The OeAV is essentially a federation of independent clubs which, when they accede to the OeAV, relinquish part of their independence by agreeing to abide by the OeAV Constitution (Satzung) in order to achieve aims they could not aspire to on their own. “Oesterreichischer Alpenverein” translates as “Austrian Alpine Association” or “Austrian Alpine Federation”.
To understand the workings of the OeAV it is important to understand the concept of the Gesamtverein, literally in English the ‘Whole Club’. This consists of:
- The ~200 constituent Sections (Sektionen)* and Branches (Zweige)* of the OeAV.
- The Honorary Members (Ehrenmitglieder).
At the time of writing, membership of the Gesamtverein totals about 415,000. The Austrian Alpine Club (UK) is Sektion Britannia of the OeAV.
[*There is no organisational difference between Sections and Branches, it is merely a matter of nomenclature.]
The top decision making body of the OeAV is the Hauptversammlung, which is the AGM of the Gesamtverein. Each Section or Branch has a number of votes in proportion to its size. In allocating votes to the Sections, the Satzung (Constitution) biases the votes in favour of the smaller ones, so that they are not swamped by the larger ones. The only persons having individual votes at the Hauptversammlung are Honorary Members.
The Hauptversammlung elects:
- The General Secretary, who is head of the OeAV’s professional administration. After the successful completion of a probationary period the General Secretary is not subject to further elections.
- The 16 members of the Bundesausschuss (see below) for a period of 4 years. Each member can be nominated for 2 consecutive periods of office.
- The members of the Praesidium: a President and up to 6 Vice Presidents for a period of office of 4 years. The members of the Praesidium are also members of the Bundesausschuss.
The Bundesausschuss, literally in English the ‘Federal Committee’ consists of:
- Representatives of the Austrian Landesverbände (the Provincial Associations of the Austrian Sections);
- One Representative covering both of the Foreign Sections (Sektion Britannia & Sektion Flandern);
- The members of the Praesidium;
- Representative of the Youth Organisations.
Candidates for the Representatives are proposed to the Bundesausschuss by the
- The Foreign Sections
- The Youth Organisations
The Bundesausschuss then reviews the candidates and nominates them for election at the Hauptversammlung. In this context it should be noted that in the event of the two foreign sections being unable to agree, the Bundesausschuss will nominate a candidate from one of them.
The Bundesausschuss meets three times a year. In addition to its members, its meetings are attended by some of the permanent officials (non-voting) and observers from the Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV) and Alpenverein Südtirol (AVS).
Among the activities undertaken by the Bundesausschuss are:
- Review and approval of proposals made by the Praesidium
- Review and approval of proposals made by the Huts and Paths Committee
- Review and approval of the Accounts
- Review and approval of Budgets
- Review and approval of the OeAV’s Constitutions, and amendments to them.
- Nomination of candidates for election to the Praesidium and Bundesausschuss, as well as the General Secretary.
The Praesidium meets approximately monthly and is chaired by the President. Each of the six vice presidents has a portfolio. The Praesidium is in effect the management board of the OeAV and directs the permanent officials under the General Secretary. Because the Praesidium normally meets in evenings, in Innsbruck, its membership is heavily biased towards Tyrol.
This refers to the ‘Head Office’ or the professional administration (or Vereinskanzlei) in Innsbruck. It does not diminish the concept of the ‘Gesamtverein’ or change the Constitution.
Informal aspects of the OeAV Organisation
As the previous paragraphs indicate, the OeAV is essentially a ‘bottom up’ organisation with most of the power ultimately residing with the Sections acting in concert. However the OeAV is also a practical realisation of the old adage ‘The whole (the Gesamtverein) is greater than the sum of its parts (the Sections)’.
Within Austria, the OeAV, in conjunction with the DAV, maintains nearly 500 huts, as well as tens of thousands of kilometres of paths. This provides a significant element in Austria’s tourist infrastructure and so gives the OeAV access to politicians and administrators at both regional and national level. Also the Gesamtverein has access to financial services, for example insurances, which would be beyond the reach of even the biggest sections
[Updated 30 October 2012]