The Council of Europe (French: Conseil de l’Europe) is the oldest international organization, working towards European integration, having been founded in 1949. It has a particular emphasis on legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural cooperation. It has 47 member states with some 800 million citizens.

The seat of the Council of Europe is in Strasbourg, France and English and French are its two official languages. The Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly also work in German, Italian and Russian.

The institutions of the Council of Europe are:

Ø The Secretary General, who is elected for a term THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE of five years by the Parliamentary Assembly and heads the Secretariat of the Council of Europe.

Ø The Committee of Ministers, comprising the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of all 47 member states who are represented by their Permanent Representatives and Ambassador accredited to the Council of Europe. Committee of Minister’s presidencies are held in the alphabetic order for six months following the English alphabet.

Ø The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), which comprises national parliamentarians from all member states and elects its President for a year with a possibility to be reelected for another year. National parliamentary delegations to the Assembly must reflect THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE the political spectrum of their national parliament, i.e. comprise government and opposition parties. The Assembly appoints members as rapporteurs with the mandate to prepare parliamentary reports on the specific subjects.

Ø The Congress of the Council of Europe (Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe), which was created in 1994 and comprises political representatives from local and regional authorities in all member states.

Ø The European Court of Human Rights, created under the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, is composed of a judge from each member state elected for a renewable term of six years by the Parliamentary Assembly THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE and is headed by the elected President of the Court.

Ø The Commissioner for Human Rights, who is elected by the Parliamentary Assembly for a non-renewable term of six years since the creation of this position in 1999.

Ø The Conference of INGOs. NGOs can participate in the INGO Conference of the Council of Europe.

Ø Information Offices of the Council of Europe in many states.

The CoE system also includes a number of semi-autonomous structures known as “Parliamentary Agreements”, some of which are also open to non-member states:

Ø The Council of Europe Development Bank in Paris

Ø The European Directorate for the THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE Quality of Medicines

Ø The European Audiovisual Observatory

Ø The Pompidou Group – Cooperation group to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking of drugs

Ø The European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as Venice Commission

Ø The Centre for Modern Languages in Graz (Austria)

The Parliament of Belarus held special guest status with the Parliamentary Assembly from September 1992 to January 1997, Belarus applied for full membership on 12 March 1993 (still open).