The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Council of Europe

The Palace of Europe in Strasbourg
The Palace of Europe in Strasbourg

The Council of Europe is an international organisation of 46 member states in the European region. Membership is open to all European states which accept the principle of the rule of law and guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms to their citizens.

One of the main successes of the Council was the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950, which serves as the basis for the European Court of Human Rights.

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 on the outskirts of the city centre.

The Council of Europe is not to be confused with the Council of the European Union or the European Council, as it is a separate organisation and not part of the European Union.



The Council of Europe was founded following a speech given by Winston Churchill at the University of Zurich 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 when the ten original members signed the statute of Westminster. This treaty is now known as the Statute of the Council of Europe.


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:


The institutions of the Council of Europe are:

There's also the European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission .


Main article: European symbols

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.

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' [1].


Today, there are 46 member states (nearly all of the European states. Map [2]). Upon foundation on May 5, 1949 there were ten members:

Members with later admission dates (sorted by date of admission) :

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 undemocratic constitutional referendum and parliament by-elections and limits on democratic freedoms (e.g. 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." [3]. Belarus applied for full membership on 12 March 1993 (still open).

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 they would not be granted any status whatsoever at CoE until their democracy and human rights records improved.

The Vatican City has observer status at the Committee of Ministers since 1970.

Some non-European states also have observer status at Council of Europe institutions:

Japan and the USA 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 .

See also

External links

Last updated: 06-02-2005 05:10:34
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