The Council of Europe and the European Union – Partners in promoting Human Rights and Democracy

The Council of Europe and the European Union (EU) are separate organisations which have different, yet complementary, roles.

  • The Council of Europe works together with its 47 member states to strengthen human rights and democracy across the continent and beyond.
  • The EU brings its 28 member states closer together both economically and politically by harmonising legislation and practices in certain policy areas.
  • All EU member states are also members of the Council of Europe, and the EU shares the fundamental values which underpin all of the Council of Europe’s work.
  • The two organisations work closely together in areas where they have common interests, notably in promoting human rights and democracy across Europe and in neighbouring regions.
  • Co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe allows each organisation to benefit from the other’s specific strengths, thereby supporting each other’s work.

The Council of Europe works in close partnership with the European Union, and co-operates with the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and with partner countries in its neighbourhood and worldwide.

Do not get confused


 Council of Europe

An international organisation in Strasbourg which comprises 47 countries of Europe. It was set up to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

  European Council

Institution of the European Union, consisting of the heads of state or government from the member states together with the President of the European Commission, for the purpose of planning Union policy.

 European Union (EU)

The EU currently has 28 members that have delegated some of their sovereignty so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level. No country has ever joined the EU without first belonging to the Council of Europe.

 Parliamentary Assembly

The deliberative body of the Council of Europe, composed of 318 representatives (and the same number of substitutes) appointed by the 47 member states' national parliaments.

 European Parliament

The parliamentary body of the European Union which comprises 766 European Members of Parliament of the 28 European Union countries, elected by universal suffrage.

 European Court of Human Rights

Based in Strasbourg, this is the only truly judicial organ established by the European Convention on Human Rights. It is composed of one Judge for each State party to the Convention and ensures, in the last instance, that contracting states observe their obligations under the Convention. Since November 1998, the Court has operated on a full-time basis.

 International Court of Justice

Judicial body of the United Nations, which is based in The Hague.

 Court of Justice of the European Union

Based in Luxembourg and ensures compliance with the law in the interpretation and application of the European Treaties of the European Union.