France and the Council of Europe

France has a unique and historic relationship with the Council of Europe, the main organisation defending human rights in Europe.

On 5 May 1949, France signed the Treaty of London, becoming one of the Council of Europe’s founding members, along with nine other States. The French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers in 2019 – more than 20 years after its last Presidency in 1997 – is an opportunity to celebrate and strengthen the ties forged between France and the Council of Europe over the past 70 years.

French figures in the Council of Europe’s history

Robert Schuman, a great European, helped create the Council of Europe, as France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nobel prize-winner René Cassin played a role in writing the European Convention on Human Rights, and was the first President of the European Court of Human Rights between 1965 and 1968. Pierre-Henri Teitgen was also very active in writing the Convention, as the project’s Rapporteur. Other French figures have also contributed to the Council of Europe’s history, including Catherine Lalumière, Secretary General from 1989 to 1994, who played a decisive role in bringing Eastern European countries into the organization.

France, the Council of Europe’s host country

The Council of Europe has its headquarters in Strasbourg, at the Palais de l’Europe, which was inaugurated in 1977. The European Court of Human Rights also has its headquarters in Strasbourg, at the Palais des Droits de l’Homme.

French has always been one of the Council of Europe’s official languages, along with English.

France’s involvement in the organization’s work

France has always been one of the Council of Europe’s main contributors. In 2019, it contributed more than €38.5 million to the organization.

France has one of the largest delegations at the Parliamentary Assembly and Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, with 18 representatives.

France is very involved in the organization’s work. It has ratified 139 texts, making it one of the Member States to have ratified the most.

France’s support for the European Convention on Human Rights system

After ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights in 1974 and recognizing the individual right to appeal in 1981, France has continually adapted its laws in line with the Court’s requirements. It monitors compliance with the Convention at the national level, and ensures the Court’s judgments are swiftly and comprehensively enforced. France fully supports the Convention system. It recently ratified Protocol 16 – which allows the highest courts and tribunals of Member States to ask the Court for advisory opinions – ensuring the text entered into force.

The Council of Europe, which was created in 1949, is the oldest European intergovernmental organization. Its founding members are Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Today, the Council of Europe has 47 Member States, including all of the countries of the European Union, representing more than 800 million Europeans.

All of the Council of Europe’s Member States have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty which seeks to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The European Court of Human Rights monitors the implementation of the Convention by Member States.

May 2019