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The Council of Europe (CoE) (French: Conseil de l'Europe (CdE)) is an international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.[3] Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states, with a population of approximately 820 million, and operates with an annual budget of approximately 500 million euros.[4]

The organisation is distinct from the 27-nation European Union (EU), although it is sometimes confused with it, partly because the EU has adopted the original European Flag which was created by the Council of Europe

The Council of Europe (CoE) (French: Conseil de l'Europe (CdE)) is an international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.[3] Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states, with a population of approximately 820 million, and operates with an annual budget of approximately 500 million euros.[4]

The organisation is distinct from the 27-nation European Union (EU), although it is sometimes confused with it, partly because the EU has adopted the original European Flag which was created by the Council of Europe in 1955,[5] as well as the European Anthem.[6] No country has ever joined the EU without first belonging to the Council of Europe.[7] The Council of Europe is an official United Nations Observer.[8]

The Council of Europe cannot make binding laws, but it does have the power to enforce select international agreements reached by European states on various topics. The best known body of the Council of Europe is the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Council's two statutory bodies are the Committee of Ministers, comprising the foreign ministers of each member state, and the Parliamentary Assembly, composed of members of the national parliaments of each member state. The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the member states. The Secretary General heads the secretariat of the organisation. Other major CoE bodies include the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and the European Audiovisual Observatory.

The headquarters of the Council of Europe are in Strasbourg, France. English and French are its two official languages. The Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Congress of the Council of Europe also use German, Italian, and Russian for some of their work.

The Council of Europe was founded on 5 May 1949 by Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Building in the area started in 1949 with the predecessor of the Palais de l'Europe, the House of Europe (demolished in 1977), and came to a provisional end in 2007 with the opening of the New General Office Building, later named "Agora", in 2008.[46] The Palais de l'Europe (Palace of Europe) and the Art Nouveau Villa Schutzenberger (seat of the European Audiovisual Observatory) are in the Orangerie district, and the European Court of Human Rights, the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and the Agora Building are in the Robertsau district. The Agora building has been voted "best international business center real estate project of 2007" on 13 March 2008, at the MIPIM 2008.[47] The European Youth Centre is located in the Wacken district.

Besides its headquarters in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe is also present in other cities and countries. The Council of Europe Development Bank has its seat in Paris, the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe is established in Lisbon, Portugal, and the Centre for Modern Languages is in Graz, Austria. There are European Youth Centres in Budapest, Hungary, and in Strasbourg. The European Wergeland Centre, a new Resource Centre on education for intercultural dialogue, human rights and democratic citizenship, operated in cooperation with the Norwegian Government, opened in Oslo, Norway, in February 2009.[48]

The Council of Europe has offices in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine; information offices in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine; and a projects office in Turkey. All these offices are establishments of the Council of Europe and they share its juridical personality with privileges and immunities.

The Council of Europe was founded on 5 May 1949 by Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.[49] Greece[50][51] joined three months later, and Iceland,[52][53] Turkey[54][55] and West Germany[56][57] the next year. It now has 47 member states, with Montenegro being the latest to join.

Article 4 of the Council of Europe Statute specifies that membership is open to any "European" State.[58] This has been interpreted liberally from the beginning, when Turkey was admitted, to include transcontinental states (such as Georgia and Azerbaijan) and states that are geographically Asian but socio-politically European (such as Armenia and Cyprus).

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Article 4 of the Council of Europe Statute specifies that membership is open to any "European" State.[58] This has been interpreted liberally from the beginning, when Turkey was admitted, to include transcontinental states (such as Georgia and Azerbaijan) and states that are geographically Asian but socio-politically European (such as Armenia and Cyprus).

Nearly all European states have acceded to the Council of Europe, with the exceptions of Belarus (human rights concerns including active use of the death penalty), Kazakhstan (human rights concerns), and the Vatican City (a theocracy), as well as some of the territories with limited recognition.

Besides the status as a full member, the Council of Europe has established other instruments for cooperation and participation of non-member states: observer, applicant, special guest, and partner for democracy.

The Council of Europe works mainly through conventions. By drafting conventions or international treaties, common legal standards are set for its member states. However, several conventions have also been opened for signature to non-member states. Important examples are the Convention on Cybercrime (signed for example, by Canada, Japan, South Africa and the United States), the Lisbon Recognition Convention on the recognition of study periods and degrees (signed for example, by Australia, Belarus, Canada, the Holy See, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand and the United States), the Anti-doping Convention (signed, for example, by Australia, Belarus, Canada and Tunisia) and the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (signed for example, by Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal as well as the European Community). Non-member states also participate in several partial agreements, such as the Venice Commission, the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), the European Pharmacopoeia Commission and the North-South Centre.

Invitations to sign and ratify relevant conventions of the Council of Europe on a case-by-case basis are sent to three groups of non-member entities:[59]