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The Council of Europe, the oldest European organisation, was founded in 1949 with the aim of unifying the continent as a whole. The decision to establish its headquarters in Strasbourg was, moreover, symbolic of the desire for reconciliation between peoples. From the outset the Council of Europe adopted an institutional structure comprising a committee of ministers and a parliamentary assembly - the first in Europe. This book retraces the history of the Organisation.



Consisting initially of Western European states, the Council of Europe was destined to embrace all the continent's countries, but the Cold War delayed its enlargement. It is only since 1989 that the Council of Europe has become a truly pan-European organisation, now comprising 47 member states.



Its mission is based on three major goals: protecting human rights, promoting democratic values and guaranteeing the rule of law. The Council of Europe is also very active in fostering co-operation in all areas of life: education, sport, culture, etc. Starting in 1959, the European Court of Human Rights grew to become the Organisation's flagship institution: its judgments are binding on the member states.



As an intergovernmental organisation, the Council of Europe has had to contend with the growth of the European Union and has sought constantly to redefine its role in international relations. In these early years of the 21st century, will it succeed in securing a key position in the European institutional architecture?

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History
of theCouncil of Europe

Birte Wassenberg
Foreword by Marie-Thérèse Bitsch

History of the Council of Europe

Birte Wassenberg
Foreword by Marie-Thérèse Bitsch

Council of Europe Publishing

French edition:

Histoire du Conseil de l’Europe

ISBN 978-92-871-7604-2

The opinions expressed in this work are the responsibility of the author and do not
necessarily relect the oficial policy of the Council of Europe.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated, reproduced or
transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic (CD-Rom, Internet, etc.) or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval
system, without prior permission in writing from the Directorate of Communication
(F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex or publishing@coe.int).

Cover design and layout: Documents and Publications Production Department (SPDP),
Council of Europe

Council of Europe Publishing
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex
http://book.coe.int

ISBN 978-92-871-7633-2
©Council of Europe, July 2013
Printed at the Council of Europe

Contents

List of acronyms and abbreviations............................................................ 7
Foreword......................................................................................................... 9
General introduction................................................................................... 13
Part One–From inception to the Greek crisis (1949-1969)................. 17
Introduction to Part One....................................................................... 19
1. The setting up of the Council of Europe.......................................... 20
The Hague Congress, May 1948 ...................................................... 20
The Treaty of London, 5 May 1949................................................. 22
Federalist beginnings: the Assembly starts work............................ 26
First new members: Greece, Turkey, Iceland and the FRG............ 31
2. Co-operation gets under way in key areas...................................... 33
Human rights: Convention and Court............................................. 33
Cultural co-operation........................................................................ 37
A lag for Europe............................................................................... 40
The European Conference of Local Authorities ............................. 40
Towards a European Social Charter ................................................ 43
The European Pharmacopoeia......................................................... 46
3. The Six consolidate: the Council of Europe’s response .................. 48
From Schuman to Eden: plans for the Council............................... 48
Establishment of the EEC and EFTA: the Assembly follows
developments..................................................................................... 51
Efforts to rationalise the European institutions ............................. 53
Unifying Europe: the Council of Europe’s bid to orchestrate
the process......................................................................................... 54
The response to the UK’s applications for EEC membership ........ 56
4. The Council of Europe: a player on the international stage? ......... 57
The admission of two neutral states: Austria and Switzerland ..... 58
New Mediterranean members: Cyprus and Malta.......................... 59
Relations with international and non-governmental
organisations ..................................................................................... 60
Relations with non-member countries ............................................ 61
The Council of Europe’s response to international crises.............. 63
The Greek crisis................................................................................ 65
Conclusion to Part One......................................................................... 67

3

History of the Council of Europe

Part Two – Seeking a distinct identity (1969-1989).............................. 69
Introduction to Part Two...................................................................... 71
1. Competition with the Community ................................................... 72
The Council of Europe and enlargement of the EEC ..................... 72
Efforts to become a forum for European policy debate .................. 75
Seeking amodus vivendiwith the EEC............................................ 78
2. Launching co-operation in new areas.............................................. 82
The European Youth Centre and European Youth Foundation..... 83
Promoting education, culture and sport for all ............................... 84
A European anthem.......................................................................... 86
Eurimages .......................................................................................... 88
Legal co-operation............................................................................. 89
Environmental and heritage conservation...................................... 91
3. Defending fundamental values......................................................... 95
The Court steps up its activity ......................................................... 95
Advances in social rights.................................................................. 99
Combating torture, the death penalty and terrorism .................... 101
Co-operation between local and regional authorities ................... 104
Conferences on parliamentary democracy .................................... 107
4. Crisis management and enlargement............................................. 109
The re-admission of Greece and southward enlargement
(Portugal and Spain)....................................................................... 109
Crises in the Mediterranean: Cyprus, Malta and Turkey............. 112
EUR-OPA and the setting up of the North-South Centre
in Lisbon.......................................................................................... 116
The accession of two micro-states and Finland ............................ 118
5. The Council of Europe looks eastwards ........................................ 121
Gradual opening up to communist countries................................ 121
Introduction of special-guest status ...............................................123
Gorbachev addresses the Assembly: the common European
home ................................................................................................ 124
Conclusion to Part Two ......................................................................125

