Austrian Gliding Club Case

CourtAdministrative Court (Austria)
Austria, Administrative Court.
Austrian Gliding Club Case.

Treaties — Interpretation of — Principles and Rules of — Discrepancy between Heading of Article of Treaty and its Text — Whether Reliance on Heading Permissible — Heading Implying Less Restriction on Sovereignty than Text — Austrian State Treaty of May 15, 1955.

The Facts.—An Austrian gliding club applied for permission to build a glider based on a German design. Permission was refused, on the ground that Article 16 of the Austrian State Treaty of May 15, 1955,1 did not permit Austria to manufacture “civil aircraft” which are of German design.2 The appellant club contended that the term “civil aircraft” did not include gliders. This contention was based, inter alia, on a divergence between the heading and the wording of Article 16 in the German language. The heading, it was contended, referred to “civil aircraft” (Zivilflugzeuge) while the wording of the provision itself referred to “aeroplanes” (Luftfahrzeuge). To that extent, it was contended, the actual wording of Article 16 was not covered by the heading, which must be understood as comprising only power-driven aircraft and would thus, incidentally, suggest a smaller degree of limitation of sovereignty than the text itself.

Held: that the appeal must be dismissed. The wording of Article 16 was alone binding, and as that wording was clear and comprised aeroplanes of all kinds, whether power-driven or not, the refusal to grant permission to build a glider of German design must be upheld. The heading of Article 16 need not be considered even though it might imply a smaller degree of limitation of sovereignty.

The Court said: “In answering the question as to the interpretation of Article 16 of the State Treaty of May 15, 1955, we have to find out, first, which of the four versions of the Treaty are to be taken as the basis of our enquiry. Article 38 (1) of the State Treaty provides expressly that the four versions are equally authentic. We must infer from this provision that, for the application of the Treaty in Austria, where its provisions are directly applicable (Articles 49 and 50 of the Constitution), the State Treaty in its German version has been transformed into municipal law (Article 8 of the Constitution). In the German version the prohibition contained in Article 16 of the Treaty, which must be directly applied in Austria, is defined beyond doubt. According to this provision, the acquisition and manufacture of civil aircraft of German...

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