the Council of Europe
The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 by ten like-minded Western European countries, including Sweden. The atrocities of the Second World War and experiences of totalitarian regimes had resulted in an awareness of the need for reconciliation and cooperation to safeguard democracy, respect for human rights and the principles of the rule of law. The Council of Europe currently has 47 member countries.
All European countries except Belarus are members of the Council of Europe. The Council’s principle tasks remain the same as when the organisation was founded in 1949 by ten countries. By safeguarding the rights of the individual, the organisation will contribute to peace, stability and security in Europe. It is worth noting that the Council of Europe is not an EU institution. On the other hand, over half of the member countries of the Council of Europe are also Member States of the EU.
The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights) was adopted in 1950. The Convention initially included only civil and political rights, but has been subsequently expanded over the years through the introduction of several additional protocols.
The European Convention on Human Rights is an effective instrument for the protection of human rights. The unique ability to monitor compliance with the Convention is made possible by the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950)
European Court of Human Rights
The Council of Europe is perhaps best known for its institution, the European Court of Human Rights. This is where individuals in the member countries can lodge a complaint when they feel that their national judicial system has not protected their human rights as established by the European Convention on Human Rights.
A major problem threatening to undermine this protection is the increasing volume of complaints being lodged at the European Court of Human Rights and the growing number of cases the Court must handle. To address these problems, efforts to reform the Council have been underway for some time. The reform efforts aim to both streamline the monitoring system and ensure that Member States fully respect their commitments made under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Since 1999 the Council of Europe has had a Commissioner for Human Rights who works to increase awareness and respect of human rights in the Member States of the EU. The current Commissioner is Nils Muiznieks of Latvia, who succeeded Thomas Hammarberg of Sweden.
Read more about the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights
European Social Charter
Parallel to the Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe developed a European Social Charter, which was adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996. The Charter outlines, in the form of rights, provisions concerning labour market policy, working conditions, worker protection, the right to organise, the right to bargain collectively, the right to social security and social assistance, family policy, etc. Countries’ compliance with the Charter is monitored through a reporting procedure and a collective complaints procedure, which certain organisations in the social area have the right to utilise to safeguard the interests of their members.
The conventions have also been adopted within the framework of the Council of Europe, including conventions on migration, refugees, extradition, terrorism, national minorities and torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Read more about the European Social Charter