The Council of Europe has nothing to do with the EU. Here's what it is

French President Emmanuel Macron before a meeting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, eastern France, Oct. 31, 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron before a meeting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, eastern France, Oct. 31, 2017. Copyright Christian Hartmann, Pool via AP
By Euronews
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The body, which counts 46 countries as members, is the oldest political organisation in Europe and was created three years before the European Coal and Steel Community.


There are three bodies in Europe with more or less the same name that make things very confusing for people.

These are the European Council, the Council of the European Union, and the Council of Europe.

Unlike the other two, the latter has nothing to do with the EU.

It is an organisation founded in 1949 — three years before the birth of the European Coal and Steel Community which eventually evolved into the EU — to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe.

Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, and Robert Schuman were among the 10 leaders who attended the first meeting.

Now, the Council of Europe counts 46 countries from Iceland to Azerbaijan. 

The organisation's most notable achievements include the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

On a day-by-day basis, it tracks whether members are implementing key treaties, including the European conventions on Human Rights, on the Prevention of Terrorism, against Trafficking in Human Beings, and against Racism and Intolerance, and suggests reforms to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law. 

This is done through several bodies including a Committee of Ministers, a parliamentary assembly comprised of national parliamentarians from all countries, and a Commissioner for Human Rights. 

But the Council has been criticised for failing to rein in countries backsliding on democratic values, most notably because it lacks the tools to punish or force members to respect court rulings.#

Still, Russia was excluded in March 2022 following an extraordinary meeting of the Committee of Ministers over its invasion of Ukraine. 

In an Opinion, they said that Russia's invasion violated the obligations and commitments it had made upon becoming a member. They also deplored "evidence of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law" such as attacks against civilian targets, indiscriminate use of artillery, attacks on humanitarian corridors and hostage-taking. 

It was the first time a member was expulsed from the organisation. 

Greece's military junta withdrew from the Council after the 1967 military coup. Russia's voting rights had meanwhile previously been suspended, from 2000 to 2001 because of the Second Chechen War and in 2014 following its illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

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