Ten years in partnership for human rights, democracy and the rule of law

Council of Europe Strasbourg 15 March 2017
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Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Johannes Hahn and Jari Vilén

Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Johannes Hahn and Jari Vilén

The European Union and the Council of Europe share a mutual commitment to human rights, the rule of law and democracy. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of their Memorandum of Understanding.

With Europe facing many challenges – populism, extremism, terrorism, xenophobia, the refugee crisis – the European Union and the Council of Europe reach out to one another on these issues and more as never before.

“Our co-operation has now reached an unprecedented intensity. The EU is now the Council of Europe’s main partner, politically and financially,” said Deputy Secretary-General Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni.

Political dialogue with the different bodies of the EU and at the highest levels is intense, and the EU and the Council of Europe often advocate jointly for reforms. 

Co-operation through joint programmes, worth €322 million for the period 2007 - 2016, is one of the expressions of the partnership – successful because it is strategic, not only financial but also political, following similar objectives and based on shared values. European Union support totalled €270 million. The Council of Europe contributed €52 million, offering a unique combination of standard-setting, monitoring and co-operation, combined with a “multi-institutional approach” that allows intervention at different levels (government, parliament, judicial instances, local governments, civil society).

There are many success stories to tell. For example, the Council of Europe and the EU lobbied jointly for a genuine public service broadcasting system in Ukraine, which was finally established in 2017, along with reform of printed media and media ownership transparency. At the request of the Ministry of Justice of Serbia, support was given to develop an action plan on the rights of national minorities, now in force since March 2016. Last year, Morocco and Tunisia adopted new legislation on fighting trafficking in human beings, inspired to a very large extent by and in line with Council of Europe standards, as a result of work done under the South Programme.

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