Austria is a federal republic, consisting of nine provinces which have their own parliaments (Landtage) and pass laws for certain fields of responsibility. According to the Constitution of 1920 which regulates the competences of the federal state and the provinces, preservation of monuments is the responsibility of the federal state, whereas building regulation, protection of nature but also of sites (Ortsbilder) and land-use-planning are to be regulated by the provinces. In this respect, the responsibility for cultural and natural heritage is split between the provinces and the federal state. The federal office for the protection of monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt, BDA) which since 2014 answers to the federal chancellery, administers the care of the built and movable heritage (including export restrictions) and the archeology, whereas the protection of sites, and the care of nature and landscapes is to be organized by the provinces which have their individual instruments for spacial-planning and regional development.
The BDA is led by a Troika which consists of the CEO (Präsident), the technical director (Fachdirektor) and the administrative director (Verwaltungsdirektor). The selection of monuments and the control of alterations are administered by the heads of the departments for the nine provinces, (Landeskonservatoren), which get help from central departments (e.g.: architecture, research, movable heritage... ).The respective documents are executed by the BDA.
About 37 500 immovable buildings and archeological sites are protected. Restauration-projects of protected monuments can get public funding, for which € 13,6 million are provided. Additional €3 million are collected through private (tax-reduced) donation for restorations of specific objects.
Concerning the laws, the federal monuments protection act (Bundesdenkmalschutzgesetz) was passed in 1923, and the last modification took place in 2000.
Nearly every province passed a law for the protection of sites. The most important are:
- the laws for the preservation of the cities of Salzburg (1967/1980) and Graz (1974/2008) and;
- The law for the protection of sites in Tyrol (1976/2003).
Every province has its own law for the protection of nature and landscape.
According to the monuments protection act, the BDA selects the buildings and archeological sites but also movable objects and collections for protection. This protection can be enforced even against the will of the owner, but the owner (and in some cases the mayor and the head of the province) can appeal to the federal court of administration (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). If the protection is in force, alterations and demolitions need the consent of the BDA. If this consent is denied, the owner can again ask for a decision by the federal court of administration. The BDA does not manage buildings itself, the state owned buildings are managed by the Ministry of Economy
Austria has ratified the following conventions on cultural heritage
- UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 1954)
- UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972
- Council of Europe - European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Valetta, Malta 1992)
- Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro 2005)
- Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (Paris 2003)