The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental consultative organisation. Founded in 1949, it seeks to ensure that fundamental values such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law are respected throughout Europe. It is thus Europe’s oldest 'watchdog' on human rights.
The Council has 47 member countries and represents 800 million people, thus covering almost the entire European continent (with the exception of Belarus). All 28 EU countries are members.
The EU and the CoE work together to promote and protect human rights, democratic values and the rule of law. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) lies at the heart of both organisations' activities. Art 6(2) of the Treaty of the EU states that the EU shall accede to the ECHR. Negotiations for EU accession were launched in 2010.
The framework for this relationship was defined in the EU-Council of Europe Memorandum of Understanding concluded in 2007. The document confirms that the Council of Europe is the benchmark in Europe for human rights, the rule of law and democracy. It also underlines the need for coherence between the legal norms of both organisations in the field of human rights. High level meetings – called High Level Political Dialogues – and Senior Official Meetings take place every year to discuss the most urgent issues in Europe, as well as progress in EU-Council of Europe relations.
Every two years, the EU adopts its "Priorities for cooperation with the Council of Europe [46 KB] ". These confirm that cooperation between the two organisations should continue to be channelled through political dialogue, legal cooperation and assistance through joint programmes.
Since 1992, the EU and the Council of Europe have implemented over 180 joint projects in countries bordering the EU (the Western Balkans and Turkey, the EU's Eastern Partners, countries in the Southern Mediterranean and Central Asia).