The Council of Europe and The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Seminar Paper, 2004

12 Pages, Grade: 2,7

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1. Introduction

2. The Council of Europe
2.1. Introduction
2.2.1. The Origins of the Council of Europe
2.2.2. The main achievements and main work
2.3. Conclusion

3. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)
3.1. Introduction
3.2.1. The origins of the CSCE
3.2.2. Preliminary talks and Conference
3.2.3. The Final Act
3.2.4. Achievements
3.3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In the following text, the author is concerned with the origins of the Council of Europe and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Causes for their appearance, their process of working and their achievements will be dwelled.

2. The Council of Europe

2.1. Introduction

The Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organisation, it was founded in 1949 by ten countries: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, accompanied by Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It is distinct from the EU, so it is no body of the European Union. Nevertheless, no country has joined the Union without first belonging to the Council of Europe (

2.2.1. The Origins of the Council of Europe

After the frights of the Second World War, it was a goal to develop Europe again, to reconcile with one another and to create the framework for better living conditions (Holtz, p. 52). Winston Churchill was the first statesman who remarked the idea of a common Europe, in a speech in September 1946: “We must build a kind of United States of Europe“(, he said in a speech. Ironically, Churchill did not think of his own country, Great Britain, to join such a new confederation of states, but only the countries of the European continent.

In May 1948, the International Committee of the Movements for European Unity organized the Hague Congress. More than a thousand delegates from about twenty countries attended the Congress. A series of resolutions were adopted at the end of the Congress, calling for the creation of an economic and political union to guarantee security, economic independence and social progress (

Two months after the Hague Congress, Georges Bidault, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs invited the United Kingdom and the Benelux countries, and “all countries who wished to give substance to the Hague proposals“ (

On the meeting, various key issues have become apparent. France and Belgium wanted to establish an assembly with wide ranging powers which was composed of members of parliament from the various states, following the declarations of the Hague Congress. Thought out it meant a federate state of Europe. Great Britain in contrast, which favoured a form of intergovernmental cooperation in which the assembly would have a purely consultative function, tended to a confederation of states (Schmuck, p. 72). Finally, in January 1949 the five ministers for foreign affairs of the Benelux countries, GB and France, reached a compromise. They established a Council of Europe consisting of a ministerial committee, to meet in private and an assembly as a consultative body, to meet in public.

In May 1949, the treaty constituting the Statute of the Council of Europe was signed by ten countries. 1st article of Statue proves: “The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members…“ (Council of Europe, p. 23). At the same time, however the statute limited the member countries to parliamentary democracies and to those states, which were ready to guarantee the human rights and the principles of the pluralistic democracy. Since the statue was a compromise, no word was said about drawing up a constitution or of pooling national sovereignty to achieve a political and economic union, as called for by the Hague delegates. The first major convention was drawn up on 4 November 1950: The European Convention on Human Rights, which was one of the first international documents concerning human rights issues (

Shortly after the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1951, Robert Schuman, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, approximated all the Council of Europe countries with the proposal for a European Coal and Steel Community, which should overcome national sovereignty for the first time. Indeed in a very special and not the most eminent point, but finally it has been the origin of the European Union. Six countries joined the institution: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany (

In the years between 1949 and 1970, eight new countries joined the Council of Europe. In this period, the organisation gradually developed its structure and its major institutions.

Thus, the first public hearing of the European Court of Human Rights took place in 1960.

These years also saw the introduction of the specialized ministerial conferences. The first, in 1959, brought together European ministers responsible for social and family affairs. In 1961, the European Social Charter was signed (, which is one of the most significant documents in the history of the Council.

In the years between 1967 and 1984 the Council had to deal with several crisis, so 1967 the Coup d’état in Greece, 1974 the Cypriot crisis and 1981 the Coup d’état in Turkey.

From 1985 on a rapprochement by the Council of Europe towards East Europe began and the Eastern European countries “grasped this outstretched hand“( Cooperation with all European countries, regardless of its socio-economic and political systems, represented for the Council of Europe the only real alternative in relation to the division of Europe into two military blocks (Holtz, p. 53). In 1989, only 23 states belonged to the Council of Europe. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, it has changed from a Western Europe to a pan Europe organization. Today it counts 46 member states with over 800 million inhabitants (Holtz, p. 17).

