Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law are the Council of Europe’s fundamental values. On 5 May 1949 ten states (Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) signed the Treaty of London. The last Council of Europe’s political mandate was defined in May 2005 by the third Summit of Heads of State and Government, held in Warsaw. As people are more aware of the general objectives and importance of the Council of Europe (see also http://www.coe.int/60years/default.asp?l=en), I try to outline the chapters on the relation between the Council of Europe and the EU in the action plan:
„Relations with the European Union
Considering the important contribution of the Council of Europe to democracy, cohesion and stability in Europe, we call on the Council of Europe to:
– strengthen its relations with the European Union so that the Council of Europe’s and the European Union’s achievements and future standard-setting work are taken into account, as appropriate, in each other’s activities;
– strengthen co-operation with the European Union in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the promotion of pluralistic democracy and the rule of law;
– strengthen co-operation with the European Union in areas of common interest, in particular in the legal, cultural, youth and social fields, including through joint programmes and cooperation with specialised Council of Europe bodies, such as the Venice Commission, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Group of States against Corruption, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice.
Based on the appended guidelines, a memorandum of understanding will be drafted between the Council of Europe and the European Union to create a new framework of enhanced co-operation and political dialogue. Particular focus should be put on how the European Union and its member states could make better use of available Council of Europe instruments and institutions, and on how all Council of Europe members could benefit from closer links with the European Union“.
The document also contains an appendix on the EU:
GUIDELINES on the Relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union
1. The Council of Europe and the European Union base their relationship on all matters of common interest, in particular the promotion and protection of pluralistic democracy, the respect for Human Rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, political and legal cooperation, social cohesion, and cultural interchange. These common values form the foundation of democratic stability and security to which our societies and citizens aspire, and help bring greater cohesion to Europe and further overall unity.
2. Enhanced partnership and complementarity should govern the future relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union, in order to strengthen practical cooperation in all areas of common interest.
3. The common objective of a Europe without new dividing lines can best be served by making appropriate use of the norms and standards, as well as the experience and expertise developed in the Council of Europe over half a century.
4. Early accession of the European Union to the ECHR would strongly contribute to ensuring coherence in the field of Human Rights in Europe. The preparatory work should be accelerated so that this accession could take place as soon as possible after the entry into force of the Constitutional Treaty. Taking into account the competences of the European Community, accession to other Council of Europe conventions and involvement of Council of Europe mechanisms should be considered on the basis of a detailed review.
5. Legal cooperation between the Council of Europe and the European Union should continue and be further developed as useful and appropriate for the benefit of all European citizens, including by aiming for greater complementarity between European Union and Council of Europe legal texts. The European Union shall strive to transpose those aspects of Council of Europe Conventions within its competence into European Union Law.
6. The Council of Europe will, on the basis of its expertise and through its various organs, continue to provide support and advice to the European Union in particular in the fields of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.
7. Cooperation between the European Union and specialised Council of Europe bodies should be reinforced. The European Union shall in particular make full use of Council of Europe expertise in areas such as human rights, information, cyber-crime, bioethics, trafficking and organised crime, where action is required within its competence.
8. The future Human Rights Agency of the European Union, once established, should constitute an opportunity to further increase cooperation with the Council of Europe, and contribute to greater coherence and enhanced complementarity.
9. Bearing in mind the common aim of strengthening democratic stability in Europe, the Council of Europe and the European Union should increase their common efforts towards enhanced pan-European relations, including further cooperation in the countries participating in the European Union ‘s Neighbourhood Policy and the Stabilisation and Association processes.
10. In order to achieve a qualitative improvement in the relationship, both organisations should work towards joint activities, when they add value to their respective endeavours. The European Union and the Council of Europe should consult regularly at all appropriate levels, including the political level, to make better use of each other’s relevant expertise. Such consultations would better coordinate policy and action, and further monitor ongoing cooperation. Additionally, the European Union’s presence should be strengthened by establishing as soon as possible a permanent office to the Council of Europe“.