Österreichischer Alpenverein (ÖAV) Structure

Outline

The ÖAV is essentially a federation of independent clubs which, when they accede to the ÖAV, relinquish part of their independence by agreeing to abide by the ÖAV Constitution (Satzung) in order to achieve aims they could not aspire to on their own. “Österreichischer Alpenverein” translates as “Austrian Alpine Association” or “Austrian Alpine Federation” but since it was founded in 1948 Sektion England (now known as Sektion Britannia) has always called itself Austrian Alpine Club.

Gesamtverein

To understand the workings of the ÖAV it is important to understand the concept of the Gesamtverein, literally in English the ‘Whole Club’. This consists of:

  • Almost 200 constituent Sections (Sektionen)* and Branches (Zweige)* of the ÖAV.
  • The Honorary Members (Ehrenmitglieder).

At the time of writing, membership of the Gesamtverein totals just over 500,000. The Austrian Alpine Club (UK), now Sektion Britannia of the ÖAV, has almost 12,000 members.

[*There is no organisational difference between Sections and Branches, it is merely a matter of nomenclature.]

Hauptversammlung

The top decision making body of the ÖAV 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 ÖAV’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.

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 and Sektion Flandern);
  • The members of the Praesidium;
  • Representative of the Youth Organisations.

Candidates for the Representatives are proposed to the Bundesausschuss by the Landesverbände, the Foreign Sections and 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 ÖAV’s Constitutions, and amendments to them.
  • Nomination of candidates for election to the Praesidium and Bundesausschuss, as well as the General Secretary.

The Praesidium

The Praesidium meets approximately monthly and is chaired by the President. Each of the (up to) six vice presidents has a portfolio. The Praesidium is in effect the management board of the ÖAV 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.

Hauptverein

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 ÖAV Organisation

As the previous paragraphs indicate, the ÖAV is essentially a ‘bottom up’ organisation with most of the power ultimately residing with the Sections acting in concert. However the ÖAV 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 ÖAV, 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 ÖAV access to politicians and administrators at both provincial 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 10 May 2016]