European Union – Council of Europe cooperation and joint programmes

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Series Details September 2018
Publication Date September 2018
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The Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Union (EU) were to a significant extent based on shared values, and had overlapping membership. This had led them over time to develop a strategic partnership and joint actions beyond the EU's and, more recently, the CoE's borders, making use of the latter's longstanding technical expertise on human rights, the rule of law and democracy.

For the EU, the CoE convention system and the European Court of Human Rights remained central instruments for defending human rights in Europe, as stated in the EU's 2017 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World. The relationship between the CoE and the EU was generally seen as mutually beneficial and thriving, each partner contributing according to its own strengths and capabilities.

In 2011 the CoE launched a new approach towards the EU's neighbourhood regions, endorsed by the EU. Cooperation had become more structured, with the Council of the EU agreeing and adopting the EU's priorities for cooperation with the Council of Europe on a biannual basis, in cooperation with the CoE.

The EU-CoE relationship had not escaped some criticism, however, namely that the CoE acts as a political consultancy or a junior partner to the EU owing to the latter's budgetary clout and its disproportionate and larger contribution to joint activities. There was arguably room to improve the partnership. According to some, the EU countries (which were all CoE members) needed to develop a strategic and long-term vision regarding future cooperation with the CoE.

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