Council of Europe
The Council of Europe was established on 5 May 1949. The Netherlands was among the founding nations – unusually, for such a small country. The aim of the Council was to promote the interests of democracy and human rights throughout Europe.
The Council has its seat in the French city of Strasbourg and is not a part of the European Union. Though it may sound confusing, the distinction is fairly simple. The Council of Europe encompasses all the countries of Europe, including Russia, Turkey, Macedonia and the other former Yugoslav countries, Moldavia, et cetera, et cetera. It includes 47 countries in all, with their populations totalling 800 million inhabitants, who are all members of the Council of Europe. In other words, it’s a big organization…
So what does the Council of Europe do? Its main task is to foster unity among the member states. Its goal is equal rights and equal opportunities throughout all Europe. The Council uses treaties to achieve this: all the countries of Europe are required to place their signature under these treaties and to commit themselves to upholding them.
The most important treaty concluded by the Council of Europe is the European Convention on Human Rights, or ECHR, which provides that every European citizen is entitled to a fair trial and punishment. Among other things, this means that torture and capital punishment are outlawed in Europe. The European Court of Human Rights has been established to ensure that all member countries comply with these common laws.