Habsburg-Lorraine v Austria

Date11 Febrero 1980
CourtAdministrative Court (Austria)
Austria, Administrative Court.

(Zach, President; Karlik, Seiler, Drexler and Herberth, Judges)


Human rights Freedom of movement Right to a passport Austrian Habsburg Law restricting movement of members of the House of Habsburg Whether applicable to Habsburgs born after enactment of the Law European Convention on Human Rights, 1950, Protocol No. IV Reservation by Austria concerning Habsburg Law

Nationality Individuals Expatriation Exile of the House of Habsburg Scope and application of Habsburg Law

Relationship of international law and municipal law Treaties Human rights principles National legislation derogating from human rights principles to be construed restrictively

States Austria Austrian State Treaty Requirement that Austria uphold Habsburg Law Scope and extent The law of Austria

Summary: The facts:Rudolf Habsburg-Lorraine, born in September 1919, was the legitimate son of the last Austrian Emperor. In 1978, wishing to obtain an Austrian passport, he applied to the Austrian Government for a declaration that he was not affected by the expatriation of members of the House of Habsburg enacted in the Habsburg Law which entered into force in April 1919, since he had not been born at that date. Under the Law, members of the House of Habsburg were only entitled to enter Austria if they made a declaration renouncing their membership of the House and undertaking to be loyal citizens of the Republic. The Government rejected his application and he challenged that decision before the Administrative Court.

Held:The decision was quashed.

(1) It was clear from contemporary explanatory statements that in 1919 the Legislature had believed, on cogent grounds, that the existence of the Austrian Republic was threatened by attempts to restore members of the House of Habsburg, and the possible reactions to such attempts by neighbouring States. These considerations, which lay behind the enactment of the Habsburg Law, did not permit the conclusion that the legislature had wished to subject persons as yet unborn, solely by reason of their descent, to far-reaching limitations contrary to the rest of the constitutional order and the system of basic rights.

(2) The same conclusion was reached if the Habsburg Law was examined from the teleological standpoint of the present-day legislature. The provision in question was contrary to Article 3 of Protocol No. IV to the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950. Although Austria had entered a reservation to that provision in respect of the Habsburg Law, this did not alter the fact that the provisions of the Habsburg Law were to be interpreted restrictively to the extent that they limited fundamental constitutional and human rights. It would have been blatantly contrary to all basic principles of Western legal systems to infer legal disadvantages, without any time limit, from the fact that the person concerned was descended from a certain family.

(3) Whilst it was true that Article 10(2) of the State Treaty of Vienna, 1955, made it incumbent upon Austria to uphold the Habsburg Law, this merely bound Austria not to alter or modify its contents in any way but had no bearing on the interpretation of its original provisions in relation to a specific question.

The following is a summary of the formal opening paragraph of the judgment:

The complainant, Rudolph Habsburg-Lorraine of Brussels, appeals against the decision of the Federal Government of 30 November 1978 concerning his expatriation (declaration).

The following is the text of the relevant part of the judgment of the Court:

[The Administrative Court] rules as follows:

The decision under appeal is quashed by reason of illegality.

The State shall, within 14 days and subject to execution, pay the complainant the sum of 3,700 schillings in costs.

The application for payment of additional costs of 3,350 schillings is rejected.

Grounds of the judgment

The complainant was born on 5 September 1919 as the legitimate son of the last Austrian Emperor. On 29...

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