Simsa: Do you agree on a concept for a law in advance with the cabinet (i.e. the political wing of the Department of Justice)?
Dr Mohr: No, usually we get very few instructions. The detailed discussions take place in working groups hosted by the head of the unit. We usually also invite external experts. We also try to figure out what could be acceptable on a political level. Of course, we report regularly about the process, but usually we get only very high-level comments from the political players late in the process, often just before we finalise the final draft. In this case, the requests from the governing parties have to be incorporated last minute.
Simsa: Do you share draft laws with other federal ministries such as the Treasury Department?
Dr Mohr: Yes. It is not provided for in the law, but it is often done in practice. If we realise that another ministry might be affected by one of our drafts, we coordinate on a legal expert level. The cooperation usually is frictionless.
Höller: A lot of laws are initiated on the level of the European Union. How can Austria position itself on this level?
Dr Mohr: On the European level you have to position yourself very early in the process. Once the European Commission (EC) has produced a draft it is very difficult to push through substantial changes. Good contacts with the EC and the other Member States are therefore crucial. The permanent representation in Brussels is very important, it has to be alert and inform us early about new projects on the European level. Once we have received information from them it really is the competent civil servant who needs to take action. That is why expertise among the civil servants is so important.
Höller: A recent project is the restructuring directive. Was there a task force that reviewed various insolvency codes and used best practices to make the first draft?
Dr Mohr: The EC usually cooperates with external experts. There are typically two experts from the EC who will negotiate the draft. Though they are not always experts in the relevant legal field they are extremely well prepared.