70 Years of the Council of Europe. The Longest Period of Peace in Europe's History

Ulrich Bohner
Honorary President of the Strasbourg Europe House. Former Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Europe: A Human Enterprise – 30 stories for 70 years of History,
Council of Europe editions, Strasbourg, ISBN 978-92-871-8973-8, 20 €, 40US$
Artisans de l’Europe – 30 témoignages pour 70 ans d’histoire 1949 – 2019, Editions Conseil de l’Europe, La Nuée Bleue, Strasbourg, ISBN 978-2-7165-880-3, €20

On 5 May 2019, the Council of Europe, the oldest political institution on our continent became 70 years old. The event has been the subject of commemorations, in the beginning of October, with the presence of French President Macron and the new Secretary General of the Organisation, Marija PEJCINOVIC Buric, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Croatia. The organisation covers today 47 member States, from the Azores to the Pacific, and from the Polar Circle to the Caucasus and the Mediterranean Sea.

The specific interest of the book resides in the fact that it is neither a legal presentation nor a publicity for the achievements of the organisation. It is a collection of short stories written by those who have gone through the practical life of this institution, with no makeup or false pretensions. The book is therefore pleasant to read, with small stories contributing to the making of History.

The authors have been contributing to the making of Europe. They bring forward their commitments, their attachment to the values, to human life, to humanism, to human rights, to democracy, to peace.

Beyond the pleasure of reading, and the historic interest, we may wonder today why, as federalists, we should be interested in this institution that has been largely marginalised by the setting up of the European Union.

First of all, the Council of Europe is the direct result of the fights for a federal Europe, in particular of the European Congress of The Hague in 1948. It is also the first international organisation that has created, right from the start, besides its classical intergovernmental setup, a parliamentary representation, the Parliamentary Assembly. It has also created, a few years later, a representation of regions and municipalities, the «Congress of Local and Regional Authorities».

Through the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights as soon as 1950, it has set up an organ that could be qualified as «federal». The European Court of Human Rights has indeed the capacity of adopting judgments against member States, including Russia, Turkey as well as the United Kingdom.

The major transformations Europe has experienced after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union have brought forward a new dynamic for the Council of Europe in the 1990s.

Beyond all institutional aspects, it should not be forgotten that the Council of Europe has played a pioneering role in creating, as soon as 1955, the symbols of European unity: the European flag and the European Anthem. They are more and more successful today, not only within the European Union that has adopted them for itself, but also with citizen’s movements fighting for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, social justice and peace.

A book pleasant to read for all.

Centro Studi sul Federalismo

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