2.2.2. The main achievements and main work

The Council of Europe is since 1949 for it to get the European agreement primarily over the implementation of the European basic values. “Values instead of borders“(Holtz, p. 15) was the motto of these days, what was from great importance for the Eastern European countries. The Council of Europe may be considered as a singular instance for the warranty and development of the human rights. It created the one of the most progressive systems in the world for the protection of human rights and basic liberties. With the signing of the European convention for the protection of human rights and the basic liberties on November 4th 1950, the first international right instrument for the protection of human rights accrued(

In December 1964, the Minister committee already explained that the Council of Europe forms no block and remains open in the context of the borders of its statute to European third states. Thus, the Council of Europe was also one of the first organizations, which concerned concretely a fundamental improvement of the relations between east and west (Holtz, p. 53). For Chancellor Helmut Schmidt it was “a political pioneer achievement of the Council of Europe to grant to an international parliament the right of participating in the organization of intergovernmental relations“(Holtz, p. 13).

Members of the parliamentary assembly from Central and Eastern Europe learned here the parliamentary “controversy culture“, which keeps a democracy alive, like Leni Fischer, former President of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, said in the Generalanzeiger on 3 February 1998 (Holtz, p. 81).

Altogether, the Council of Europe created over 190 legally binding European treaties or conventions on topics ranging from human rights to the fight against organised crime and from the prevention of torture to data protection or cultural cooperation ( They constitute the most important instrument on the way to a larger European agreement and to the development of international right. They make thousands of bilateral contracts redundant, are ratified from a different number of member states on voluntary basis, and “symbolize a Europe of different speeds “ (Holtz, p. 20). Only one convention must be ratified: the European human right convention.

The so called ’monitoring’ was introduced in the 1990s, in order to guarantee that the member states keep their entry obligations and is now one of the main working fields of the Council. States, which do not adhere to their obligations entered upon the entry, now know that sanctions threaten them, which are gradated up to the exclusion from the organization (Holtz, p. 20 f). “(…) the governments and parliaments in Europe must notice that we mean it gravely, if it concerns people and democratic citizen rights“, Leni Fischer wrote (Holtz, p. 95).

2.3. Conclusion

The European Council still is an important institution, because it includes almost all states of Europe in contrast to the European Union. And such an institution is necessary; otherwise, the narrowing of Europe would remain a privilege to economically already good-posed countries, what nobody really can aspire.

On one hand, the European Council has no real power and can only admonish or exclude his members. On the other hand, a reproof or criticism is more than many political leaders dare, concerning other European countries. No statesman for example dared to criticise Russia openly in the case Chodorkovsky or the decline of freedom of press in Russia, the Council of Europe in contrast did.

3. The Conference on Security and European Cooperation in Europe (CSCE)

3.1. Introduction

The CSCE began with the aim of confirming the status quo in Europe and with it the dispartment of Germany and Europe into blocs. With clever diplomacy, the western European states linked this aim of the Soviet Union with their own goal and committed the Soviet Union to compliance with minimum standards concerning human rights.

3.2.1. The origins of the CSCE

The idea of a pan-European security conference was raised by the Soviet Union and its partners in the 1950s and 1960s (Molotow in 1954, Rapacki in 1957-64, ”Declaration of Bucharest“ by WTO in 1966). But the soviet proposals during that time were unacceptable. The Soviet Union demanded things like recognizing the German Democratic Republic and dissolving military treaties like NATO and the Warsaw Pact, which was not negotiable. Furthermore, the demands were declaimed aggressively to the West. So the idea of a conference was shelved for several years (Bredow, p. 33-38).

After the Prague Spring in 1968, the Soviet Union became fear. It feared a dispersion of the struggle for freedom and prosperity. As the Soviet Union could not comply with the first demand, the leaders tried to fulfil the second. And to do that they needed the West. So since 1968 they proposed a conference without presumes („Communiqué of the Conference of Prague“, 1969) (Bredow, p. 38ff).

The motivation of the Soviet Union during that time is clear. It tries to keep to the economic development of the west through cooperation. The Soviets are underdeveloped; the population in some parts of the Soviet Empire is discontented. The Soviets have need of technology to satisfy their population in some cases and amuse them from others. Furthermore, the acceptance of the status quo in Europe is evident for the Soviet Union to solve their problem within their Empire.

Because the Soviet Union now urgently wanted a conference, the western countries were to make conditions. They called for participation of the United States and Canada, reconfirmation of the legal status of Berlin, a discussion of conventional disarmament in Europe and the inclusion of human rights issues on the agenda of the conference (Bredow, p. 40ff).

