• EU e-Privacy Directive

    This website uses cookies to manage authentication, navigation, and other functions. By using our website, you agree that we can place these types of cookies on your device.

    View Privacy Policy

Council of Europe

 Council of Europe

Name: Council of Europe

Acronym: COE
Year of foundation: 1949
Headquarters: Strasbourg, France
COE documents: go to page
Official website: go to page

COE Parliamentary Assembly
European Court of Human Rights



Founded on 5 May 1949 by 10 countries, the Council of Europe (CoE) now covers virtually the entire European Continent, with its 47 European members countries.
The primary aims of this institution are promotion of the main principles of the Human Rights and the creation a common democratic and legal area in the whole of the continent so to reach, everywhere, the respect of the fundamental values of a civilized society: this outcome is indispensable for European stability, economic growth and social cohesion.
In this direction, the idea of shared solution to major problems such as terrorism, organized crime and corruption cyber crime, bioethics and cloning, violence against children and women, trafficking in human beings is the fundamental way to solve the difficulties of societies in these fields, so that the cooperation between all the member states is a really important tool.


Member States


The Council of Europe has 47 member states, namely:






 5 May 1949

United Kingdom



 9 August 1949



 Greece and Turkey also considered as founders of the organization.

 7 March 1950


 Full member


 13 July 1950


 Full member

 In 1950, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), and then French-occupied Saar (protectorate) became associate members. (West) Germany became a full member in 1951, while the Saarland withdrew from its associate membership in 1956 after acceding to the Federal Republic after a referendum in 1955. The Soviet-occupied Eastern part of Germany and later East German Democratic Republic never became a member of the Council of Europe. Through German reunification in 1990, the five Länder of East Germany acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany and thus gained representation in the Council of Europe.

16 April 1956


Full member


24 May 1961


Full member


6 May 1963


Full member


29 April 1965


Full member


22 September 1976


Full member


24 November 1977


Full member


23 November 1978


Full member


16 November 1988

San Marino

Full member


5 May 1989


Full member


6 November 1990


Full member


26 November 1991


Full member


7 May 1992


Full member


14 May 1993


Full members


30 June 1993

Czech Republic

Full members

From 21 January 1991 to 31 December 1992 the two countries were one member as Czechoslovakia.

7 October 1993


Full member


10 November 1994


Full member


10 February 1995


Full member


13 July 1995


Full members


9 November 1995


Full members

Macedonia joined under the provisional reference “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

28 February 1996


Full member


6 November 1996


Full member


27 April 1999


Full member


25 January 2001


Full members


24 April 2002

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Full member


3 April 2003


Full member

Originally joined as Serbia and Montenegro.

5 October 2004


Full member


11 May 2007


Full member






10 January 1996

United States



29 May 1996




20 November 1996




1 December 1999





Holy See




The observers may can participate in the Committee of Ministers and all intergovernmental committees. They may contribute financially to the activities of the Council of Europe on a voluntary basis.
Moreover, the parliaments of Canada, Israel and Mexico have observer status with the Parliamentary Assembly and their delegations can participate in Assembly sessions and committee meetings.
Representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council may participate in Assembly debates concerning the Middle East as well as Turkish representatives from Northern Cyprus concerning this island.
Belarus and Kazakhstan are candidate countries, having presented their application respectively in 1993 and 1999.

Brief History

Founded in 1949 the Council of Europe is one of the oldest and the biggest European organizations, which unifies 47 member states and promotion of the main principles of the Human Rights.
The proposal of its creation was made by Winston Churchill, who, in his speech of 19 September 1946 in Zurich, stated that what the Old Continent needed was “a remedy which, as if by miracle, would transform the whole scene and in a few years make all Europe as free and happy as Switzerland is today. We must build a kind of United States of Europe”. The first act in this direction was the organization of the Hague Congress, on 7 May 1948, remembered as “The Congress of Europe”.

