UPDATE: The Council of Europe


By Sophie Lobey


Sophie Lobey holds a Master of International Trade and Finance (Paris, 1992) from "Institut Supérieur de Gestion" (Advanced Institute of Management). She has worked for about 20 years for Council of Europe Publishing, and is responsible for the Council of Europe Public Relations and Publications Section since 2003.


Published July/August 2016

(Previously updated in Sept./Oct. 2007 and Sept. 2013)

See the Archive Version!


Table of Contents

1.      An Overview

2.     Institutions

3.     The Conventions        

3.1     Human Rights

3.2    Society

3.3    Minority Rights

3.4    Crime

3.5    Health

3.6    Environment

4.     Monitoring Bodies

5.     The Rule of Law

6.     Partial Agreements

7.     Campaigns and Projects

8.     European Union and Council of Europe Co-operation

9.     Global Co-operation

10.   Council of Europe Member States

11.    Council of Europe Observer States

12.   Glossary of Terms

13.   Resource Material


1.     An Overview

The Council of Europe is an international organisation with 47 member states whose founding principles are human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These values are the basis of all of the work carried out within the Organisation in order to build a stable, tolerant and functional Europe.


Nurturing Europe’s cultural identity and diversity while achieving democratic stability through political, legislative and constitutional reform are at the heart of this process. The European Convention on Human Rights is the cornerstone of this work and remains as strong as ever in its role as a powerful protector of essential freedoms.


It has successfully developed a rights protection system, best known for the European Court of Human Rights. The court was established under the European Convention of Human Rights which is the cornerstone of the organisation works and a powerful protector of essential freedoms. The court oversees the implementation of the Convention in the 47 member states. Individuals can bring complaints of human rights violation to the Strasbourg Court once all possibilities of appeal have been exhausted in the member state concerned.


The Council of Europe was set up in 1949, in the wake of the Second World War, to ensure the political reconstruction of Europe, based on a set of fundamental values whose negation had brought the continent to its knees. Currently, the Council of Europe continues to reaffirm its steadfast commitment to protecting these values and is constantly evolving to match the changing international climate. It is mindful of the threats posed by the current financial, institutional and social crises compounded by an undermining of citizens’ trust and confidence due to corruption and political misconduct.


Through dialogue and co-operation, the Council of Europe is striving to maintain citizens’ faith in the rule of law by concluding new treaties in areas such as international terrorism, human trafficking, violence against women, sexual abuse of children, cybercrime, data protection, etc.  It is also urging member states’ governments to implement its recommendations. Furthermore, the Organization has extensive relations with observer states, including USA, and non-member states.


Current key priorities include:


·       Fighting corruption

·       Helping governments implement judicial reforms

·       Protecting freedom of expression and the media

·       Fighting intolerance and hate speech

·       Promoting diversity

·       Protecting minorities


2.     Institutions








3.     The Conventions

The Council of Europe upholds human rights and democracy through international conventions. These are legally binding agreements by which member states are bound to abide once they have signed and ratified them. States’ policies are regularly reviewed to ensure that they are in compliance. The Council of Europe has produced over 200 treaties to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law.


3.1. Human Rights




·       Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse: It was the first instrument to criminalise the various types of sexual abuse of children, including abuse committed at home or in the family. The objective of this convention is to prevent sexual offences while protecting victims and ensuring that perpetrators are prosecuted. This includes the screening, recruitment and training of people who work with children while making children aware of the risks and teaching them to protect themselves, as well as monitoring measures for offenders and potential offenders.


·       Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence: This establishes guidelines to eliminate such acts and bring perpetrators to justice. It aims to protect women from violence and seeks to change attitudes to work towards gender equality.  It is not only women who suffer domestic violence, parties to the convention are encouraged to apply the protective framework to men, children and the elderly who are exposed to violence within the family or domestic unit. However, it should not be overlooked that the majority of victims of domestic violence are women and that it is part of a wider pattern of discrimination and inequality.


·       The European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings: This convention is a comprehensive treaty focusing mainly on the protection of victims of trafficking and the safeguarding of their rights. It also aims to prevent trafficking and to prosecute traffickers. In addition, it provides for the establishment of an effective and independent monitoring mechanism capable of controlling the implementation of the obligations contained within it.


