Every two years, the Council of the European Union adopts EU priorities for cooperation with the Council of Europe. Our priorities for the next biennium, 2020-2022, can be found here. Our general lines of cooperation cover the three fundamental dimensions: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The EU is founded on the values of human dignity, equality and respect for human rights. These values are found both in the Treaty on the European Union and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Promoting human rights is a central feature of EU policy, both internally and in its external relations. Today’s human rights promotion is relevant for nearly all fields, including contemporary issues such as artificial intelligence and the environment.
The EU continues to support the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe Conventions system as the principal instruments for defending human rights in Europe. The EU is fully committed to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights as this would strengthen the protection of human rights through the creation of a single European legal space. The EU is also actively promoting the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence (also known as the Istanbul Convention), the international benchmark in this area, that was signed by the EU in 2017. The EU further cooperates with the Council of Europe in promoting global standards of strong data protection.
Values widely shared in Europe listed on a board during a conference on democratic culture in Podgorica, in the framework of the Horizontal Facility II joint programme, March 2020
One of the fundamental aims of the EU is to nurture, protect and strengthen democracy. Today we are living in a world where democracy is being increasingly challenged. While democracy stands strong in many countries, others are falling victim to growing trends towards authoritarianism. The current challenges are multifold and we need to counter them in a swift, well-targeted and comprehensive manner. The more democratic its system of government, the more inclusive and equal a society will be. Therefore, the EU benefits greatly from the Venice Commission's expertise on democracy through law, in particular with regards to the improvement and reform of constitutional standards both within the EU and in the enlargement areas and European Neighbourhood Policy countries. The EU holds regular exchanges with the Venice Commission, for instance to ensure that the Venice Commission's legal opinions and the recommendations of the EU Election Observation Missions are mutually reinforcing. In addition, the EU and the Council of Europe are cooperating closely to increase the participation and representation of women and young people in public and political life, in line with the principles of modern inclusive democracies.
Voter casting a ballot during elections for the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia, October 2011. The EU was present with an Election Observation Mission on the ground.
Rule of Law
The rule of law is a prerequisite for the fulfilment and consolidation of the other fundamental values of human rights and democracy. Therefore, the EU has redoubled its commitment to upholding the rule of law. In this context, the EU has strengthened its cooperation with the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and in July 2019 became an observer to the group. The EU’s participation in GRECO as an observer facilitates our joint work on capacity-building and the implementation of standards and norms intended to strengthen the rule of law and the fight against corruption, such as the protection of whistle-blowers.
Meeting between EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders and Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić in Brussels, February 2020
The EU's commitment to fostering the rule of law extends to the enlargement countries and the EU’s neighbourhood, where it is cooperating with the Council of Europe to support states in carrying out essential judicial reforms, for instance through the Dashboard Western Balkans, which is provided under the aegis of the joint programme Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022.
Furthermore, the EU draws on the Council of Europe’s standards and methodology when producing the EU Justice Scoreboard which provides comparable data on the independence, quality and efficiency of national justice systems in order to help the EU achieve and provide more effective justice.