The Council of Europe is the continent´s most leading human rights organization. It compromises 47 member states, including all the members of the European Union. It was founded in 1949 and is the oldest international organization in Europe. All Council of Europe members have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It is the intention of the members to establish and safeguard the ideals and principles that are their common heritage, in accordance with the Statute of the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe was founded in London on May 5, 1949 by Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Great Britain through the London Treaty Pact. This makes it the oldest political organization in Europe. As early as 1946, the British opposition leader Winston Churchill had spoken out in favor of a kind of United States of Europe. In addition to the economic OEEC and military cooperation in NATO, the political unification of the continent took concrete forms with the Council of Europe.
The two main bodies of the Council of Europe are the Committee of Ministers, in which the member states are represented by their foreign ministers, and the Parliamentary Assembly, to which the member states’ parliaments send representatives.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe forms the third pillar of the Council of Europe alongside the parliamentary assembly and the Committee of Ministers and is an advisory body.
Both bodies are supported by a secretariat led by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. This is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly. The European Court of Human Rights is affiliated to the Council of Europe and monitors compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
- Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of United Kingdom)
- Konrad Adenauer (Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany)
- Robert Schumann (French Republic Minister for Foreign Affairs)
- Paul-Henri Spaak (Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium in the 40s and 50s)
- Alcide de Gasperi (Prime Minister of the Republic of Italy)
- Ernest Bevin (United Kingdom Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs)
These builders of Europe were the people who launched the process of European construction by founding the Council of Europe in 1949 and setting up the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1950 and the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957.
These men of dialogue, who had lived through two world wars and had first-hand experience of a number of European cultures, were the pioneers of a Europe of peace founded on the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The seat of the Council of Europe is in Strasbourg in the Palace of Europe. Europe Day is celebrated on May 5th every year.