20 years Austrian EU membership

Austria's membership in the European Union has had a decisive impact on the country's foreign and European policy of the past 20 years and makes it possible to advocate Austrian concerns within the EU decision-making structures.

Representatives of Austria act in the framework of co-determination in the European Council, the Council and its preparatory bodies; plus there are directly elected Austrian members of the European Parliament as well as Austrian representatives in the other EU institutions. Comprehensive coordination of the Austrian positions is ensured by the consultation obligation defined in the Austrian Constitution, especially vis-à-vis the Parliament, the federal provinces and communities, the interest groups and the public.

EU issues feature prominently on the daily agenda of Austria's foreign policy; after all, it is important that Austrian interests and positions are pursued further on the European level in the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. These EU issues include above all initiatives in the multilateral field, such as initiatives to protect civilians in armed conflicts, strengthening human rights and the rights of minorities, disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Austria held the EU Presidency in the second half of 1998 and the first six months of 2006.

Twenty years after Austria's accession to the European Union, numerous studies provide impressive proof that the Austrian economy profits significantly from its involvement in the growing internal market which is also reflected in the creation of jobs. As some 70% of Austria's foreign trade is with EU member states, the internal market means significant savings for the Austrian economy. Since our accession in 1995, exports have tripled and 13,000 new jobs have been created per year. There is no doubt that Austria's economy would not have been able to benefit from the opportunities granted by the enlargement without its membership in the EU and without the accession to the Monetary Union and that it would also have been hit much harder by the consequences of the economic and financial crisis.

The citizens, in particular, benefit from the numerous advantages and facilities that have become integral parts of our lives – travelling through a Europe without borders, studying in other member states in the framework of EU exchange programmes, benefits of the common currency and the right to settle in any EU member state (Europe of Citizens).

Austria's accession to the EU on 1 January 1995

Austria's accession to the European Union marked the completion of the process of Austria’s integration efforts which had started long before the submission of Austria’s application for EC membership by then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alois Mock, on 17 July 1989.

Austria was one of the founding members of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), established by the Stockholm Convention which entered into force on 3 May 1960. The first closer economic ties to the states forming the European Economic Community (EEC) were established in 1973 when the free trade area between Austria and the EEC was set up. Although this bridge between the members of EFTA and the members of the EU proved successful because the EFTA states’ export business was granted largely unhindered access to the EC area in the industrial sector, it did not offer any perspective for more comprehensive relations.

Following the submission of Austria’s application for membership on 7 July 1989, the EC Council agreed to launch the accession process on 28 July 1989, with the formal membership negotiations starting on 1 February 1993.

In 1989 the plan for the establishment of a European Economic Area presented by then President of the Commission, Jacques Delors provided for a close association between EFTA and the EEC. By the time the treaty establishing the European Economic Area was signed in Porto on 2 May 1992, Austria had already set itself the integration goal of full membership in the European Communities. Just one year after the entry into force of the EEC Treaty in 1994, Austria was to join the Treaty as an EU Member State.

The Federal Constitutional Law on the Accession of Austria to the European Union meant the explicit empowerment for the conclusion of this state treaty in line with the outcome of the negotiations achieved on 12 April 1994. Following the adoption of this Act by the two houses of the Austrian Parliament, the National Council and the Federal Council, the Federal Constitutional Law on the Accession of Austria to the EU was put to a referendum according to Article 44 par. 3 of the Austrian Federal Constitution on 12 June 1994, in which 66.58% of the Austrian population voted in favour of accession to the EU. The Accession Treaty and the Final Act were then signed in Corfu on 24 June 1994.