At its Istanbul session in May 2011, the Committee of Ministers endorsed the Secretary General’s proposal to open up towards countries in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia which request Council of Europe assistance, based on the common values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The Policy of the Council of Europe towards neighbouring regions sets the following objectives:

  • to facilitate democratic political transition;
  • to help to promote good governance; and
  • to reinforce and enlarge Council of Europe regional action in combating trans-border and global threats.

The policy is implemented without prejudice to the Council of Europe's activities in member States; the Council of Europe contribution is demand-driven and responds to clearly-expressed interests and concrete commitments from partner countries; the policy is also developed in strict coherence with the Council of Europe's values and standards.

It is based on 2 pillars:

Neighbourhood Co-operation Dialogue - as a means of political dialogue at the highest level. It is a two-way exchange of views on issues of common interest, presentation of the objectives and modalities of the Council of Europe’s Policy towards neighbouring regions and, where applicable, identification of priority areas for bilateral co-operation. It has, so far, involved the authorities of Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian National Authority, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic.    

Within the Secretariat, the Directorate of External Relations (DER) has the primary responsibility for the Neighbourhood Co-operation Dialogue.  

Neighbourhood Co-operation Activities,  which reflect a formal agreement on specific priorities.Within the Secretariat, the Office of  the Director General of Programmes (ODGP) has the primary responsibility for the Neighbourhood Co-operation Activities.


Developments since 2011

In the South Mediterranean, the "first generation" Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities setting out specific activities with Morrocco, Tunisia and Jordan for the period 2012-2014, were successfully implemented. In Central Asia, the Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities focusing on Council of Europe conventions in criminal matters (2014-2015) with Kazakhstan and the Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities (2015-2017) with the Kyrgyz Republic were successfully implemented.

The  “Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities for Kazakhstan: co-operation activities on Council of Europe’s conventions in criminal matters (2019-2022)" aims to consolidate the continued support provided to Kazakhstan in the country’s democratic change process and to tackle the challenges linked to human rights, the rule of law and democracy. On 1 January 2020, Kazakhstan became GRECO’s 50th member state.

The “Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities 2015-2017 for the Kyrgyz Republic” (NCP) aim to facilitate the political transition to democracy by helping the Kyrgyz Republic to tackle challenges related to human rights, the rule  of law and democracy. The key priorities include the promotion of a common legal space, constitutional justice, elections, and fight against corruption, education and local democracy. The validity of the NCP was prolonged until the end of 2019. Kyrgyzstan is considering joining GRECO. Discussion on the possibilities of accession is underway.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Ministers’ Deputies also discussed proposals for a new status for Non-Member States (see documents SG/Inf(2012)9 , SG/Inf(2013)1-rev and  SG/Inf(2013)33-rev ).

In September 2014, the Secretary General confirmed that assistance to neighbouring countries which want to anchor reforms through adherence to Council of Europe standards should be upheld. “Our neighbourhood has a direct impact on democratic security in Europe. Our aim should be to prepare their accession to our conventions on common threats and challenges […] in this way we can expand the area of stability around Europe and strengthen our fight against trans-border threats to Europe - thus directly benefiting democratic security in our member states”.

The Secretary General, accordingly, initiated a new dynamic with the Council of Europe’s closest partners by introducing Neighbourhood Partnerships (see documents  SG/Inf(2014)4  ; CM(2015)15 / 29 January 2015 Neighbourhood Partnership with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 2015-2017CM(2015)16 / 29 January 2015 Neighbourhood Partnership with Morocco 2015-2017 ; and CM(2015)17 / 29 January 2015  Neighbourhood Partnership with Tunisia 2015-2017. The two-track approach of the Policy - bilateral and regional - was also confirmed. Subsequently, on 4 February 2015, the Committee of Ministers approved Neighbourhood Partnership documents for 2015-2017 with   Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The Neighbourhood Partnerships combine and strengthen the two pillars of the Policy - political dialogue and co-operation - by offering a framework for an “Enhanced Political Dialogue”, the intensity of which will reflect the quality of the co-operation between these countries and the Council of Europe.    

The “Enhanced Political Dialogue” offers wide opportunities for dialogue between the Organisation and the authorities of the partner countries, ranging from high-level exchanges on topics on the bilateral agenda and political issues of common interest to discussions on concrete co-operation activities relevant to the implementation of the Neighbourhood Partnership.   

In the Neighbourhood Partnership documents, co-operation priorities, identified during discussions with the authorities concerned, continue to support primarily partner countries’ reform processes in the fields of  human rights, justice, the fight against corruption, against money laundering and against terrorism with a view to bringing the partner countries closer to the relevant Council of Europe standards. The Council of Europe also supports constitutional reform processes by contributing to the drafting of organic laws and other legislative instruments and the actual implementation of constitutional provisions, including the setting-up of bodies provided for under the Constitution.

The Partnerships are financed for the most part by an European Union/Council of Europe joint programme (“Towards Strengthened Democratic Governance in the Southern Mediterranean”), which also includes a regional component. This has been complemented by the financial support of a number of member States.

In November 2017, the Ministers’ Deputies agreed on the parameters of the CoE post-2017 Neighbourhood Policy as proposed by the Secretary General , in particular the preparation of new partnership documents with Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia for the period 2018-2021  (see Decision and SG/Inf(2017)29).

In November 2020, the Committee of Ministers welcomed the fact that the implementation of the policy towards neighbouring regions adopted at its 121st Session (Istanbul, 10-11 May 2011) enables the Council of Europe and the beneficiaries in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia to move towards the setting-up of a shared legal space based on the Organisation's values and instruments. In view of the forthcoming 10th anniversary of the policy, invited its Ministers’ Deputies to review it in order to clarify its geographical scope and conditionality and further improve its transparency and efficiency in the light of respective strategic priorities and implementation capacities.


For more details, see also : Office of the Directorate General of Programmes (ODGP)


Review of the 2011 Neighbourhood Policy

Committee of Ministers and Secretary General's documents

Neighbourhood Partnerships

Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities

Progress Reports

Other documents