In the following years several treaties were passed and conventions were held e.g. the Agreement on the reconfirmation of the status of Berlin, the West German treaties with the Soviet Union, Poland and East Germany, an agreement to begin Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR), Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, the opening of talks on the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 1) and the Nixon-Brezhnev Summit in 1972. After all, time was ripe for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE, p. 8).

3.2.2. Preliminary talks and Conference

The consultations ran off in 4 rounds of talks from November 1972 until June 1973. They concluded with the Final Recommendations of the Helsinki Consultations, which outlined in detail the practical arrangements for a conference not only practical: as one can imagine the setting of an agenda always influences the effect of a conference. And the Final Recommendation of preliminary talks of June 1973 already contains most of the topics, which are embodied in the Final Act two years later (Bredow, p. 42).

The CSCE formally opened in Helsinki on 3 July 1973 and the working phase lasted until 1975. Experts from the 35 participating States were engaged in “what amounted to the first ever multilateral East-West negotiation process“ (OSCE, p. 8), the final output was the CSCE Final Act.

3.2.3. The Final Act

The Final Act is no treaty but only a politically binding agreement so that the decisions were politically not legally binding. The Helsinki Final Act included the three so called ”baskets”:

The first basket was related to politico-military aspects of security, like the sanctity of borders, the non-application of force, the acknowledgment of the national sovereignty or the non-interference.

The second basket is concerned with questions of co-operation in economic and scientific affairs and suggested guidelines for co-operation within the sectors environment and technology.

“The third basket dealt with ’co-operation in humanitarian and other fields’ – a formula covering human rights issues“ (OSCE, p.10). For fear that the definition of this declaration of intents could lead to an erosion of the social systems of the Eastern Bloc countries, the Warsaw Pact states prevented that it came to the definition of minimum or fundamental standards in this chapter.

Follow-up meetings took place in Belgrade (4 October 1977 – 8 March 1978), Madrid (11 November 1980 – 9 September 1983) and Vienna (4 November 1986 – 19 January 1989), but didn’t effect spectacular new results.

3.2.4. Achievements

Critics often called the document insufficient but Hans Dietrich Genscher, at that time Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic, argues that despite all, the agreements to the third basket made possible minimum standards concerning human rights issues:

“The regard of the human rights and basic liberties has now expressly become a central element of the relations between east and west. (…) Persisting in the complete implementation of the agreements over the human dimension became a stimulus for the people and civil rights activists in central and Eastern Europe“ (Genscher, p.301). Hundreds of citizens in Eastern Europe formed groups to monitor implementation of the Final Act and opposition groups in the WTO based several demands on the Final Act of Helsinki (Bredow, p. 70f), so Solidarność in Poland, what is an argument for Genscher´s statement.

The linking of human rights with cooperation on other more traditional security questions was something completely new in the International Relations and gave human rights the importance and closer attention it deserves. The CSCE also multilateralized the bipolar climate by bringing the neutral and non-aligned countries like Austria, Finland and others into the European security system on an equal basis with the members of the military alliances (OSCE, p.9).

3.3. Conclusion

Altogether, it can be argued that the CSCE did not succeed to obtain treaties according to international law. But alone a coming off of the conference during that time was a success and the public agreement on certain declarations had a high symbolic content.

The CSCE has been the beginning of a quite successful story, which culminates in today’s Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is not completely researched in what extent the in the Final Act laid down basic liberties, on which the opposite groups based their work, added to the end of the authoritarian regimes in south-east and east Europe, but it surely did. Even more than the freedom, the enormous and almost infinite credits for the socialist countries, which payments began with the CSCE, introduced and aided to the self-destruction of the Soviet Union and their Empire.

4. Bibliography

Bredow, Wilfried von, Der KSZE-Prozess. Von der Zähmung zur Auflösung des Ost-West Konflikts, Darmstadt 1992, p. 33-126.

Genscher, Hans-Dietrich, 25 Jahre Schlussakte von Helsinki. In: Sicherheit und Frieden 4/2000, p. 301.

Holtz, Uwe (Hrsg.), Fischer, Leni u.a., 50 Jahre Europarat, (Schriften des Zentrums für Europäische Integrationsforschung, Bd. 17), Baden-Baden 2000, p. 11-71, p. 91-101, p. 111-121.

Maresca, John, To Helsinki. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, London 1985.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE Handbook, Vienna 1999-2002.

Schmuck, Otto (Hg.), Vierzig Jahre Europarat. Renaissance in gesamteuropäischer Perspektive, Bonn 1990, p. 65-99, p. 243-255.

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The Council of Europe and The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
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Paul Koleczko (Author), 2004, The Council of Europe and The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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