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Council of Europe

The Council of Europe (COE) aims to further co-operation between Member States in the areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  Its three main bodies are the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Court of Human Rights.

About the Council

Established in the aftermath of World War II by the Treaty of London, the Council has grown from 9 founding states (including Ireland) to 47 today.

Its activities in the human rights field, as well as the impact it makes in fostering democracy and the rule of law in Europe, are consistent with Ireland’s approach to international affairs.

We also value the Council’s work in helping to protect national minorities, fighting against racism and xenophobia, and combating corruption.

We co-ordinate our engagement with the Council of Europe with other Government Departments, particularly the Department of Justice and Equality.

Benefits of the Council

  1. In promoting and defending democracy, human rights, and the rule-of-law, the Council makes Europe a more democratic and better place in which to live, study, work, and travel.
  2. The European Pharmacopoeia, an integral part of the Council of Europe, plays an important role in protecting everyone’s health by setting and monitoring internationally-recognised standards for safe medicines and medical treatments.
  3. The European Court of Human Rights helps protect all of our fundamental freedoms by allowing anyone to take a case to it if they believe one of their fundamental rights, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, has been violated.
  4. The Council of Europe is responsible for making the world a safer place through its formulation of a range of key international conventions that, amongst many other things, contribute to the global fight against cybercrime, money laundering, human trafficking and terrorism.
  5. The Council of Europe works especially hard to eradicate racism and xenophobia, thereby fostering more tolerant, open-minded societies across Europe.

Human rights

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), which binds its signatories to protect specified rights and freedoms, is central to the Council’s work. It is widely considered to be the cornerstone of human rights protection in Europe.

The European Court of Human Rights, which hears applications from both individuals and member states on alleged breaches of the Convention, is of particular importance to Ireland, given the vital role it plays in safeguarding fundamental rights.

There are also a number of important human rights monitoring systems operating within the Council, including:

  • The Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)
  • The Framework Convention for the Protection on National Minorities
  • The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
  • The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights

Ireland and the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights, is based in Strasbourg. It hears applications from both individuals and member states on alleged breaches of the Convention. It is of particular importance to Ireland, given the vital role it plays in safeguarding fundamental rights. Ireland has also strongly supported efforts in recent years to reform and improve the working methods of the Court.

Parliamentary Assembly

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is made up of national parliamentarians from all 47 member states. It meets four times per year in Strasbourg, where its members examine and debate issues of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

It’s also responsible for electing judges to the European Court of Human Rights and electing the Council’s Secretary-General. Ireland’s delegation to the PACE includes members of the Dáil and the Seanad.

The Council formulates international conventions that aim to protect its core principles throughout Europe.

Ireland is involved in many of these Conventions, including:

We’re also involved in several of its additional protocols, such as Protocol 13, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances.

Committee of Ministers

The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It is made up of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of all the Member States, or their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg.

The Committee of Ministers is both a governmental body, where national approaches to problems facing European society can be discussed on an equal footing, and a collective forum, where Europe-wide responses to such challenges are formulated.

In collaboration with the Parliamentary Assembly, it is the guardian of the Council's fundamental values, and monitors Member States' compliance with their undertakings