Part Three–The renaissance of the Council of Europe
as a pan-European organisation (1989-2009)....................................... 129
Introduction to Part Three.................................................................. 131
1. Waves of accessions after the fall of the Wall ................................132
Conditions of membership .............................................................133
Admission of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe ........135
The accession of Slovenia and the Baltic states ............................138
The conundrum of Russia’s accession ..........................................140
Admission of the other former Soviet republics ...........................142

4

Contents

Admission of the former Yugoslav republics and Albania ...........145
Admission of the remaining micro-states: Andorra
and Monaco.....................................................................................149
2. New tools for co-operation ............................................................. 151
The Venice Commission................................................................ 151
The Youth Centre in Budapest and the Centre for Modern
Languages in Graz...........................................................................152
A profusion of decentralised bodies ..............................................154
The advent of monitoring ..............................................................156
Establishment of the Congress of Local and Regional
Authorities ...................................................................................... 157
3. The Council of Europe Summits.................................................... 161
The Vienna Summit, 1993 ............................................................. 161
The Strasbourg Summit, 1997........................................................163
The Warsaw Summit, 2005............................................................ 165
4. Pilot co-operation projects.............................................................. 167
Protection of national minorities.................................................. 168
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.......169
Innovative cultural co-operation projects...................................... 170
New tools of legal co-operation...................................................... 172
Protection of human rights in biomedicine...................................173
New threats of the 21st century: the Council of Europe’s
response ..........................................................................................174
5. Reform of the human rights protection machinery.......................178
Revision of the Social Charter........................................................178
First reform: establishment of the single Court ............................179
The Commissioner for Human Rights ..........................................183
Broadening the scope of the European Convention on Human
Rights ..............................................................................................185
Second reform: Protocol No. 14.................................................... 187
Towards a third reform of the Court............................................ 189
6. The Council of Europe’s place in the European architecture ......190
Introduction of observer status and NGO participatory status....190
The Council of Europe’s contribution to peace-keeping ..............193
Relations with the CSCE/OSCE: between rivalry
and co-operation .............................................................................196
Contractualising relations with the EU......................................... 199
Conclusion to Part Three.................................................................... 202
General conclusion.................................................................................... 205
Chronology of events................................................................................. 209
List of agreements, charters and conventions....................................... 219

5

History of the Council of Europe

Lists of prominent personalities.............................................................. 237
List of secretaries general of the Council of Europe..........................237
List of presidents of the Assembly .....................................................237
List of presidents of the Congress of Local and Regional
Authorities........................................................................................... 238
List of presidents of the European Court of Human Rights............. 238
List of commissioners for human rights ............................................238
Bibliography............................................................................................... 239

6

List of acronyms and abbreviations

CAPCommon Agricultural Policy
CCC/CDCCCouncil for Cultural Co-operation/Steering Committee
for Cultural Co-operation
CDDSSteering Committee for the Development of Sport
CEMCouncil of European Municipalities
CEPEJEuropean Commission for the Eficiency of Justice
CETSCouncil of Europe Treaty Series
CICMUEInternational Co-ordinating Committee of Movements
for European Unity
CLRAEStanding Conference of Local and Regional Authorities
of Europe
Convention/ECHR Conventionfor the Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms or European Convention on
Human Rights
CourtEuropean Court of Human Rights
CPTEuropean Committee for the Prevention of Torture and
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
CSCEConference on Security and Co-operation in Europe
ECRIEuropean Commission against Racism and Intolerance
ECSCEuropean Coal and Steel Community
EDCEuropean Defence Community
EECEuropean Economic Community
EFTAEuropean Free Trade Association
ENPEuropean Neighbourhood Policy
EPAEuropean Political Authority
EPASEnlarged Partial Agreement on Sport
EPCEuropean Political Cooperation
ETSEuropean Treaty Series
EUEuropean Union
EuratomEuropean Atomic Energy Community
EUR-OPAEuropean and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement
EYCEuropean Youth Centre
EYCBEuropean Youth Centre Budapest
EYFEuropean Youth Foundation
FRGFederal Republic of Germany
GDRGerman Democratic Republic
GMTMultidisciplinary Group on International Action against
Terrorism
GRECOGroup of States against Corruption

