The Council of Europe (COE) and security policy
From the point of view of foreign and security policy, the Council of Europe is significant, because it's a pan-European organisation, which operates in close cooperation with the European Union and the OSCE.
The core idea of the Council is that a democracy governed by the rule of law, in which human rights are respected, is stable and capable of solving even serious conflicts without descending into crises and wars. Finland wants to develop the Council of Europe as a pan-European organisation, which operates in close cooperation with the European Union and the OSCE.
The Council of Europe was established after the Second World War in 1949. It is an intergovernmental organisation of 47 European states, based in Strasbourg, France.
The newest members of the Council are Montenegro (2007), Monaco (2004), Serbia and Montenegro (2003), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2002), Armenia (2001) and Azerbaijan (2001). Belarus is the only European country, which is not a member state of the Council of Europe; its membership is not topical at the moment because of its deficient democracy and human rights standards.
The fundamental aim of the Council of Europe is to strengthen democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The strength of the organisation lies in the high standard of its basic norms and exceptionally effective mechanism to implement human rights norms. The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (known as the European Convention on Human Rights), the European Social Charter and the European Cultural Convention lay a solid foundation for the European human rights norms.
The European Council works out agreements that are binding on its member states. Conventions are multilateral treaties. The most important conventions are subject to international monitoring arrangements.
The Third Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government in Warsaw in May 2005 decided that all functions of the organisation must support the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This decision was fully in line with Finland's objectives. Finland has consistently tried to strengthen the human rights role of the Council of Europe and to safeguard the operation of the European Court of Human Rights.
Furthermore, Finland has emphasised the rights of women and minorities and the role of the civil society. The decisions of the Warsaw Summit concerning the promotion of gender equality and the prevention of violence against women as well as the reform of the human rights court were in agreement with Finland's objectives. The Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism, and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings were adopted in the Warsaw Summit.
The Committee of Ministers, which is the Council of Europe's decision-making body, comprises the member states' ministers for foreign affairs or their permanent diplomatic representatives, ambassadors.
The Parliamentary Assembly is an advisory body which makes initiatives. It consists of MPs appointed by the member states' national parliaments.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is an advisory body comprising representatives of the member states' local and regional administrations.
The European Court of Human Rights operates in conjunction with the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe Secretariat is a body of staff members from all member states of the Council and responsible for the daily work of the Council of Europe. The Secretariat is led and the Council's work is coordinated by a Secretary General, elected by the Parliamentary Assembly for a period of five years.
Agreements and activities in the Council of Europe are prepared in international groups of experts. Each group is led by a Steering Committee, to which the member states' governments appoint one or two public servants specialising in the field from the relevant ministry.
The groups of experts working under the supervision of the Steering Committees are formed of public servants, independent specialists and representatives of non-governmental organisations from different countries.
The Council of Europe also organises Ministerial Conferences in different fields to strengthen intergovernmental dialogue.
Finland has a Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. The Representation was set up in 1989, when Finland became a full member of the Council of Europe.
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