The Hague Congress

The Hague Congress was attended by more than a thousand delegates from some twenty countries, together with a large number of observers, among them political and religious figures, academics, writers and journalists.
The aims of the Congress was to demonstrate the breadth of the movements in favor of European unification and to determine the objectives which must be met in order to achieve such a union. A series of resolutions was adopted at the end of the Congress, calling, amongst other things, for the creation of an economic and political union to guarantee security, economic independence and social progress, the establishment of a consultative assembly elected by national parliaments, the drafting of a European charter of human rights and the setting up of a court to enforce its decisions. All the themes around which
Europe was to be built were already sketched out in this initial project. The Congress also revealed the divergences, which were soon to divide unconditional supporters of a European federation (France and Belgium) from those who favored simple inter-governmental co-operation, such as Great Britain, Ireland and the Scandinavian countries.

The Birth of the Council of Europe

On 5 May 1949, in St James’s Palace, London, the treaty constituting the Statute of the Council of Europe was signed by ten countries: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, accompanied by Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The first major convention was drawn up: the European Convention on Human Rights signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and coming into force on 3 September 1953.
The new organization satisfied a very wide range of public opinion, which saw in it an instrument through which the various political tendencies, and the essential aspirations of the peoples of
Europe, could be expressed.
In the meanwhile, Robert Schuman made his famous Declaration for the creation of
European Coal and Steel Community, whose Treaty was signed in Paris on 18 April 1951 by six countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany: beside the “Greater Europe”, a “Smaller Europe” started a new experience.

First Works

From 1949 to 1970, other 8 European countries joined the CoE founder members: Greece, Iceland, Turkey, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Switzerland and Malta.
In the same period, the organization gradually developed its structure and its major institutions. Thus, the first public hearing of the
European Court of Human Rights took place in 1960. These years also saw the introduction of the first specialized ministerial conferences; by the early 1970s they had been extended to cover a wide range of areas. The first, in 1959, brought together European ministers responsible for social and family affairs. On 18 October 1961, the European Social Charter was signed in Rome: a text which the Council sees as the counterpart of the European Convention on Human Rights in the social domain. The Charter came into force on 26 February 1965.
In 1961 the Council established the Council for
Cultural Co-operation, which non-Council of Europe member states were allowed to join from the outset.


The Council of Europe’s first major political crisis came in 1967 when the Greek colonels installed an authoritarian regime which openly contravened the democratic principles defended by the organization. On 12 December 1969, just a few hours before a decision would have been taken to exclude Greece, the colonels’ regime anticipated matters by denouncing the European Convention on Human Rights and withdrawing from the Council of Europe. It did not return until five years later, on 28 November 1974 after the fall of the last dictatorship in Western Europe and the restoration of democracy. In the meantime, the Cypriot crisis, which broke out in the summer of 1974 and culminated in the partitioning of the island after Turkish military intervention, represented a fairly negative experience for the Council of Europe, whose discreet efforts to broker a solution, alongside those of the United Nations’ Secretary General, were not crowned with success.
22 September 1976 Portugal Joined the Council of Europe after 48 years of Salazarist dictatorship, while the death of General Franco in 1975 eventually led to Spain’s accession on 24 November 1977.
A new crisis arose in 1981 when the Parliamentary Assembly withdrew the Turkish parliamentary delegation’s right to their seats in response to the military coup d’état a few weeks earlier. The Turkish delegation only resumed its place in 1984 after the holding of free elections.

The Eastern Bloc

In the second half of the Eighties, the Council of Europe was naturally delighted by the process of democratization set in motion in the East, together with the economic and social reforms introduced in the name of perestroika by the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
6 July 1989 Mikhail Gorbachev chose the Council of Europe to put forward a new disarmament proposal (unilateral reduction of short-range nuclear missiles), to promote the idea of a Common European Home (non-use of force, renunciation of the Brezhnev doctrine and maintenance of socialism), and to discuss human rights (albeit without referring to the European Convention).
In the same period, the Council of Europe started to open its gates very carefully. In 1989, the Parliamentary Assembly established the very selective special guest status for the national assemblies of countries willing to apply the
Helsinki final act and the United Nations Covenant on Human Rights. The status was immediately granted to the assemblies of Hungary, Poland, USSR and Yugoslavia and opened the way to the full accession of the former Soviet bloc countries.
The fall of the Berlin Wall provided the opportunity for the Council of Europe’s Secretary General to state, on 23 November, that the Council was the only organization capable of encompassing all the countries of
Europe, once they had adopted democratic rules.
The historical changes of 80s’ last decade, especially the dismantling of an
Iron Curtain marked the start of the organization’s new political role.
The policy of opening up and enlargement was confirmed and extended during the summit held in
Vienna on 8 and 9 October 1993. The summit also identified three priorities, starting with the reform of the European Convention on Human Rights machinery to make it more expeditious and effective. This is the subject of the Convention’s Protocol no 11. The Vienna summit also laid great emphasis on the protection of national minorities, which was to lead to the adoption of a framework convention less than two years later, and combating intolerance.
Thus with its new-found role of offering a home to all the countries of Europe willing to opt for democracy, thereby establishing a continent-wide democratic security area, the Council of Europe has used the years since Vienna to develop and refine the undertakings which any applicant country for membership must be willing to accept.