7

History of the Council of Europe













8

ILO InternationalLabour Organization
INGO Internationalnon-governmental organisation
IRA IrishRepublican Army
LDA LocalDemocracy Agency
NALAS Networkof Associations of Local Authorities of
SouthEast Europe
NATO NorthAtlantic Treaty Organization
NGO Non-governmentalorganisation
NSC North-SouthCentre
OECD Organisationfor Economic Co-operation and Development
OEEC Organisationfor European Economic Co-operation
OSCE Organizationfor Security and Co-operation in Europe
UEF Unionof European Federalists
WEU WesternEuropean Union
WHO WorldHealth Organization

Foreword

More than 60 years after its foundation, the Council of Europe has inally
found its historian, a young lecturer at the University of Strasbourg. Since
the 1980s, it has been a recurrent wish of this organisation to have its history
written. Several times abandoned, the project has become a reality with this
book, an abridged version of a post-doctoral thesis submitted in 2011, the
full text of which was recently published by a specialist publisher of books
1
on European issues.More concise than the original academic work, this
publication provides an excellent overview for readers anxious to get to the
heart of the matter.

The story of the Council of Europe is an unusual one. Founded in the
aftermath of the Second World War to achieve greater unity among Europeans
through “common action in economic, social, cultural, scientiic, legal and
administrative matters and in the maintenance and further realisation of
2
human rights and fundamental freedoms”,the Council of Europe was
rapidly supplanted by the European Economic Community, which evolved into
the current European Union (EU). Based in Strasbourg, which is the seat of
all its institutions (for example the Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary
Assembly, Secretariat General, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities,
European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner for Human Rights),
it is often confused in the public mind with the European Parliament, an
EU body which for a long time held its sessions in the Council of Europe’s
assembly chamber. The institutionalisation of summits of the heads of state
or government of the EU member states in the form of the European Council
3
adds to the confusion, not to mention the frequent mistranslations.

While the Council of Europe’s image may seem a little vague, it is also
paradoxical. Established as a traditional intergovernmental organisation in which
the Committee of Ministers takes the important decisions on a unanimous
basis while the Parliamentary Assembly is purely consultative, the Council of
Europe is most famous for its human rights protection system, the keystone
of which, the European Court of Human Rights, is in practice a supranational
body based on acceptance by the member states of its jurisdiction and the right
of individual petition. Perceived initially as an embodiment of the Cold War,
like all the organisations founded in Europe before the détente of the 1970s,

1. Wassenberg2012a.
2. Article1 of the Statute of the Council of Europe (European Treaty Series No. 1), the
founding treaty signed in London on 5 May 1949.
3. TheCouncil of Europe is calledConseil de l’Europein French andEuroparatin German;
European Council is translated asConseil européenandEuropäischer Rat.

9

History of the Council of Europe

it emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall as the organisation ideally placed to
integrate the former communist countries with minimum delay. After being
founded in 1949 with only 10 member states and then gradually extended to
include all European states west of the Iron Curtain, it came to embody after
1989 a “Greater Europe” covering the whole continent from the Atlantic to
the Urals. Conceived by its founders to defend the democratic values of peace,
liberty, solidarity and human rights, it has a low proile among the general
public, which is largely indifferent to it.

Birte Wassenberg’s book does justice to the Council of Europe. In analysing
its activities over the years it shows the scale of the co-operation instituted.
First of all, in its major sphere of interest, the furtherance of human rights:
the 1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms has not only been periodically amended by protocols to improve
protection of those rights, it has also been supplemented by numerous other
conventions. For instance, the European Social Charter seeks to protect
economic and social rights. Other agreements concern the prevention of torture
or terrorism, the rights of minorities, the ight against violence or against
organised crime, biomedicine, and so on. Activities were quickly extended
to other ields, too: cultural exchanges, harmonisation in education, heritage
and environmental conservation, animal welfare, and so on.

