About the Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organisation,
founded in 1949. It:
• groups together 46 countries, including 21 countries from Central and Eastern
• has application from 1 more country (Bélarus),
• has granted observer status to 5 more countries (the Holy See, the United
States, Canada, Japan and Mexico),
• is distinct from the 25-nation European Union, but no country has ever joined
the Union without first belonging to the Council of Europe,
• has its headquarters in Strasbourg, in north-eastern France.
«The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between
Article 1 - Statute of the Council of Europe
The Council was set up to:
• defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law,
• develop continent-wide agreements to standardise member countries' social and
• promote awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting
across different cultures.
Since 1989, its main job has become:
• acting as a political anchor and human rights watchdog for Europe's
• assisting the countries of central and eastern Europe in carrying out and
consolidating political, legal and constitutional reform in parallel with
• providing know-how in areas such as human rights, local democracy, education,
culture and the environment.
The Council of Europe's Vienna Summit in October 1993 set out new political
aims. The Heads of State and Government cast the Council of Europe as the
guardian of democratic security - founded on human rights, democracy and the
rule of law. Democratic security is an essential complement to military
security, and is a pre-requisite for the continent's stability and peace.
During the Second Summit in Strasbourg in October 1997, the Heads of State
and Government adopted an action plan to strengthen the Council of Europe's work
in four areas: democracy and human rights, social cohesion, the security of
citizens and democratic values and cultural diversity.
The Council of Europe's third Summit of Heads of State and Government, held
in Warsaw on 16 and 17 May 2005, concluded by adopting a political declaration
and an action plan laying down the principal tasks of the Council of Europe in
the coming years:
- promoting the common fundamental values of human rights, the rule of law and
- strengthening the security of European citizens, in particular by combating
terrorism, organised crime and trafficking in human beings;
- fostering co-operation with other international and European organisations.
Today, the Organisation continues to grow while at the same time increasing
its monitoring to ensure that all its members respect the obligations and
commitments they entered into when they joined.
How it works
The main component parts of the Council of Europe are:
• the Committee of Ministers, composed of the 46 Foreign ministers or their
Strasbourg-based deputies (ambassadors/permanent representatives), which is the
Organisation's decision-making body.
• the Parliamentary Assembly, grouping 630 members (315 representatives and 315
substitutes) from the 46 national parliaments. The current President is René van
der Linden (the Netherlands, EPP/CD).
• the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, composed of a Chamber of Local
Authorities and a Chamber of Regions. Its current President is Giovanni Di Stasi
• the 1800-strong secretariat headed since September 2004 by Secretary General
Terry Davis (United Kingdom, SOC), former Vice-President of the Parliamentary
Assembly and former President of the Socialist Group of the Assembly.
In 2005, 186,012,700 euros.
Some practical achievements
• 199 legally binding European treaties or conventions many of which are open to
non-member states on topics ranging from human rights to the fight against
organised crime and from the prevention of torture to data protection or
• Recommendations to governments setting out policy guidelines on such issues as
legal matters, health, education, culture and sport.
The pan-European dimension
Since November 1990, the accession of 21 countries of central and eastern Europe
(the most recent being Serbia and Montenegro in April 2003) has given the
Council of Europe a genuine pan-European dimension, so that it is now the
organisation that represents Greater Europe.
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