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The Council of Europe is an international intergovernmental organisation which is located in Strassburg, France and has currently 45 democratic states as its members. (The Council of Europe should not be confused with the European Union. The two organisations are quite distinct. The 15 European Union states, however, are all members of the Council of Europe.)

Any European state can become a member of the Council of Europe provided it accepts the principle of the rule of law and guarantees human rights and fundamental freedoms to everyone under its jurisdiction.

  • to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law;
  • to promote awareness and encourage the development of Europe's cultural identity and diversity;
  • to seek solutions to problems facing European society (discrimination against minorities, xenophobia, intolerance, environmental protection, human cloning, Aids, drugs, organised crime, etc.);
  • to help consolidate democratic stability in Europe by backing political, legislative and constitutional reform.

The Council of Europe covers all major issues facing European society other than defence. Fields of activity: human rights, media, legal co-operation, social cohesion, health, education, culture, heritage, sport, youth, local democracy and transfrontier co-operation, the environment and regional planning.

Decision-making bodies and statutory organs

  • The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-makingbody, and is composed of the foreign affairs ministers of all the member states (or their Permanent Representatives).
  • The Parliamentary Assembly is the Organisation's deliberative body, the members of which are appointed by national parliaments.
  • The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe is a consultativebody representing local and regional authorities.


The Austrian Walter Schwimmer, born in 1942, was elected Secretary General by the Parliamentary Assembly in 1999 for a five-year period. He directs and co-ordinates the Organisation's activities.

The Council of Europe periodically organises conferences of specialised ministers (for justice, education, family affairs, health, environment, local authorities, migration, equality between women and men, labour, mass media, culture, sport, youth, etc.).
The conferences analyse the major problems arising in their sectors and foster ongoing contact between ministries dealing with the same subjects in member states. They work out projects to be implemented jointly, and propose activities for the Council's work programme.

Conventions and Agreements

The Council of Europe's work leads to European conventions and agreements in the light of which member states may subsequently harmonise and amend their own legislation to comply with them.

Platform for voluntary associations

By granting consultative status to over 400 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), e.g. BPW International, the Council of Europe is building a partnership with those who represent ordinary people. BPW International is permanently represented by 

- Olivia  Diego - BPW France  olivia.diego@gmail.com
- Aine Feeney- BPW Ireland   aine@feeneysolicitors.com
- Eufemia Ippolito - BPW Italy ippolitoe@aliceposta.it