Relationships with other organizations
Over the years, there has been an unclear division of roles between the Council of Europe and the EC / EU. Ever since the forerunners of the EU were formed, there has been competition between the organizations. The Council of Europe has complained that the EU is interfering in the Council’s areas of activity and has chosen misleading names for EU bodies.
The risk of confusion is obvious: the Council of Europe is easily confused with the European Council (EU Summit) and the Council of the European Union (EU Council of Ministers). It will hardly be easier in English: the Council of Europe is called the Council of Europe, while the two EU bodies are called the European Council and the Council of the European Union.
It can also be difficult to separate the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg and the European Court of Justice, which has its seat in Luxembourg. (They are called in English the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice – which is part of the larger Court of Justice of the European Union.)
In line with the EU’s enlargement and increasing importance, several of the Council of Europe’s member states, including Sweden, have wanted the EU to play a greater role in the Council of Europe and for the organizations’ work to be better coordinated. In 1996, the two organizations had the opportunity to participate in some of each other’s meetings and they have collaborated in various democracy and human rights programs aimed at Eastern Europe during the 1990’s and 2000’s.
At the Warsaw Summit in 2005, it was decided that the Council of Europe would draw up a cooperation agreement with the EU. Following negotiations with the EU, the agreement was adopted in May 2007, which states that cooperation will primarily focus on the Council of Europe’s core areas of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Collaboration with other organizations
According to historyaah, the Council of Europe also has well-developed contacts with several other European organizations. For example, there are constant contacts between the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Nordic Council. The activities of the OSCE and the Council coincide to some extent and the division of roles in European conflict areas is sometimes unclear. The exchange has been greatest in connection with the examination of the democratic process in the former Soviet Union and Central Europe. In a 2005 declaration, the OSCE and the Council of Europe decided to strengthen, in particular, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, the protection of national minorities, the fight against trafficking in human beings and the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination. The UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe hold a joint meeting every year to better coordinate their work.
The Council of Europe also serves as a parliamentary forum for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), for the OECD and for several UN specialized agencies. The OECD submits annual reports on its activities to the Council of Europe, and delegations from OECD countries that are not members of the Council of Europe participate in the discussion in the Parliamentary Assembly.
Exchanges with the UN have increased through the World Organization’s Human Rights Council, which replaced the old Commission in 2006 and is based in Geneva. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights is in close contact with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The Council of Europe also has observer status in the UN General Assembly. The Council of Europe has a similar collaboration with the Organization of American States (OAS).
Many of the Council of Europe’s specialized bodies also cooperate with a number of regional groups and organizations working on democracy, education, culture, social affairs, etc.
Sweden and the Council of Europe
The Swedish position is that the Council of Europe should concentrate on its core areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, where the organization has a special competence. Sweden has acceded to about two thirds of the Council of Europe’s conventions. Most of the convictions against Sweden in the European Court of Justice have concerned long waiting times in legal proceedings.
As one of the founders of the Council of Europe, Sweden opposed all forms of military cooperation from the very beginning in 1949, as this would have been contrary to Swedish policy of neutrality and military freedom of alliance. Sweden also considered that the Council of Europe should only be an intergovernmental organization and not have supranational powers. The idea of coordinating the foreign policies of the Member States was also opposed.
Among the conventions that Sweden has ratified are of course those to which all member states have acceded, such as the European Convention, the Cultural Convention, the Extradition Convention and the Torture Convention. Sweden has also ratified, among other things, the Social Charter, the Convention on the European Pharmacopoeia, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and the Conventions against Terrorism and Trafficking in Human Beings.
A convention that is particularly important for Sweden is the Additional Protocol to the European Convention on the “Abolition of the Death Penalty in All Circumstances” because it was created on Swedish initiative.
At the Warsaw Summit in 2005, the Council of Europe decided to concentrate on the so-called core areas, and Sweden’s overall goal during its presidency of the Committee of Ministers during the first half of 2008 was to implement the summit’s decision. Sweden also wanted to strengthen cooperation with the EU, the OSCE and the UN.
Sweden has been criticized by the Torture Committee, the Commission against Racism and the Commissioner for Human Rights, among other things, because too many people who are in custody are subject to restrictions, such as a restraining order. Other criticisms have been about long detention periods, housing segregation, discrimination in working life and lack of legal protection for asylum seekers.
Sweden in court
The number of complaints against Sweden has increased significantly since the 1980’s, as has the total number of complaints received by the court. The increase reflects that Swedes, like other Europeans, have become more aware of the possibility of applying to the European Court of Justice.
The first conviction came in 1982 and concerned two property owners’ right to have a building ban and long expropriation permits tried in Swedish court. The government was ordered to pay damages to the property owners, as well as legal costs.
Thereafter, the most common reason for convictions against Sweden has concerned the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time. About half of the convictions have been long waits. Other cases have involved building bans, tax issues and the care of children.
By the end of 2011, the court had decided 99 cases against Sweden. In almost half of the cases, the Swedish state was convicted on at least some point. In just over a quarter of the cases, Sweden was acquitted, while just under a quarter ended in conciliation. The reports that led to the verdict accounted for about 2 percent of all reports from Sweden; the remaining 98 percent was written off without becoming a target.