Council of Europe
The Council of Europe was established in 1949 and has its headquarters in Strasbourg, France. It groups together 47 countries, including some 21 countries from central and eastern Europe, has granted observer status to five countries (the Vatican, the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico) and has an application from one more country (Belarus). The Committee of Ministers, which is composed of the 47 foreign ministers or their representatives, is the decision-making body of the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly, grouping 618 representatives from the 47 national parliaments, is its deliberative body.
The Council aims to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to promote awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures, and to seek common solutions to problems facing European society (discrimination against minorities, xenophobia, intolerance, environmental protection, human cloning, aids, drugs, organised crime, etc).
The Member States of the Council of Europe adopted the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in 1950 (usually referred to as the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR) and established the European Court for Human Rights based in Strasbourg.
In 1961, the Council adopted the European Social Charter, which originally contained 19 economic and social rights. A number of substantive rights were added by way of the first Additional Protocol (1988). An Amending Protocol (1991) and a second Additional Protocol (1995) have been adopted in order to improve the Charter’s supervisory machinery.
The Convention and the Charter served in many ways as a model for the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000). The Treaties make explicit references to both the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 6(2) EU) and the Social Charter (Article 151(1) TFEU).