The organisation is distinct from the 28-nation European Union (EU), although it is sometimes confused with it, partly because the EU has adopted the original European Flag which was created by the Council of Europe in 1955, as well as the European Anthem. No country has ever joined the EU without first belonging to the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe is an official United Nations Observer.
Britain's wartime leader Sir words, he tried to "peer through the mists of the future to the end of the war," once victory had been achieved, and think about how to re-build and maintain peace on a shattered continent. Given that Europe had been at the origin of two world wars, the creation of such a body would be, he suggested, "a stupendous business". He returned to the idea during a well-known speech at the University of Zurich on 19 September 1946, throwing the full weight of his considerable post-war prestige behind it.
The future structure of the Council of Europe was discussed at a specific congress of several hundred leading politicians, government representatives and civil society in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1948. There were two schools of thought competing: some favoured a classical international organisation with representatives of governments, while others preferred a political forum with parliamentarians. Both approaches were finally combined through the creation of a Committee of Ministers (in which governments were represented) and a Consultative Assembly (in which parliaments were represented), the two main bodies mentioned in the Statute of the Council of Europe. This dual intergovernmental and inter-parliamentary structure was later copied for the European Communities, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The Council of Europe was founded on 5 May 1949 by the Treaty of London. The Statute was signed in London on that day by ten states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Three months later, on 10 August 1949, 100 members of the Council's Consultative Assembly, parliamentarians drawn from twelve nations (Turkey and Greece had by then joined the original ten founding members), met in Strasbourg for its first plenary session, held over 18 sittings and lasting nearly a month. They debated how to reconcile and reconstruct a continent still reeling from war, yet already facing a new East-West divide, launched the concept of a trans-national court to protect the basic human rights of every European citizen, and took the first steps towards what would in time become the European Union.
In August 1949, Paul-Henri Spaak of Belgium was elected president of the first session of the assembly. Spaak helped develop a network of intergovernmental contacts in many fields, such as human rights, local government, education, culture, sports, and youth policy. However, the organization only played an advisory role, and was not nearly strong enough to achieve Spaak's long-term goals of European unification.
Historic speeches at the Council of Europe
In 2018 an archive of all speeches made to the launch, the archive comprised 263 speeches delivered over a 70-year period by some 216 Presidents, Prime Ministers, monarchs and religious leaders from 45 countries - though it continues to expand, as new speeches are added every few months.
The full text of the speeches is given in both English and French, regardless of the original language used. The archive is searchable by country, by name, and chronologically.
Aims and achievements
Article 1(a) of the Statute states that "The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress." Membership is open to all European states who seek harmony, cooperation, good governance and human rights, accepting the principle of the rule of law and are able and willing to guarantee democracy, fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Whereas the member states of the European Union transfer part of their national legislative and executive powers to the European Commission and the European Parliament, Council of Europe member states maintain their sovereignty but commit themselves through conventions/treaties (international law) and co-operate on the basis of common values and common political decisions. Those conventions and decisions are developed by the member states working together at the Council of Europe. Both organisations function as concentric circles around the common foundations for European co-operation and harmony, with the Council of Europe being the geographically wider circle. The European Union could be seen as the smaller circle with a much higher level of integration through the transfer of powers from the national to the EU level. "The Council of Europe and the European Union: different roles, shared values." Council of Europe conventions/treaties are also open for signature to non-member states, thus facilitating equal co-operation with countries outside Europe.
The Council of Europe's most famous achievement is the European Convention on Human Rights, which was adopted in 1950 following a report by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, and followed on from the United Nations 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' (UDHR). The Convention created the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Court supervises compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and thus functions as the highest European court. It is to this court that Europeans can bring cases if they believe that a member country has violated their fundamental rights and freedoms.
The various activities and achievements of the Council of Europe can be found in detail on its official website. The Council of Europe works in the following areas:
Promotion of cultural co-operation and diversity under the Council of Europe's Cultural Convention of 1954 and several conventions on the protection of cultural heritage as well as through its Centre for Modern Languages in Graz, Austria, and its North-South Centre in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Secretary General, who is elected for a term of five years by the Parliamentary Assembly and heads the Secretariat of the Council of Europe. Thorbjørn Jagland, the former Prime Minister of Norway, was elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 29 September 2009. In June 2014, he became the first Secretary General to be re-elected, commencing his second term in office on 1 October 2014.
