Thursday, 26 April 2007

Council of Europe today

With 46 member states the Council of Europe is a Pan-European organisation, which has managed to conclude 200 international treaties, including the amendments.

Perhaps there is some reason to see the emergence of a Pan-European legal area, as suggested by the title of the book “Le droit du Conseil de l’Europe – Vers un espace juridique paneuropĆ©en” by Florence BenoĆ®t-Rohmer and Heinrich Klebes (Council of Europe Publishing, 2005); published in English as “Council of Europe law – Towards a European legal area”.

The Council of Europe works intensely with the member states to aid their progress towards democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Some of the new Eastern European members are still way off the values they have professed to share with the rest of Europe.

The conventions and the activities of the Council of Europe are wide-ranging, including:

· human rights
· democracy
· rule of law
· co-operation between local and regional authorities
· social and economic rights
· intercultural dialogue
· migration and integration
· national minorities and minority languages
· gender equality
· rights of the child
· mass media
· health
· animal welfare
· education
· culture
· youth

Most conventions have reporting and monitoring mechanisms, which means that the Council exerts (gentle) pressure on the member states to raise their standards of legal protection.

If this preventive work fails, individuals have a safety net in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and in the European Court of Human Rights.

Any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals claiming to be the victim of a violation by one of the states, can apply to the Court after all domestic remedies have been exhausted (ECHR Art. 34–35)..

The Court’s case-load has increased dramatically, both as a consequence of expansion and of citizens being more prone to demand fair treatment from their governments.

Ralf Grahn