While the Council of Europe is active on many fronts, the method employed
makes this co-operation unclear to some observers. This is because it involves
complex intergovernmental agreements which take a long time to adopt
and are dificult to implement. Jointly prepared by Committee of Ministers
experts, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Secretariat oficials and
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing civil society, these
agreements are not necessarily accepted by all the member states but may
sometimes be signed by non-member states, and signatories are not always
obliged to sign up to all the articles. Once adopted, these treaties come into
force after they have been ratiied by a certain minimum number of states
determined on an ad hoc basis, thus creating an à la carte, variable-geometry
Europe. This phenomenon has become even more marked since the latest
waves of accessions, involving states the political culture of which differs
from that of the founders. The Council of Europe may well be a “school of
democracy”, but it is more diverse with a membership of 47 than with a
membership of 10 or 23, as in earlier days.

The Council of Europe is therefore compelled to ind other ways of asserting
its identity. The Assembly in particular realised the need for this at a very
early stage. It began by taking control of its agenda. It granted itself the right
to discuss the political aspects of security and defence issues, which are not
oficially part of its mandate. It made it its practice to debate all problems
emerging on the international scene with the intention of becoming a
thinktank of European uniication. It changed its name on its own authority,
taking the title “Parliamentary Assembly” in 1974 in place of “Consultative

10

Foreword

Assembly”, as it is referred to in the Statute. Even more importantly, it
sought for decades to make the Council of Europe the overall framework for
European integration. Initially, in the 1950s, it was able to count on the United
Kingdom, which wanted to exercise external oversight over the European
Economic Community, of which it was not yet a member. When London
applied to join the Community, these hopes vanished for a time. They were
revived in 1989 when, at the instigation of its Secretary General, the Council
of Europe (which was opening up rapidly to the former Eastern bloc countries)
became the embodiment of “Greater Europe”. Starting in 1993-94, however,
it was faced with competition. This was from the EU, again, as it widened
its remit and expanded eastwards, and from the Conference on Security
and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), which became the “Organization” for
Security and Co-operation in Europe, with virtually the same aims as the
Council of Europe.

Birte Wassenberg gives a very detailed account of the efforts, hopes and
disappointments which have punctuated the history of the Council of Europe. She
offers a subtle analysis of the relations among its institutions, and particularly
those between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly,
in which one is the more cautious partner by force of circumstance – namely
due to the need to reach a consensus among member states – while the other
seems bolder and seeks to be a driving force. Birte Wassenberg mentions the
increasing role of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, who has
taken advantage of the exceptional circumstances of the early post-communist
years to impart fresh impetus. She underlines the original contribution by
the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to the democratisation of the
continent. She discusses the role of the European Court of Human Rights, not
as a lawyer but as a historian, highlighting not only its prestige and growing
authority but also its dificulty in coping with its ever-increasing caseload – to
the point that it sometimes appears to be a victim of its own success, doomed
to continual reform of its working methods.

The book also provides a comparative study of the history of the Council of
Europe and that of the other organisations: the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and, above all, the EU. The latter can be seen
at one and the same time as a model, in terms of effectiveness and being in the
public eye; as a counter-model, too concerned with economic matters and not
enough with promoting culture and democracy; as a competitor, with more
media exposure and more money; and as an indispensable partner which,
however, often pursues its own interests. Yet 27 European states are members
of both the EU and the Council of Europe, which also includes a number of
successor states to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, a few micro-states and
two large states, Turkey and Russia, which does not always facilitate its work.

Set at each stage in its European and international context, the history of the
Council of Europe as it is presented here is a fascinating adventure. Although
the dense narrative demands a certain amount of attention on the part of

11

History of the Council of Europe

readers, on every page they will have the satisfaction of discovering some
little known facts about this organisation. Everyone should take pleasure in
consulting this book, which is destined to become a reference work.

1

2

Marie-Thérèse Bitsch
Emeritus Professor at the University of Strasbourg

General introduction

“We must re-create the European Family in a regional structure called,
it may be, the United States of Europe. And the irst practical step would
4
be to form a Council of Europe.”
In his famous speech at the University of Zurich on 19 September 1946,
Winston Churchill called on Europe to unite. With the Second World War
barely in the past, he made an eloquent plea for reconciliation and urged the
European family to establish a “Council of Europe”.
His words helped to generate the impetus which inspired staunch Europeans
from some 20 countries to meet in The Hague two years later and give
Europe an organisation dedicated to achieving “greater unity between its
members”. This was the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, brought into
being by a treaty signed in London on 5 May 1949 by 10 founding states
(Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands,
Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom). It had a decision-making body,
the Committee of Ministers, which consisted of government representatives,
and a “deliberative” assembly of parliamentarians from all the member states.
Its ield of action was vast, but its Statute barred it from dealing with defence,
which was covered by the North Atlantic Treaty, signed just a month earlier,
on 4 April 1949. It was also given a law-making role – that of drawing up
European conventions for adoption by the Committee of Ministers, and later
signature and ratiication by the member states.
At irst sight, one might think that the Council of Europe was exactly what
Churchill had in mind in 1946: a European organisation bringing the European
family together and enabling its members to co-operate in many different
areas. In reality, however, it would be wrong to see the Council of Europe as
simply the real-life projection of his vision. In its structure, modus operandi
and membership, it was essentially the fruit of a compromise between
differing visions of Europe: between the intergovernmental Europe envisaged by
the United Kingdom, and the more federalist version favoured (chiely) by
France and Italy; between a political Europe based on a European
organisation, and an economic Europe resting on a large common market; and, inally,
between a Europe based on a shared culture and shared basic values, and a
Europe deined solely in terms of geography.
The Council of Europe, indeed, embodies the “European idea” – a multiform
5
concept, which has inspired numerous projects since the 19th century.Even

