1. Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is a political organisation which was founded on 5 May 1949 by ten European countries in order to promote greater unity between its members. It now numbers 47 member states1.
The main aims of the Organisation are to reinforce democracy, human rights and the rule of law and to develop common responses to political, social, cultural and legal challenges in its member states. Since 1989 the Council of Europe has integrated most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into its structures and supported them in their efforts to implement and consolidate their political, legal and administrative reforms.
The work of the Council of Europe has led, to date, to the adoption of over 170 European conventions and agreements, which create the basis for a common legal space in Europe. They include the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), the European Cultural Convention (1954), the European Social Charter (1961), the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture (1987) and the Convention on Human Rights and Bioethics (1997). Numerous recommendations and resolutions of the Committee of Ministers propose policy guidelines for national governments.
The Council of Europe has its permanent headquarters in Strasbourg (France). By statute, it has two constituent organs: the Committee of Ministers, composed of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member states, and the Parliamentary Assembly, comprising delegations from the national parliaments. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe represents the entities of local and regional self-government within the member states. A multinational European Secretariat serves these bodies and the intergovernmental committees.
2. The Partial Agreement in the Social and Public Health Field
Where a lesser number of member states of the Council of Europe wishes to engage in some action in which not all their European partners desire to join, they can conclude a ’Partial Agreement’ which is binding on themselves alone.
The work of Partial Agreement committees occasionally results in the elaboration of conventions or agreements. Delegates to Partial Agreement committees are both experts in the field in question and responsible for the implementation of government policy in their national ministries.
The usual outcome is a Resolution that will be presented to the Committee of Ministers for adoption. Governments participate actively in their formulation. Resolutions provide statements of policy for national policy-makers.
Such procedure provides for considerable flexibility in that any state may reserve its position on a given point without thereby preventing the others from going ahead with what they consider appropriate. Another advantage is that the resolutions are readily susceptible to amendment should the need arise. Governments are furthermore called upon periodically to report on the implementation of the recommended measures.
A less formal procedure is the elaboration of guidelines intended to serve as requirements or models for member states and industry (the latter in the public health sector).
The Partial Agreement in the Social and Public Health Field was concluded on this basis in 1959 and existed until 31 December 2008 and had up to 18 member states2.
The areas of activity of the Partial Agreement in the social and public health field included two sectors:
Protection of public health
Rehabilitation and integration of people with disabilities.
The activities were entrusted to committees of experts under the aegis of a steering committee for each area.
Bodies of the Partial Agreement in the social and public health field enjoyed close co-operation with equivalent bodies in other international institutions, in particular the Commission of the European Union. Contact is also maintained with international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry, working in similar or related fields.
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