Two organisations, one mission: enhancing the state of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe and beyond
Over the past two decades, the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU) have been working in close cooperation in pursuit of common goals promoting human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democracy at pan-European level and beyond.
The Council of Europe has a long-lasting experience in accompanying the reform processes of its member States from Eastern and South-East Europe, in order to allow them to comply with commitments originating from their membership to the Organisation. Together with the European Union, the Council of Europe has steered targeted cooperation programmes in the two regions facilitating their normative and institutional approximation to Council of Europe and EU standards.
Based on this successful joint work, the two organisations combined their efforts in 2012 to support the Southern Mediterranean region in the process of its democratic reforms, tackling primarily challenges related to human rights, the rule of law and democracy. The new partnership, which is anchored in their 2007 Memorandum of Understanding, also derives from the “Statement of Intent”, signed in April 2014 by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. Through the statement, the two organisations committed themselves to mobilising capacities and resources in the coordination and implementation of their policy goals in the region, namely the revised EU Neighbourhood Policy and the Council of Europe’s policy towards neighbouring regions which was reconfirmed in 2017.
Council of Europe’s policy towards neighbouring regions
While the mandate of the Council of Europe is and will remain geographically focused on Europe, many of its priority activities, including most of its recent key conventions, aim to extend cooperation also beyond the borders of the European continent.
One of the main reasons is that many of the core issues under the Council of Europe mandate are being influenced by developments outside Europe, and notably in the immediate neighbourhood, in the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
The Council of Europe response to such developments has set forth its policy towards its neighbouring region to guide the following objectives:
- to facilitate democratic political transition;
- to help to promote good governance; and
- to reinforce and enlarge Council of Europe regional action in combating transborder and global threats.
The policy is implemented on a demand-driven basis, responding to clearly-expressed interests and concrete commitments from partner countries. Most importantly, it is also developed in strict coherence with the Council of Europe's values and standards.
The European Neighbourhood Policy
Developed in 2004, the main goal of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was to avoid the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged European Union (EU) and the Eastern and Southern Neighbours and instead strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of all.
The ENP governs the EU’s relations with the:
- Southern Neighbourhood composed of Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine*, Syria and Tunisia;
- Eastern Neighbourhood composed of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
It commits the EU to “supporting the economic development of its partner countries, and to improve the aspirations, hopes and prospects of the local population, while keeping a strong focus on good governance, democracy and the rule of law. This commitment translates into action through the implementation of sustainable regional and bilateral programmes and projects on the ground.”
The ENP was reviewed in 2015 to respond to the new challenges of an evolving neighbourhood. In the revised framework, the EU recommits itself to ensuring sensitivity to its diverse partners (differentiated approach), greater ownership and flexibility in the use of its instruments.
The South Programme III corresponds to the vehicle through which the European Union and Council of Europe will continue to translate their mission into meaningful changes in the Southern Mediterranean region.
 The EU suspended all its bilateral cooperation with the Government of Syria and its participation in regional programmes in 2011.
*This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of Council of Europe and European Union member States on this issue.