4.
5.

Winston Churchill, 19 September 1946, Zurich, Switzerland.
Much has been written on the origins and development of the European idea: see, for
example, Girault and Bossuat 1993; Bossuat 1994; Girault 1994; Du Réau 1996; Frank 2004;
Chabot 2005.

1

3

History of the Council of Europe

Churchill’s term, “United States of Europe”, had been coined in the great
revolutionary year of 1848 and later taken up by countless intellectuals and
writers. The best known was Victor Hugo, who, addressing the Paris Peace
Congress on 21 August 1849, suggested that “a day will come when we shall
see those two immense groupings, the United States of America and the
6
United States of Europe, face to face and clasping hands across the ocean”.
At a much later stage, between the two world wars, many “Europeanist”
movements came forward with plans for European unity. There was no ixed
pattern. Some wanted a cultural, others an economic, and others again a
political Europe. Some favoured a vast, federal Europe, others a Europe based
on new regional organisations, or existing international organisations, such
as the League of Nations. Some felt that Europe should include Russia and
the United Kingdom, and even forge ties with Africa, while others saw it in
strictly continental terms, with France and Germany as its central elements.
And so the establishment of the Council of Europe marked the end of one
story, the story of the European idea, and the start of another, the story of
how that idea was realised after 1945, a process usually known as the
build7
ing of Europe.No study of the Council of Europe’s development from 1949
to 2009 can ignore that switch between narratives.
The Council of Europe was actually born as part of a Europe-building process
which began soon after 1945, in a Cold War context, initially with projects
aimed at reconstructing and reorganising the continent’s economies. This was
the focus of the Marshall Plan, launched by the United States in June 1947,
which led to the founding on 16 April 1948 of the irst European organisation,
the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), to ensure that
Europeans worked together in allocating and administering American aid. At
the same time, “military” Europe began to take shape after the Prague coup of
February 1948 which brought the communists to power in Czechoslovakia.
8
The continent was now divided, and ive west European statessigned a
mutual support and defence treaty, the Brussels Pact, on 17 March 1948. A
year later, on 4 April 1949, Western Europe established military ties with the
United States in the North Atlantic Treaty, from which the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO) emerged in 1950. The Council of Europe was
established just one month after the birth of this “Atlantic” Europe, on 5 May
1949. Then, barely a year later, on 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman proposed
the pooling of coal and steel production, and this led to the Treaty of Paris,
establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was
signed on 18 April 1951.
The Council of Europe’s story is thus bound up with that of several other
European and Atlantic organisations – the European Economic Community
(EEC), NATO, the ECSC – which were founded in short order between 1948

6.
7.
8.

1

4

See Wilhelm 2000.
On the early stages of that process, see Bitsch 2008, pp. 34-42.
France, the United Kingdom and the three Benelux countries.

General introduction

and 1951. Its main feature was the relationship which developed between
“Greater Europe” (the Council of Europe’s 10 member states) and “Smaller
9
Europe” (the ECSC’s six member states or “the Six”,all Council members
too, whose integration centred on France and Germany). As time went on,
however, the smaller group, which bonded within the EEC in 1957 and, from
1992, the European Union (EU), grew steadily. The Council of Europe was
largely sidelined and even forgotten, both by specialists on the development
of Europe and by the public at large. How many people realise that Europe
still comes in two sizes today – “smaller” (the 27-member EU) and “greater”
(the 47-member Council of Europe)?

