The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental consultative organisation. Founded in 1949, it seeks to ensure that fundamental values such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law are respected throughout Europe. It is thus Europe’s oldest 'watchdog' on human rights.
The Council has 47 member countries and represents 800 million people, thus covering almost the entire European continent (with the exception of Belarus). All 28 EU countries are members.
The EU and the CoE work together to promote and protect human rights, democratic values and the rule of law. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) lies at the heart of both organisations' activities. Art 6(2) of the Treaty of the EU states that the EU shall accede to the ECHR. Negotiations for EU accession were launched in 2010.
The framework for this relationship was defined in the EU-Council of Europe Memorandum of Understanding concluded in 2007. The document confirms that the Council of Europe is the benchmark in Europe for human rights, the rule of law and democracy. It also underlines the need for coherence between the legal norms of both organisations in the field of human rights. High level meetings – called High Level Political Dialogues – and Senior Official Meetings take place every year to discuss the most urgent issues in Europe, as well as progress in EU-Council of Europe relations.
Every two years, the EU adopts its "Priorities for cooperation with the Council of Europe [46 KB] ". These confirm that cooperation between the two organisations should continue to be channelled through political dialogue, legal cooperation and assistance through joint programmes.
Since 1992, the EU and the Council of Europe have implemented over 180 joint projects in countries bordering the EU (the Western Balkans and Turkey, the EU's Eastern Partners, countries in the Southern Mediterranean and Central Asia).
Cooperation with the Council of Europe is particularly important when it comes to promote and protect human rights, democratic values and the rule of law.
Every two years, the EU adopts its "Priorities for cooperation with the Council of Europe ". This document focuses on specific priorities on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, for geographic as well as thematic cooperation and on transversal issues, such as the shrinking space of civil society in some countries. In the field of human rights priorities for cooperation include in particular: freedom of expression and assembly, fight against discrimination (ROMA, freedom of religion or belief, rights of the child, LGBTI, violence against women, trafficking in human beings). The EU's Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy also highlights the cooperation with the Council of Europe, for example when it comes to the fight against torture. The close cooperation between the EU and the Council of Europe includes political dialogue at high level, legal cooperation, and assistance through joint programmes.