Body constituted in 1949 to achieve greater unity between European countries, to help with their economic and social progress, and to uphold the principles of parliamentary democracy and respect for human rights. It has a Committee of foreign ministers, a Parliamentary Assembly (with members from national parliaments), and a European Commission on Human Rights, established by the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
The founder members were the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, Greece, and Turkey. Between 1950 and 1989 Iceland, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Switzerland, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Liechtenstein, San Marino, and Finland joined. With the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the council acquired a new role in assisting the establishment of Western-style democratic and accountable political systems in the region, and several former communist countries entered into membership. Since 1990, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Andorra, Albania, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Macedonia, Russia, Croatia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan have joined, bringing the membership to 43.
In addition to its concern for human rights, the council is active in the fields of the mass media, social welfare, health, population trends, migration, social equality, crime, education and culture, youth affairs, sport, and the environment. It has particularly close relations with the European Union and cooperates with the United Nations and other international organizations. Its headquarters are in Strasbourg, France.
Council of Europe
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