The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), which comprises national parliamentarians from all member states. Adopting resolutions and recommendations to governments, the Assembly holds a dialogue with its governmental counterpart, the Committee of Ministers, and is often regarded as the "motor" of the organisation. The national parliamentary delegations to the Assembly must reflect the political spectrum of their national parliament, i.e. comprise government and opposition parties. The Assembly appoints members as rapporteurs with the mandate to prepare parliamentary reports on specific subjects. The British MP Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe was rapporteur for the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights. Dick Marty's reports on secret CIA detentions and rendition flights in Europe became quite famous in 2006 and 2007. Other Assembly reports were instrumental in, for example, the abolition of the death penalty in Europe, highlighting the political and human rights situation in Chechnya, identifying who was responsible for disappeared persons in Belarus, chronicling threats to freedom of expression in the media and many other subjects.
The Congress of the Council of Europe (Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe), which was created in 1994 and comprises political representatives from local and regional authorities in all member states. The most influential instruments of the Council of Europe in this field are the European Charter of Local Self-Government of 1985 and the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities of 1980.
The Joint Council on Youth of the Council of Europe. The European Steering Committee (CDEJ) on Youth and the Advisory Council (CCJ) on Youth of the Council of Europe form together the Joint Council on Youth (CMJ). The CDEJ brings together representatives of ministries or bodies responsible for youth matters from the 50 States Parties to the European Cultural Convention. The CDEJ fosters co-operation between governments in the youth sector and provides a framework for comparing national youth policies, exchanging best practices and drafting standard-setting texts. The Advisory Council on Youth comprises 30 representatives of non-governmental youth organisations and networks. It provides opinions and input from youth NGOs on all youth sector activities and ensures that young people are involved in the Council’s other activities.
Information Offices of the Council of Europe in many member states.
The European Support Fund Eurimages for the co-production and distribution of films
The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, which awards the certification "Cultural Route of the Council of Europe" to transnational networks promoting European heritage and intercultural dialogue (Luxembourg)
The Pompidou Group – Cooperation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs
The European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission
The European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) which is a platform for co-operation between European and Southern Mediterranean countries in the field of major natural and technological disasters.
The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport, which is open to accession by states and sport associations.
The seat of the Council of Europe is in Strasbourg, France. First meetings were held in Strasbourg's University Palace in 1949, but the Council of Europe soon moved into its own buildings. The Council of Europe's eight main buildings are situated in the Quartier européen, an area in the northeast of Strasbourg spread over the three districts of Le Wacken, La Robertsau and Quartier de l'Orangerie, where are also located the four buildings of the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Arte headquarters and the seat of the International Institute of Human Rights.
Building in the area started in 1949 with the predecessor of the Palais de l'Europe, the House of Europe (demolished in 1977), and came to a provisional end in 2007 with the opening of the New General Office Building, later named "Agora", in 2008. The Palais de l'Europe (Palace of Europe) and the Art Nouveau Villa Schutzenberger (seat of the European Audiovisual Observatory) are in the Orangerie district, and the European Court of Human Rights, the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and the Agora Building are in the Robertsau district. The Agora building has been voted "best international business center real estate project of 2007" on 13 March 2008, at the MIPIM 2008. The European Youth Centre is located in the Wacken district.
Besides its headquarters in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe is also present in other cities and countries. The Council of Europe Development Bank has its seat in Paris, the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe is established in Lisbon, Portugal, and the Centre for Modern Languages is in Graz, Austria. There are European Youth Centres in Budapest, Hungary, and in Strasbourg. The European Wergeland Centre, a new Resource Centre on education for intercultural dialogue, human rights and democratic citizenship, operated in cooperation with the Norwegian Government, opened in Oslo, Norway, in February 2009.
Due to persistent budgetary shortages, the Council of Europe is expected to cut down significantly the number of its activities, and thus the number of its employees, from 2011 on. This will notably affect the economy of the city of Strasbourg, where a total of 2,321 people (on 1 January 2010) are doing salaried work for the CoE. Most offices in foreign countries are expected to be closed as well.
Article 4 of the Council of Europe Statute specifies that membership is open to any "European" State. This has been interpreted liberally from the beginning, when Turkey was admitted, to include transcontinental states (such as Georgia and Azerbaijan) and states that are geographically Asian but socio-politically European (such as Armenia and Cyprus).
Invitations to sign and ratify relevant conventions of the Council of Europe on a case-by-case basis are sent to three groups of non-member entities:
Non-European states: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Syria, Tajikistan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uruguay, Venezuela and the observers Canada, Israel, Japan, Mexico, United States.
European states: Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Belarus and the observer Vatican City.
The Council of Europe is not to be confused with the Council of the European Union (the "Council of Ministers") or the European Council. These belong to the European Union, which is separate from the Council of Europe, although they have shared the same European flag and anthem since the 1980s because they both work for European integration. The Council of Europe is not to be confused with the European Union itself.
The Council of Europe is an entirely separate body from the European Union. It is not controlled by it.
Cooperation between the European Union and the Council of Europe has recently been reinforced, notably on culture and education as well as on the international enforcement of justice and Human Rights.