So why – given that Europe seems largely the creation of the EEC and, later,
the EU – should we look more closely at the Council of Europe? Perhaps
because the Council embodies another Europe, a Europe which stands less
for an economic market than for a community of fundamental values based
on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. A Europe the geographical
boundaries of which extend far beyond that of the EU and which includes
both Russia and Turkey, two states which, for different reasons, invariably
feature in any discussion of the limits of “Community” Europe. Retracing
the Council of Europe’s history thus involves seeing the European process
in broader terms and shifting the focus away from the (chiely economic)
integration achieved by the smaller group.

The Strasbourg organisation’s development falls into three main periods.
The irst runs from its inception in 1949 to the “Greek crisis”, that is, the
Greek military leaders’ decision to withdraw from it in 1969. The second
covers its search for a new identity in the ensuing two decades up to the fall
of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In fact, once the Europe of the Six had expanded
to include the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland in 1973, the Council
increasingly found itself facing competition from the EEC. Finally, the third
period, running from 1989 to 2009, sees it becoming a pan-European
organisation and progressively opening its doors to the formerly Soviet-bloc countries
of Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia.

9. France,Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries.

1

5

Part One

From inception to the Greek crisis
(1949-1969)

Introduction to Part One

The Council of Europe’s genesis was extensively inluenced by the emergence
of a bipolar world and a new pattern of international relations based on
confrontation between two superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union.
Europe had barely emerged from the Second World War when it found itself
dragged into the Cold War. By 1947, East–West tensions were increasing as
the Soviet Union tightened its hold on a chain of communist satellites which
formed its outer defence ring in Central Europe and the Balkans. The US, for
its part, was pursuing a strategy of “containment” aimed at stopping countries
still safe from communist rule from falling into the Soviet sphere. Following
the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950, relations between East and
West worsened steadily. The West’s chief concern was Europe’s ability to hold
out against the Soviet Union, and attention focused on the Federal Republic
of Germany (FRG), which had been established in 1949 and found itself
facing a communist counterpart, the German Democratic Republic (GDR),
across the Iron Curtain. The tensions eased briely after Stalin’s death in
1953, but were again inlamed by the Soviets’ use of military force to crush
Hungary’s democratic uprising in 1956. In the period from 1958 to 1962, the
Cuban missile crisis and the second Berlin crisis drove an even deeper wedge
between the rival blocs. This had particularly grave implications for Germany,
where the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 turned the Iron Curtain
into a physical reality. The international climate did not start to soften until
1963, when hesitant signs of détente became visible and the two
superpowers decided to start talking. East–West relations slowly improved – until
1968, when the suppression of Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring renewed the
chill. Of course there were conlicts in other parts of the world as well: the
US became involved in the Vietnam War and, in the Middle East, the third
Israeli-Arab war (the Six-Day War) erupted on 5 June 1967. It was against
this background of strained international relations that the Council of Europe
gradually took shape.
Its development was strongly inluenced by the presence on the scene of other
European organisations, particularly the OEEC (from 1948), the ECSC (from
1951) and the Western European Union (WEU), which emerged from the
ive-member Brussels Pact (France, the United Kingdom, the three Benelux
countries, 1948) extended in October 1954 to Italy and the FRG. But
relations between the ten-member Council and the six-member ECSC were the
chief shaping factor. Competition became a threat when the Treaty of Rome
established the EEC on 25 March 1957, obliging the Council to assert its own
position and differentiate itself clearly from the newcomer (more concerned
with economics, but also more supranational and federalist), as the Six became
steadily more integrated between 1957 and 1969.

1

9

History of the Council of Europe

A customs union was initiated on 1 January 1959 and completed on
1 July 1968. In January 1962, the Six agreed on the principles of a Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP). Following the failure of plans for a vast
freetrade area covering all the OEEC states, the non-EEC countries signed the
Stockholm Convention, establishing the European Free Trade Association
(EFTA), on 4 January 1960. The Six were unable, however, to secure
political union. Following adoption of the Bonn declaration on political union on
18 July 1961, the Fouchet Plan failed to win unanimous acceptance and was
inally dropped on 17 April 1962. Other EEC projects stalled too, particularly
owing to the recalcitrance of General de Gaulle, President of France from
1958 to 1969, who twice vetoed British membership, on 14 January 1963
and 27 November 1967. When the European Commission and its President,
Walter Hallstein, proposed reforming the inancing of the CAP through the
introduction of own resources and restructuring of the EEC institutions, de
Gaulle operated an “empty chair” policy from July 1965 to January 1966,
when the Luxembourg Compromise was agreed on. The latter also led, on
1 July 1967, to the merging of the executives of the three communities (ECSC,
EEC, European Atomic Energy Community – Euratom) into a single European
Commission. Finally, following de Gaulle’s resignation, the Hague Summit (1
to 2 December 1969) decided to relaunch the European integration process,
opening the way to enlargement of the EEC, strengthening of its institutions
and the establishment of European Political Cooperation (EPC) – all of which
meant that competition between the Council of Europe and Community
Europe was now inevitable.

