The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental organisation which today has 47 Member States, including Switzerland. Created shortly after the Second World War by 10 European States, its constitution is the "Treaty of London" of 5 May 1949. The objective inherent in its creation is to promote and ensure peace and the respect of human rights on the European continent in the broad sense. Switzerland has been part of the Council of Europe since 6 May 1963.
OFCOM and the Council of Europe
OFCOM is active within the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI). It also coordinates Switzerland's participation in several working groups, in particular in the Committee of Experts on Cross-Border Flow of Internet Traffic and Internet Freedom (MSI-INT), of which Switzerland is a member.
The CDMSI's mission is to supervise the work of the Council of Europe in relation to the media, the information society and data protection, and to advise the Committee of Ministers on all issues related to its area of competence.
The CDMSI brings together experts representing the various Member States of the Council of Europe as well as observers from several non-member States or interested intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. Its work covers a wide range of issues relating to the freedom of expression and information enjoyed by the media, and to its limits.
The CDMSI draws up texts of standards or information handbooks. It also organises conferences or seminars which enable Member States to exchange information and experience.
The MSI-INT's mandate – which runs until the end of 2015 – is to draw up, under the authority of the CDMSI, standards based on human rights to protect and preserve an unrestricted flow of lawful internet content.
Activities and Structure of the Council of Europe
The mission of the Council of Europe is to strengthen democracy, human rights and the state based on the rule of law. According to article 1 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, the objective of the organisation is “to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress. This aim shall be pursued through the organs of the Council by discussion of questions of common concern and by agreements and common action in economic, social, cultural, scientific, legal and administrative matters and in the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
The various organs of the Council of Europe are composed of statutory bodies but also of other institutions which have been established as a function of the needs which have become apparent in practice:
- A Parliamentary Assembly, made up of 318 representatives from national parliaments and 318 deputies, which meets four times a year and issues recommendations, as well as assuming an important role in the process of accepting new members. It has set up some ten Commissions and regularly organises conferences on specific subjects.
- A Committee of Ministers, made up of the Foreign Ministers who meet every 2 years to deal with the various programmes of activities, the budget and follow-up to recommendations from the Parliamentary Assembly. This is the decision-making instance of the Council of Europe. It is assisted in its mission by the expertise of some twenty Steering Committees, set up to deal with predetermined topics.
- The General Secretariat which coordinates all the activities of the Council of Europe.
- A Congress of European local and regional authorities, made up of 318 full members and 318 deputies, which has as its objective finding solutions to strengthen democratic structures at local level. This as a consultative organ of the Council of Europe.
- The European Convention and the Court of Human Rights. Since the reform introduced by Protocol No. 11 in 1998, the monitoring system of the European Convention on Human Rights has rested on a single legal organ: The European Court of Human Rights. A permanent body, it can be invoked by a State party or by an individual, subject to compliance with certain conditions of admissibility.
- The Commissioner for Human Rights. A non-judicial instance of the Council of Europe, it is charged with promoting education and awareness of human rights as based on the instruments of the Council of Europe, and with compliance therewith.
In concrete terms, the actions of the Council of Europe are aimed at harmonising the policies of the different member states, whilst adopting common practices and standards. With this in mind, over 160 Conventions have been established in different sectors.
These Conventions serve as a basis for reform and the harmonisation of national legislation.
In general terms, the Council of Europe is an essential organisation for Switzerland, because it is an interesting alternative to authorities of the European Union to which it does not have access.
Last modification 12.04.2011