3.2. Society




3.3. Minority Rights




3.4. Crime







3.5. Health



·       Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs (2015): The Convention calls on governments to establish as a criminal offence the illegal removal of human organs from living or deceased donors where the removal is performed without the free, informed and specific consent of the living or deceased donor, or, in the case of the deceased donor, without the removal being authorised under its domestic law;  where, in exchange for the removal of organs, the living donor, or a third party, receives a financial gain or comparable advantage; where in exchange for the removal of organs from a deceased donor, a third party receives a financial gain or comparable advantage. The Convention also provides protection measures and compensation for victims as well as prevention measures to ensure transparency and equitable access to transplantation services.




3.6. Environment




4.     Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms








5.     The Rule of Law

Protecting and promoting the rule of law is one of the cornerstones of the Council of Europe, which works to ensure justice and develop common standards in the field. It actively encourages member states to implement these standards in their national law-enforcement bodies. The Council of Europe’s main mechanisms to ensure respect for the rule of law are:


·       The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice: The work of the CEPEJ is focused on developing management tools, best practice and guidelines for improving the quality and efficiency of justice. It regularly publishes a report on the evaluation of European judicial systems.


·       The Consultative Council of European Judges is an advisory body of the Council of Europe on issues related to the independence, impartiality and competence of judges. It is the first body within an international organization to be composed exclusively of judges. The Consultative Council of European Prosecutors.


6.     Partial Agreements

A partial agreement allows certain Council of Europe member states to work together in pursuit of goals that might not necessarily be relevant or acceptable to all countries. Only those member states involved in the agreements contribute to their financing and development.


The partial agreements are important in establishing and maintaining close co-operation between member states on a range on specific issues. These partial agreements include:


·       The Venice Commission (European Commission for Democracy through Law): The Venice Commission is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters. With 60 members worldwide, it provides legal advice to its member states and, in particular, to help states wishing to bring their legal and institutional structures into line with European standards and international experience in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It also helps to ensure the dissemination and consolidation of a common constitutional heritage, playing a unique role in conflict management, and provides “emergency constitutional aid” to states in transition. It is composed of constitutional and international law experts and is recognised as an international independent legal think-tank. USA has observer status in this commission.









7.     Campaigns and Projects

The Council of Europe undertakes a wide range of campaigns and projects in order to promote its fundamental principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These are a vital tool for raising awareness on key issues and fostering co-operation and communication within and between member states.








8.    European Union and Council of Europe Co-operation

Do not get confused, the European Union and the Council of Europe are separate organisations which share the same fundamental values–human rights democracy and the rule of law but have yet complementary roles.






9.     Global Co-operation (Non-Member States):

The Council of Europe is constantly reaching out to non-member states, many of whom are parties to treaties or partial agreements, in order to widen its scope of action and promote its fundamental values on an international level. The Council of Europe also has five states which have observer status with the Organisation: the Holy See (1970), the United States of America, Canada and Japan (1996) and Mexico (1999).


Relations with non-member states across the world enable the Council of Europe’s activities to reach all corners of the globe. More than 45 non-member states are parties to Council of Europe conventions, or associated with it as members or observers of or participants in partial agreements such as the Venice Commission and the North-South Centre. More and more of the Council of Europe's legal instruments are drawn up in consultation with interested non-member states.





10.  Council of Europe Member States

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.


11.   Council of Europe Observer States

Canada, the Holy See, Japan, Mexico and the United States of America.


12.  Glossary of Terms










13.  Resource Material

The following links give access to complete Council of Europe documents including working papers, press releases, newsletters, Court judgments and adopted texts. The list combines websites, general repositories, libraries and information centres. There is no loan service.








o   Documentation and Case-Law on the European Convention on Human Rights;

o   International Public Law;

o   Constitutional Law.











o   various European Pharmacopoeia publications (official editions as well as Pharmeuropa and its special issues);

o   a wide collection of national pharmacopoeias from all over the world;

o   scientific and technical reference thesis in the field of the quality of medicines;

o   specialised magazines on research and pharmacy.






o   the publications and workshop reports of the ECML;

o   materials relating to the major focuses of the Centre (e.g., organisation and setting up of language learning and teaching, language awareness, intercultural competence, language education and ICT, quality assurance, learner autonomy, bilingual education, early language learning);

o   reference and specialised multimedia resources, publications of the Council of Europe Language Policy Division, international organisations and national and cultural institutions of the Member States of the ECML.







o   Strategies and capacity building for Global Education;

o   Training and capacity building for youth and youth organizations;

o   Intercultural Dialogue;

o   Human Rights, Democratic Governance and Development;

o   Migrations and co-development.