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The Council of Europe

The Council of Europe founded on 5 May 1949 was the first of Europe’s major new post-war organizations. It is based in Strasbourg, France, and its currently 47 members include every country in Europe except Belarus and Kosovo. The Federal Republic of Germany joined the Council of Europe on 13 July 1950, initially as an associate member and later as a full member (on 2 May 1951).

Six other countries – Canada, the Holy See, Israel, Japan, Mexico and the United States, – have observer status.

Promoting shared values

The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realizing the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress (Article 1 of the Statute of the Council of Europe). Since its founding, the Council of Europe has worked steadily to promote human rights, the rule of law and pluralist democracy in Europe. An important part of this work is monitoring members’ compliance with the obligations of membership. Serious violations of these obligations may incur sanctions, including even termination of membership.

Conventions of the Council of Europe

The Council of Europe has played a trailblazing role in creating a binding pan-European legal framework for the protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. The more than 200 Council of Europe conventions and protocols now in effect include such groundbreaking instruments as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Anti-Torture Convention), the European Social Charter, the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the European Cultural Convention, as well as the Conventions on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, on the Protection of Children and on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women. Both its Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages are milestones in improving protection for minorities.

The Council of Europe and the EU

The EU and the Council of Europe cooperate extensively on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2007.

In this politically binding declaration, the EU and the Council of Europe state their intention to cooperate even more closely in the Council of Europe’s key areas (protection of human rights, promotion of democracy and the rule of law), to consult each other and to promote coherence and synergies.

The Treaty of Lisbon, which envisages the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, offers new opportunities for even closer cooperation between the Council of Europe and the EU. The modalities of the EU’s accession to the Convention are currently being negotiated.

Overview of all Council of Europe conventions

Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union