1. The setting up of the Council of Europe

The impetus which led to the Council of Europe came from various sections
of the European Movement, which came together in 1946-47 and proposed
that all proponents of European unity meet at a major congress in The Hague
10
from 7 to 10 May 1948.This was the congress which turned plans for unity
into something more practical by suggesting that a European organisation be
set up to realise them.

The Hague Congress, May 1948

There were numerous pro-Europe groupings, but just two main tendencies
– two visions of European unity. The Federalists, mainly French, Italian and
Belgian, wanted a supranational organisation with strong political powers
(which meant at least partial surrender of national sovereignty). This was the
aim, for example, of the Union of European Federalists (UEF), founded on
15 December 1946, with Hendrick Brugmans (Netherlands) as its President
and French writer Alexandre Marc as its Secretary General. The Unionists,

10. Forfurther details, see Lipgens 1982; Boyd and Boyd 1950; Guieu and Le Dréau 2009.

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The setting up of the Council of Europe

on the other hand, preferred confederal union to federation, rejected radical
change and relied on intergovernmental co-operation among sovereign states
to defuse national enmities. Mostly British, they were represented in the
UK by the United Europe Movement, founded on 14 May 1947 by Winston
Churchill, leader of the opposition since July 1945, and his son-in-law, Duncan
Sandys. In other European countries, they included such well-known igures
as journalist René Courtain, resistance leader Raoul Dautry, and former heads
of government Paul Ramadier and Paul Reynaud (France), Paul van Zeeland
(Belgium) and Józef Retinger (Poland). Just before the Hague Congress, the
leaders of the two groups decided to establish an International Co-ordinating
Committee of Movements for European Unity (Comité international de
coordination des mouvements pour l’unité européenne – CICMUE) to ensure that
disagreement on methods did not jeopardise the shared aim of uniting Europe.
At its constituent meeting on 13 and 14 December 1947, CICMUE decided to
act on a proposal put forward by the Federalists in August, at the UEF Congress
in Montreux, and convene a full-scale “Estates General of Europe”, attended
by all pro-Europe activists. Three working committees – Political, Economic
and Cultural – were set up to prepare the Hague Congress and produce reports
for discussion. The Unionists were responsible for co-ordinating the Political
Committee, which dealt with institutional issues, and so were decisively
involved from the start in planning the projected European organisation.
Adopting Winston Churchill’s term, Sandys submitted a preliminary draft
report calling for the setting up of a “Council of Europe”.
The Hague Congress was held from 7 to 10 May 1948 in the “Ridderzaal”
(Knights’ Hall) of the Netherlands’ Parliament. Churchill was honorary
president, and some 740 delegates attended from 18 European countries.
France and the UK sent the largest delegations (some 150 members each), and
Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Switzerland came next, with
several dozen each. There were also numerous observers from, for example,
the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the United States, Canada and
the Holy See.
The differences between Federalists and Unionists resurfaced as soon as the
Congress opened. Hendrick Brugmans talked of a supranational
organisation, while Churchill saw “his” Council of Europe as subordinate to the
United Nations at world level. Of the three working committees, the Political
Committee was the one which played the biggest part in setting up the Council
of Europe. Its discussion of Europe’s institutional future, chaired by the French
socialist and former Prime Minister Paul Ramadier, again relected
deepseated disagreement between the Federalists and Unionists. The Federalists
demanded supranational institutions, to which states would surrender their
sovereignty. They wanted a constituent assembly, and some even suggested
that this be elected by universal suffrage of all Europeans. The Unionists stuck
to their vision of a consultative assembly, which would help the European
idea make headway by identifying and discussing problems and suggesting
solutions to governments. The Final Resolution was drafted by Duncan

21

History of the Council of Europe

Sandys and René Courtin – both Unionists. It was unanimously adopted
thanks to the balance it struck between the two rival visions of European
uniication. On the one hand, it declared that “the time has come when the
European nations must transfer and merge some portion of their sovereign
rights”. On the other, it simply proposed the establishment of “a European
Assembly chosen by the parliaments of the participating nations”. This
compromise between the Unionist and Federalist positions already pointed the
way to the binary structure of the future Council of Europe, which would
have both an intergovernmental committee (key feature for the Unionists)
and a parliamentary assembly (key feature for the Federalists). The
inluence of the economic and cultural committees, chaired respectively by Paul
van Zeeland (Belgium) and the Spanish writer and philosopher Salvador de
Madariaga, on the Council of Europe’s institutional structure was less direct.
The Economic Committee’s primary concern was to defend liberal
principles, and the Economic Resolution advocated a free market, removal of trade
barriers and customs tariffs and free movement of workers. The Cultural
Committee, on which the Federalists Denis de Rougemont and Alexandre Marc
were prominent, called for the setting up of a European cultural centre and
European youth centre, thus anticipating two of the future Council’s priorities.