The Council of Europe Nowadays

The arrival of the Russian Federation in February 1996 meant that the institution had finally become fully pan-European. The Council’s activities are now having to adapt to an environment that is not only wider and more diverse but also more complex and less stable. This is changing the nature of its co-operation programmes.

Support and monitoring activities are being strengthened. New priorities are emerging such as migration, corruption, the right to be granted nationality, social exclusion and minorities. The dual machinery for protecting human rights was replaced on 1 November 1998 by a single Court.


CoE Structure and Decision-making Procedures

The institutions of the Council of Europe are the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General, the Congress of the Council of Europe, the Council of Europe are the European Court of Human Rights, the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Conference of NGOs, and the information Offices of the Council of Europe in many member states.

The CoE system also includes a number of semi-autonomous structures known as “Partial Agreements”, some of which are also open to non-member states: the Council of Europe Development Bank; the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines with its European Pharmacopoeia; the European Audiovisual Observatory; the European Support Fund Eurimages for the co-production and distribution of films; the Pompidou Group - Cooperation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Drugs; the European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission; the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO); the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA) which is a platform for co-operation between European and Southern Mediterranean countries in the field of major natural and technological disasters; the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Sport, which is open to accession by states and sport associations; the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe in Lisbon; and the Centre for Modern Languages is in Graz (Austria).
The official languages of the Council of Europe are English and French. The Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary assembly and the Congress also use German, Italian an Russian for some of their works.

The Committee of Ministers

The Committee of Ministers is composed of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of its 47 member states who are represented by their Permanent Representatives and Ambassadors accredited to the Council of Europe. Committee of Ministers’ presidencies are held in alphabetical order for six months following the English alphabet. It is the only institution mandated to act on the organization’s behalf. It is responsible for the member state’s accessions to, and if necessary, expulsion from the regional organization. In consultation with the Assembly, the CM has the authority to admit new members who are “able and willing to fulfill the provisions of Article 3”.

The Parliamentary Assembly

Initially named the “Consultative Assembly”, the Parliamentary Assembly changed the name in 1974. It is the “oldest international pluralist assembly established on the basis of an international treaty”.
It comprises national parliamentarians from all member states and elects its President for a year with the possibility of being re-elected for another year. National parliamentary delegations to the Assembly must reflect the political spectrum of their national parliament, i.e. comprise government and opposition parties. The Assembly appoints members as rapporteurs with the mandate to prepare parliamentary reports on specific subjects.

The Secretary General

The Secretary General is elected for a term of five years by the Parliamentary Assembly and heads the Secretariat of the Council of Europe.

The Congress of the Council of Europe

The Congress of the Council of Europe (Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe) was created in 1994 and comprises political representatives from local and regional authorities in all member states. The most influential instruments of the Council of Europe in this field are the European Charter of Local Self-Government of 1985 and the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities of 1980.

The European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights, created under the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, is composed of a judge from each member state elected for a renewable term of six years by the Parliamentary Assembly and is headed by the elected President of the Court. Under the new Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights, the terms of office of judges shall be nine years but non-renewable.

The Commissioner for Human Rights

The Commissioner for Human Rights is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly for a non-renewable term of six years since the creation of this position in 1999.

The Conference of NGOs

NGOs can participate in the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe. Since the [Resolution (2003)8] adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 19 November 2003, they are given a “participatory status”.

The Joint Committee

Created in May 1951, the Joint Committee coordinates the activities between the Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly.
Membership of representatives from the CE’s member states, and a corresponding number of representatives from the Assembly.

©2001 - 2020 - Centro Studi sul Federalismo - Codice Fiscale 94067130016