Council of Europe
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Council of Europe (/kɔ̃sɛj də løʁɔp/) is an international organization of 46 member states in the European region (with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia and Cyprus also extending into Southwest Asia and Russia into North Asia). Its most enduring legacy is the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1950, which serves as the basis for the European Court of Human Rights. English and French are its two official languages.
The seat of the Council of Europe is in Strasbourg on the Franco-German border. Originally meeting in Strasbourg's University Palace, it is now domiciled in the Palace of Europe about two kilometres from city centre. Membership is open to all European democracies which accept the principle of the rule of law and guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms to their citizens.
The Council of Europe was founded following a speech given by Winston Churchill at the University of Zürich on 19 September 1946 (text of speech) calling for a "United States of Europe", similar to the United States of America, in the wake of the events of World War II.
The Council was officially founded on 5 May 1949 by the Treaty of London, which established the Council of Europe. The Treaty of London was signed by ten states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Article 1(a) of the Statute states:
- 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.
The Council concentrates on the following areas:
- Protection of democracy and the rule of law
- Protection of human rights, notably:
- Social rights, with the European Social Charter
- Linguistic rights, with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
- Media freedom, with the European Convention on Human Rights
- Promotion of Europe's cultural identity and diversity, with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
- Monitoring member states' compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and promoting human rights through the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
- Addressing problems facing European society including discrimination, xenophobia, environmental degradation, AIDS, drugs and organised crime
- Encouraging democratic stability via reform.
The institutions of the Council of Europe are:
- The Secretariat and the Secretary-General
- The Committee of Ministers
- The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)
- The Congress of local and regional authorities of Europe (Congress)
- The European Court of Human Rights
- The Commissioner for Human Rights
The CoE system also includes a number of autonomous structures known as "partial agreements". Among them:
- The European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines
- 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 Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO).
The Council of Europe is responsible for the notable European flag with 12 golden stars (upward pointing) arranged in a circle on a blue background since 1955, and the anthem based on the Ode to Joy in the final movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth symphony since 1972. In 1964, it established the anniversary of its founding on 5 May 1949 as Europe Day. (The EU has also designated a Europe Day - May 9. See European Symbols.)
To avoid confusion with the European Union, which uses the same flag, the Council often uses a modified version with a stylised lower-case 'e' in the centre of the stars which is referred to as the 'Council of Europe Logo' .
Today, there are 46 member states, including nearly every European state. The only European countries without membership are the Holy See (which generally stays out of many international organizations by choice), Montenegro (which has only recently split from Serbia and Montenegro) and Belarus (which was denied membership due to a lack of democratic principles), although the latter two are official candidates. Upon foundation on May 5, 1949 there were ten members:
Members with later admission dates (sorted by date of admission):
- Greece (9 August 1949)
- Turkey (9 August 1949)
- Iceland (9 March 1950)
- Germany (13 July 1950) (West Germany until 1990)
- Austria (16 April 1956)
- Cyprus (24 May 1961)
- Switzerland (6 May 1963)
- Malta (29 April 1965)
- Portugal (22 September 1976)
- Spain (24 November 1977)
- Liechtenstein (23 November 1978)
- San Marino (16 November 1988)
- Finland (5 May 1989)
- Hungary (6 November 1990)
- Poland (26 November 1991)
- Bulgaria (7 May 1992)
- Estonia (14 May 1993)
- Lithuania (14 May 1993)
- Slovenia (14 May 1993)
- Czech Republic (30 June 1993)
- Slovakia (30 June 1993)
- Romania (7 October 1993)
- Andorra (10 October 1994)
- Latvia (10 February 1995)
- Albania (13 July 1995)
- Moldova (13 July 1995)
- Republic of Macedonia (9 November 1995) (referred to as former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
- Ukraine (9 November 1995)
- Russia (28 February 1996)
- Croatia (6 November 1996)
- Georgia (27 April 1999)
- Armenia (25 January 2001)
- Azerbaijan (25 January 2001)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (24 April 2002)
- Serbia (3 April 2003) (originally joined as Serbia and Montenegro, continued by Serbia 2006)
- Monaco (5 October 2004)
The Parliament of Belarus held special guest status with the Parliamentary Assembly from September 1992 to January 1997, but this has been suspended as a consequence of the November 1996 constitutional referendum and parliament by-elections which the CoE found to be undemocratic, as well as limits on democratic freedoms such as freedom of expression (cf. Belarusian media) under the authoritarian regime of President Lukashenko. The constitution changed by the referendum "does not respect minimum democratic standards and violates the principles of separation of powers and the rule of law." . Belarus applied for full membership on 12 March 1993 (still open).
Following its declaration of independence on 3 June 2006, Montenegro submitted a request to accede to (join) the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers transmitted the request to the Parliamentary Assembly for opinion, in accordance with the usual procedure.
Kazakhstan applied for observer status at the Parliamentary Assembly in 1999. The official response of PACE was that Kazakhstan could apply for full membership, because it is partially located in Europe, but that it would not be granted any status whatsoever at CoE until its democracy and human rights records improved.
Some non-European states also have observer status at Council of Europe institutions:
- Japan and the United States have observer status at the Committee of Ministers.
- Israel has observer status at the Parliamentary Assembly.
- Canada and Mexico have observer status at both the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.
 Membership of Germany and Saarland
In 1950 West Germany and Saarland became associate members. West Germany became a full member in 1951. Saarland withdrew from its independent membership in 1956. Saarland then integrated back into West Germany in 1957. East Germany never became a member, but its citizens gained representation in 1990 due to German reunification.
 See also
- European Union
- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
- Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
- European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages