The European Union adopts new priorities 2020-2022 for its cooperation with the Council of Europe

The new “EU priorities for cooperation with the Council of Europe in 2020-2022” were adopted by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council on 13 July.

In the context of widespread challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, the European Union is determined to maintain its leading role in the promotion of fundamental rights on the European continent. To keep faith with this commitment, the EU has adopted new priorities for its cooperation with the Council of Europe in the areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The Council of Europe plays a crucial role in setting standards in these areas, building on its experience of over 70 years. The EU will continue to work with and support the Council of Europe in implementing sustainable changes to improve human lives, as part of its work to promote effective multilateralism and uphold, extend and reform the rules-based international order, not least in the context of dealing with the impact of COVID-19.

In the area of human rights, the EU has renewed its commitment to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, in view of the creation of a coherent legal framework of human rights protection throughout Europe. Moreover, the EU is committed to implementing its European Pillar of Social Rights building on the experience of the Council of Europe’s European Social Charter and will collaborate with the Council of Europe in the implementation of EU’s priorities under the new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024). The EU will also work on the better use of new and emerging digital technologies for the promotion and protection of human rights, while it also reiterated its support towards a humane, more resilient and more effective migration and asylum system.

Furthermore, the new EU priorities envisage close cooperation with the Council of Europe on combatting discrimination and on protecting children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (with a view to the EU acceding to the “Lanzarote Convention”). The EU  and the Council of Europe will also work together on the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights,including on combatting violence against women and domestic violence. Finally, the EU will shape a European legal framework for environmental protection and will implement the European Green Deal drawing on the connection between human rights and the environment.

In the area of democracy, the EU has renewed its commitment to protect and promote an independent civil society, while also protecting human rights defenders and free media, as well as greater transparency, digital literacy, inclusiveness and civic education. The EU will also work on countering manipulative interference and disinformation as provided for by the new European Democracy Action Plan. Moreover, it will strengthen dialogue and cooperation with the Council of Europe with regard to increasing the participation and representation of women and young persons, and their interests, in public and political life and improving constitutional standards and electoral law by making full use of the Venice Commission’s expertise, particularly in the EU enlargement and neighbourhood countries. Finally, the EU will continue to engage with the Council of Europe in promoting tools and initiatives that foster education, to equip young people with the necessary competences for promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, but also in the field of culture and cultural heritage.

In the area of rule of law, the EU will strengthen its work on the promotion of a rule of law culture and will establish a European Rule of Law Mechanism based on increased synergies with existing Council of Europe mechanisms, including the Venice Commission and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). The EU’s commitment to fostering the rule of law extends to the enlargement countries and the EU’s neighbourhood, by supporting justice reform, fighting corruption, and promoting fundamental human rights as well as independent media and civil society. Finally, the EU will promote the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and its additional protocols as a framework for international cooperation and capacity building.

The new EU priorities for cooperation with the Council of Europe 2020-2022 will be presented on 4 September during an online public event.