The Council of Europe and the European Union: different roles, shared values

The Council of Europe and the European Union share the same fundamental values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – but are separate entities which perform different, yet complementary, roles.

Focusing on those core values, the Council of Europe brings together governments from across Europe – and beyond – to agree minimum legal standards in a wide range of areas. It then monitors how well countries apply the standards that they have chosen to sign up to. It also provides technical assistance, often working together with the European Union, to help them do so.

The European Union refers to those same European values as a key element of its deeper political and economic integration processes. It often builds upon Council of Europe standards when drawing up legal instruments and agreements which apply to its 28 member states. Furthermore, the European Union regularly refers to Council of Europe standards and monitoring work in its dealings with neighbouring countries, many of which are Council of Europe member states.

The Lisbon Treaty increased the scope for European Union action in many areas where the Council of Europe already has significant experience and expertise. This has led to increased cooperation on issues such as fighting human trafficking, the sexual exploitation of children and violence against women. It has also opened the way for the European Union itself to sign up to the European Convention on Human Rights, and to other Council of Europe agreements.

Relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union are set out in the:

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Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights

The accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights constitutes a major step in the development of human rights in Europe. Discussed since the late 1970s, the accession became a legal obligation under the Treaty of Lisbon.
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The Annual Receipts on EU contributions under Joint Programmes between the Council of Europe and the European Union in 2015, amounted to €25.8 million, representing a 20% increase on 2014.

These accounted for 49% of all 2015 income from extra-budgetary contributions, confirming the EU as the major external contributor to CoE activities.

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Interview with Jari Vilén "The challenge of migration into the European Union"

Global Action on Cybercrime (GLACY), video report on a joint project between the Council of Europe and the European Union