Council of Europe

 Secretary General Burić outside the CoE Headquarters with flags (Croatia Sun News)

Secretary General Burić outside the CoE Headquarters with flags (Croatia Sun News)

The Council of Europe (CoE) has become an important actor regarding the human dimension of security. Established in 1949, the Council of Europe drafted the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950 and created the European Court of Human Rights in 1959 at Strasbourg. Its statutes require that its members “must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It has also taken a leading role in promoting European cooperation in culture, education, environment, parliamentary democracy, and social policy. It has thus focused almost entirely on the human dimension as an essential component of security.


The Council of Europe consists of 47 states, including 22 countries from Central and Eastern Europe, all of which are also OSCE pS. Although the U.S. and Canada are ineligible for membership, they both hold observer status, and like any country, they are welcome to ratify CoE conventions without being a member.

The Council of Europe requires candidate countries to certify that they meet a strict set of criteria before they can be qualified for as a new member state. States that fail to fulfill the membership obligations may be suspended. For example, Russia’s membership was suspended in 1995 due to the behavior of its armed forces in Chechnya. However, as a general matter of practice, once accepted into membership there are no sanctions for violations of CoE principles other than suspension. 

The Council of Europe fulfills its role in conflict prevention and the promotion of democracy using techniques similar to those of the OSCE, but always by sending in experts from outside the country. As requested, staff from a relevant Council section in Strasbourg may be sent in to set up seminars, to offer expert advice, and to run training courses. It is these staff members interact most frequently with OSCE mission members who are already in country. Unlike the OSCE, once a state is admitted into membership, there are no permanent missions stationed on its territory. Therefore, CoE monitoring of its members is quite minimal.

CoE cooperation with OSCE

The OSCE and the Council of Europe have a long-standing partnership based on their shared values and co-operate in the four priority areas of fighting terrorism, combating human trafficking, promoting tolerance and non-discrimination as well as respect for the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. Other fields of co-operation include election observation, legislation reform, Roma and Sinti issues, human rights, democratization and local government. 

Each year, two meetings of the OSCE-CoE Co-ordination Group are held, once in Strasbourg and once in Vienna. The CoE and OSCE prepare a report on the cooperation over the past year, exchange views, and discuss priorities. At the beginning of the year, the Head of the Task Force of the CiO usually addresses the CoE on the priorities of the Chair for the coming year. The CoE also participates in the Ministerial Council meetings, and representatives are also invited to speak at each other’s events throughout the year. 

By defining its primary mission as encouraging good governance as a long-term mechanism for conflict prevention, the Council of Europe has carved out for itself a role that overlaps with that of the OSCE in many important areas. CoE instruments are complemented by OSCE’s norm setting political commitments, institutions and field operations, Close coordination between OSCE and CoE missions is essential in those countries where the two operate side-by-side.

The OSCE differs from the CoE in having: a broader mandate in conflict prevention and resolution; a broader base defined by geography, not political system; a continuous, long-term and strong field presence through its missions; decisions that are politically rather than legally binding, where pS affirm their intent to live up to commitments contained in the cumulative set of OSCE documents and monitors their performance in fulfilling those commitments. 

Central Asia

The OSCE also has a special role to play in the five Central Asian countries, that fall out of the geographical territory covered by the CoE.