MAY 5 is Council of Europe Day. The Council of Europe or European Council, often mistaken for the European Union, was founded on this date after the Second World War in 1949 by Ireland, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom. Today it is an organisation of some 47 countries whose goals are to protect; democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The European Union, which shares the same flag and anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, celebrate their international day next week on the May 9. This being the date in 1950 when the then French Foreign Affairs minister Robert Schuman, backed by both the British and the American governments and under the dark shadow of the first successful detonation of an atomic bomb by Soviet Russia, first proposed a permanent peace solution for post-war Europe.
The new union hoped to lay down a foundation for a lasting peace in Europe, based initially on strong economic ties shared equally between the French, the British and the recently defeated Germans.
Unlike the European Union, the member states of the Council of Europe maintain their own sovereignty. The stated aim of the Council of Europe “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.”
Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill proposed such a council as far back as the 1940’s. Today the best known work of the Council is that of the European Court of Human Rights, established in January 1959 and based in Strasbourg France.