The Council of Europe (in Swedish: Europarådet) was created in 1949 by ten like-minded countries, Sweden being one of them. The organisation, which is the continent's leading human rights organisation, works to preserve and promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These are the three core areas of the organisation's work. The Council of Europe has 47 member states, 28 of which are members of the European Union. The only country currently not a member in Europe is Belarus. The two official languages of the Council are English and French. All member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, which came into force in 1953. The implementation by member states of the convention is overseen by the European Court of Human Rights, perhaps one of the most famous institutions of the Council. Individuals, as well as other member states, can submit complaints of human rights violations against a state to the Strasbourg Court.
The work of the Council of Europe
The current Secretary General is Ms. Marija Pejčinović Burić, whom is the 14th Secretary General of the Council of Europe. As Secretary General, her work consists of having the overall responsibility for the strategic management of the Council. The Secretary General is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly, by recommendation from the Committee of Ministers, for a five-year term. Ms. Marija Pejčinović Burić was elected in 2019.
Committee of Ministers
The Committee of Ministers is the decision-making body of the Council of Europe. In everyday work and meetings member states are represented by their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg. Once every year a Committee of Ministers meeting is held where the states are represented by their ministers of foreign affairs. The Committee of Ministers monitor member states compliance with their obligations under the Council of Europe statute and works as a forum where member states address and conclude on current issues facing them. The Committee also decides on Council of Europe policy as well as approve the organisation’s budget and programme of activities.
Parliamentary Assembly (PACE)
The Parliamentary Assembly consists of 636 members of parliament (whereof 318 are alternates) from the 47 member states. The work of Pace consists of mainly politically monitoring the member states commitments as members of the Council of Europe. Among other things Pace elects the Secretary General, the Human Rights Commissioner and the judges of the European Court of Human Rights. The assembly furthermore provides a forum for debate between members of parliament from the different states.
Sweden has appointed twelve members (whereof 6 alternates) of the Swedish parliament to Pace.
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has the objective to strengthening local and regional democracy. It comprises of 636 elected representatives, whereof half are alternates, and it represents more than 200 000 local and regional authorities. Sweden has appointed 12 local politicians to the Congress.
European Court of Human Rights
The European Court, which perhaps is one of the most famous institutions of the Council of Europe, is the permanent judicial body which guarantees the rights safeguarded by the European Convention on Human Rights. Both individuals and states can submit complaints to the court if they consider that a state has violated the Convention. The 47 member states of the Council of Europe are all parties to the Convention.
Commissioner for Human Rights
The Human Rights Commissioner independently addresses and brings attention to human rights violations in member states. Currently the position is held by Dunja Mijatović, who was elected in 2018. She is the fourth Commissioner, succeeding Nils Muižnieks (2012-2018), Swedish Thomas Hammarberg (2006-2012) and Alvaro Gil-Robles (1999-2006).
An important part of the Council of Europe’s interstate work is to develop conventions on different areas of interest to the Council. Today there are around 200 conventions that have been adopted by the council throughout the years.
The Council of Europe has a close partnership with the EU, and co-operates with the United Nations, The Organization for Security and CO-operation in Europe. The organization also has agreements with countries in its neighborhood and worldwide.