is for the first time a corporation under public law and is now divided into three sections (trade, commerce and industry). It now has a statutory right to assess draft laws and ordinances, a right to advise and be heard vis-à-vis the legislative and executive bodies of the 1st Republic, as well as a right to information vis-à-vis the voluntary associations of trade, commerce and industry (including mining) . The number of representatives was increased accordingly. At the same time, the establishment of the entire Austrian Chamber of Commerce was established. The mandates of the chamber councils were determined through active and passive voting rights from among the independent members through elections. All companies were now entitled to vote regardless of their tax payments. The expenses of the chamber were borne by a chamber contribution.
The following years were marked by the difficult post-war situation - economic crisis , currency devaluation , unemployment . When some ministries and offices were closed, the agenda of foreign trade fell to the Chamber. From 1934 onwards, businesses in trade, industry, trade, transport and finance joined forces. At the same time, efforts were made to establish joint representatives of employers and employees in order to overcome class struggles . In 1937 a new chamber of commerce law was passed, which aimed to establish links between the professional associations and the chambers of commerce. For the first time, a Federal Chamber of Commerce was planned as an umbrella organization, but its establishment was prevented by the connection to the German Reich . By ordinance of September 24, 1938, the chambers were incorporated into the system of the Reich German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. According to the German model, the chambers of commerce were renamed chambers of industry and commerce. Besides now emerged Chambers as umbrella organizations of the crafts and the chambers of commerce and industry groups. As part of the " Gleichschaltung" , the self-government of the economy was abolished. The presidents of the chambers were appointed and the leader principle established. In 1942 the chambers were added to the Gau Chamber of Commerce . These regulations were reversed in 1945.
In the 2nd republic
A new Chamber of Commerce law was passed just one year after the end of the war. In this way, the specialist organizations ( guilds , committees and specialist groups) were included in the chamber - endowed with their own legal personality and their own budget law, but subject to the reconciliation of interests. The workers (in the Chamber of Labor ) and other population groups such as the farmers were now organized in their own interest groups. In 1950 the first free chamber elections took place. The organization of the Chamber of Commerce thus became a pillar of the Austrian social partnership , which with its work has contributed significantly to the economic rise of Austria .
In 1993, the Chamber of Commerce organization changed its name. The new name "Chamber of Commerce" underlines - supported by a corresponding corporate identity - the central task of the organization even more clearly: Representing interests for the entire economy.
On January 1, 1999, the Chamber of Commerce Act of 1946, which had been amended eleven times in the more than fifty years of its validity, was replaced by a new Chamber of Commerce law. Major innovations of the law are the modernization of the electoral law and a streamlining of the organs of the Chamber of Commerce organization.
Important employees and officials in the history of the WKO
- Ludwig von Mises , economist
- Gerhart Bruckmann , “high computer of the nation”, futurologist, politician
- Robert Graf , Minister of Economic Affairs
- René Alfons Haiden , bank manager
- Johann Farnleitner , Minister of Economic Affairs
- Christoph Matznetter , State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance
- Julius Raab , later Federal Chancellor
- Reinhard Kamitz , Minister of Finance
- Wolfgang Schmitz , Minister of Finance
- Hans Jörg Schelling , Minister of Finance
- Günter Stummvoll , State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance
- Reinhold Mitterlehner , Minister of Economics
- Rudolf von Strasser , journalist, banker and art collector
- Herbert Reiger , lawyer, co-founder of the business pension
- Dieter-Michael Grohmann , lawyer, professional association manager and internationally award-winning filmmaker
- Karl Kehrer , lawyer, General Secretary of the WKO from October 1979 to March 1992
- President: Harald Mahrer
- Vice President, in: Richard Schenz , Martha Schultz
- Vice-President (co-opt. With vote): Matthias Krenn , Christoph Matznetter
- Vice-president (co-opt. With advisory vote): Ulrike Rabmer-Koller , Jürgen Roth
- Secretary General: Anna-Maria Hochhauser (until June 30, 2018), Karlheinz Kopf (from July 1, 2018)
- Deputy Secretary General: Herwig Höllinger
- Compulsory membership
The compulsory membership of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce was and is repeatedly criticized by various parties, people and the media. FPÖ , BZÖ and NEOS as well as Austrian industrialists like Claus Raidl and Hans Peter Haselsteiner repeatedly demand the abolition of statutory membership and the associated compulsory contributions. NEOS and the FPÖ are the only parties whose Chamber of Commerce organization UNOS has included the abolition of compulsory membership in the political program. A group of Austrian industrialists therefore brought proceedings before the European Court of Justice. A decision is still pending, but experts see little chance of success. The electoral system within the chamber (election of functionaries by functionaries) is described by critics as undemocratic. The Chamber of Commerce, traditionally dominated by the ÖVP, is together with the Austrian Trade Union Confederation, which is dominated by the SPÖ, the most important organization in the system of Austrian social partnership . Critics see this as a "subsidiary government" in which the actual political decisions are made. It is also criticized that the position of the social partnership means that Austrian parliamentarism is weak. Laws would not be discussed publicly in parliament, but decided beforehand by the social partners. The parliament would only give the legally necessary approval without political discussion, which in turn would weaken the position of the opposition parties. This leads to a democratic deficit, since the Chamber of Commerce and ÖGB only represent employees and employers, but not the rest of the population.
- Electoral system
Political scientist Hubert Sickinger described the procedure and transparency of the chamber electoral system as strange and intransparent, it was comparable to the curia election system and served to prevent an industrial group from being overruled by the mass of one-person companies. The votes of the companies are not worth the same. Economically significant companies and sectors would be weighted more heavily, which would guarantee industry and banks / insurance companies a supremacy among the seven federal divisions.
- Upper Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKOÖ)
- Chamber of Commerce Lower Austria (WKNÖ)
- Vorarlberg Chamber of Commerce (WKV)
- European umbrella
- Official website
- The Chamber Families and Their Family Trees , Addendum
- Entry on the Austrian Chamber of Commerce in the Austria Forum (in the AEIOU Austria Lexicon )
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- Luise Ungerboeck: WKO election: Mahrer keeps his box seat in the Chamber of Commerce. In: DerStandard.at . February 29, 2020, accessed March 1, 2020 .