The beginning of co-operation between the CoE and the UN started with the agreement signed by the Secretariats of these institutions on 15 December 1951. On 17 October 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a resolution on granting observer status to the Council of Europe which was proposed by several member states of the CoE. Currently Council of Europe holds observer status with the United Nations and is regularly represented in the UN General Assembly. It has organised the regional UN conferences against racism and on women and co-operates with the United Nations at many levels, in particular in the areas of human rights, minorities, migration and counter-terrorism. In November 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus Resolution (A/Res/71/17) on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe whereby it acknowledged the contribution of Council of Europe to the protection and strengthening of human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, welcomed the ongoing co-operation in a variety of fields.
The Council of Europe also signed an agreement with FIFA in which the two agreed to strengthen future cooperation in areas of common interests. The deal which included cooperation between member states in the sport of football and safety and security at football matches, was finalized in October 2018.
Privileges and immunities
The General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe grants the organisation certain privileges and immunities.
The working conditions of staff are governed by the Council's staff regulations, which are public. Salaries and emoluments paid by the Council of Europe to its officials are tax-exempt on the basis of Article 18 of the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe.
On 5 May 1964, the 15th anniversary of its founding, the Council of Europe established 5 May as Europe Day.
The wide private and public use of the European Flag is encouraged to symbolise a European dimension. To avoid confusion with the European Union which subsequently adopted the same flag in the 1980s, as well as other European institutions, the Council of Europe often uses a modified version with a lower-case "e" surrounding the stars which is referred to as the "Council of Europe Logo".
Criticism and controversies
In recent years,[when?] the Council of Europe has been criticised for doing too little to stand up to the transgressions of some of its members. In 2013 The Economist agreed, saying that the "Council of Europe's credibility is on the line". Both Human Rights Watch and the European Stability Initiative have called on the Council of Europe to undertake concrete actions to show that it is willing and able to return to its "original mission to protect and ensure human rights".
Issues have been raised regarding Azerbaijan's relationship to the Council of Europe, including allegations that Azerbaijan has, over a sustained period, provided bribes to Council members to vote down criticism of the authoritarian rule of the Aliyev regime and support motions advantageous to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe in 2001. Since September 2014 Human Rights Watch, said that Azerbaijan's "systematic crackdown on human rights defenders and other perceived government critics shows sheer contempt for its commitments to the Council of Europe". In 2017 Council member and Italian politician Luca Volontè was accused by Italian prosecutors of receiving over 2.3 million euros in bribes in exchange for working for Azerbaijan in the parliamentary assembly, and that in 2013 he played a key role in orchestrating the defeat of a highly critical report on the abuse of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The money was paid to Volontè in monthly installments of 100,000 euros, starting in 2013, via four anonymous offshore companies. The payments stopped in 2014 when Volontè's bank reported them as suspicious transactions to the Milan prosecutor's office.Arif Mammadov, former head of the Azerbaijan representation at the Council of Europe, has stated that Azerbaijan's delegation at the Council had 25 million dollars available to "bribe members of the delegations and PACE generally".
From 2014, Russia's voting rights were temporarily suspended by the Council due to Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. In response, Russia withheld its annual membership dues in the amount of 33 million euros, placing the institution under financial strain. Russia claimed that its suspension by the Council is unfair and demands the restoration of voting rights. European Council secretary-general Thorbjørn Jagland organized a special committee to find a compromise with Russia in early 2018, a move that was criticized as giving in to Russian pressure by Council members and academic observers, especially if voting sanctions were lifted. In May 2019, Russia's voting rights were restored after members of the human rights watchdog reached agreement to resolve dispute and the overwhelming majority of the Council voted in favour of the restoration, in fear that millions of Russians could lose their access to the European Court of Human Rights. 
^"Did you know?". Retrieved 10 August 2018. English and French are the official languages of the Council of Europe. German, Italian and Russian are used as working languages.
^"Resolution 2208 (2018): Modification of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure: the impact of the budgetary crisis on the list of working languages of the Assembly". Retrieved 10 August 2018. The draconian reduction in the Assembly’s budget for 2018 and 2019, a consequence of Turkey’s decision to revert to its initial status of ordinary contributor to the Council of Europe budget, calls for drastic measures. ... In this context, the Assembly refers to the clear position it adopted, notably in Resolution 2058 (2015) on the allocation of seats in the Parliamentary Assembly with respect to Turkey, making the introduction of Turkish as a working language of the Assembly strictly conditional upon the Committee of Ministers’ decision to approve Turkey’s request to become a major contributor to the Council of Europe’s budget and to allocate the corresponding funds to the Assembly.
^"Values". The Council of Europe in brief. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
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