At the closing session, a “Message to Europeans” was read out by Rougemont
and applauded by the whole Congress. But it was not, as originally planned,
signed by the participants, and this marked the end of a proposed
Europewide campaign to collect further signatures and mobilise public opinion.
The Unionists seem, ultimately, to have dominated the Congress, which
nonetheless succeeded in bringing the various pro-Europe groups together
in the European Movement, which was founded on 25 October 1948 with
Winston Churchill, Paul-Henri Spaak, Alcide de Gasperi and Léon Blum as
its honorary presidents.

The actual task of organising Europe was left to national governments, which
began negotiating in the winter of 1948-49.

The Treaty of London, 5 May 1949

In July 1948, the pro-Europeans sent the Political Resolution adopted in The
Hague to the 16 OEEC member states. To win support for a European
assembly, they also sent a memorandum to the foreign ministers of the ive Brussels
Treaty states. Georges Bidault, French Foreign Minister, and Paul-Henri
Spaak, Belgian Prime Minister, were immediately in favour, but negotiations
within the ive states on setting up the Council of Europe proved long and
arduous: they were initiated in London by a Standing Committee in September
1948, then taken further by a study committee in Paris, and concluded only
11
at the London Conference in spring 1949.

11. SeeBitsch 1997.

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The setting up of the Council of Europe

On the initiative of Spaak and Robert Schuman, Bidault’s successor as French
Foreign Minister, a blueprint for the projected organisation was submitted to
the Standing Committee on 2 September. But British Foreign Secretary Ernest
Bevin feared that the British House of Commons might lose its sovereign rights
to the proposed European assembly and preferred a “Council of Europe”
consisting of government representatives. He was backed by the foreign ministers
of Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Joseph Bech and Dirk Stikker. To break
the deadlock, Schuman and Spaak suggested that the Brussels Treaty states set
up a special committee to study the whole issue. This committee met in Paris
in November 1948 with Édouard Herriot, President of the French National
12
Assembly, in the chair.The French and British positions were still
fundamentally opposed. On 26 November, Hugh Dalton, the British delegation’s
chairman, submitted a memorandum insisting on a “Council of Europe” with
government-appointed members only. Faithful to the European Movement’s
line, the French delegation demanded a consultative assembly with members
appointed by the parliaments of “all the nations of Europe”. The project’s
geographical coverage was the only non-contentious issue, and some additional
West European countries were now included. On 15 December, a compromise
started to emerge concerning the membership, appointment and powers of
the future European assembly: its members would be appointed by national
parliaments, it would have no constituent, legislative or executive powers and
would not deal with military matters, and a Council of Europe comprising
ministers from the member states would be set up alongside it. This scheme
was closer to the British than to the Franco-Belgian position since it reduced
the assembly’s scope for action by assigning greater decision-making powers to
the future ministerial body. Nonetheless, Hugh Dalton returned on 18 January
1949 with a new British proposal, which threatened this compromise solution:
the UK now insisted that the members of the assembly be government
appointees, and further suggested that it be called a “conference”. On that occasion,
too, Dalton oficially proposed Strasbourg as the location for the new body.
Bevin had already put this idea to Schuman at their meeting in London on
14 January, giving the impression that the UK favoured Strasbourg solely for
its symbolic value, as an ideal setting for a fresh attempt to reconcile France
13
and Germany and unite Europe.In reality, there were other reasons too.
The UK was wary of the whole project and hoped that putting the Council
in Strasbourg (well away from the major European trunk routes, and not
easily reached from the capitals of the ive Brussels Treaty states) would
14
clip its wings.With the earlier compromise now in doubt, negotiations
ground to a halt. It was not until the Consultative Council of the ive states
met in London on 27 and 28 January 1949 that concessions made by Spaak

12.
13.
14.

It had 18 members: 5 British, 5 French, 3 Dutch, 3 Belgian and 2 Luxembourger.
Marx, in Bitsch 1997, pp. 49-50.
This is conirmed in a letter from Bevin to Dalton of 22 January 1951, which is in the Dalton
archives and is quoted by Bevin’s biographers.

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