The European Union's Relations with the Council of Europe

The European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe have a long tradition of co-operation which draws on their fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Each benefits from the other’s comparative advantages, competences and expertise, whilst avoiding unneeded duplication.

Since 1992, in pursuit of common goals with regard to the promotion of democratic values, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Europe, the EU and the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU) have started their cooperation through joint programmes. They also aim to address education, social affaires and cultural diversity.

In 2005, the Warsaw Summit invited Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, to prepare a report on the relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union in order to commence political debate on how the two Organisations could cooperate more effectively. Following the presentation of his report, "A sole ambition for the European continent   ", in April 2006, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the CoE and the EU  in May 2007.

 The signature of the Memorandum brought a new drive to relations between the two organizations. Political and technical cooperation has further developed, both from a quantitative and a qualitative point of view. In 2011 two meetings of the High-level political dialogue took place between EU High Representative Ashton, CoE Secretary General Jagland and respectively the Turkish and the Ukrainian Chairman of the CoE Committee of Ministers. The opening of the EU Delegation to the Council of Europe on 1 September 2010 has contributed to this trend.

Cooperation is quite diversified and includes activities ranging from the regular exchange of information to the use of the Council of Europe monitoring mechanisms as a useful source of information in a number of areas of interest for the European Union and to the organization of joint activities. In 2010, 53 joint programmes were active and continued to be the largest source of funding sustaining CoE technical assistance and cooperation projects in support of democratic reforms in the countries of South Eastern and Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Turkey (EU funded 84 % of the total amount of 87,6 million euros). This form of cooperation, based on complementarity and coherence, brings added value, and relies on each other’s strengths for the benefit of all Europeans.

Cooperation has recently been enhanced in the field of the European Neighbourhood Policy, especially within the EU initiative on Eastern Partnership, where the Council of Europe has been invited to participate in the multilateral platforms on "Democracy, Good Governance and Stability" and on "Contacts between people". A specific financial instrument has been designed (“facility”) allowing the CoE expertise to be deployed in Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) in fields such as judiciary reform, fight against corruption, cybercrime and (pre-)electoral assistance. There are plans to increase the cooperation also beyond the Council of Europe borders, in the Southern Mediterranean and Central Asia.

The Memorandum of Understanding   provides a new framework for this co-operation. It confirms the role of the Council of Europe as the standard for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe, states the need for coherence between the two Organisations’ legal foundations in the fields of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and encourages the Council of Europe and the European Union to work with greater unity in the future.