Council of Europe
Headquarters: Strasbourg, France.
The Council of Europe is a 47 member international organisation that aims to uphold democracy, human rights and rule of law in Europe and promote European culture. It was founded by the Treaty of London in 1949. No country has ever joined the European Union without first belonging to the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe promotes political dialogue, humanitarian work and treaties on matters such as anti-trafficking, hate speech and human rights. It does not have binding powers of its own.
The European Court of Human Rights, an international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights, is the best known body of the Council of Europe.
Note that the Council of Europe is distinct from the Council of the European Union and the European Council, which are both institutions of the European Union and are located at Europa Building, Brussels, Belgium.
Multilateral Development Banks of Europe:
European Investment Bank (EIB)
European Investment Bank is the EU’s non-profit long-term lending institution under the Treaty of Rome, with the aim of supporting the policies of European Union. Its shareholders are the EU member states.
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
Headquarters: London, UK.
EBRD is an international financial institution founded in 1991 that uses investment as a tool to build market economies.
Initially focused on countries of the former Eastern Bloc, EBRD’s support now extends across the world; so the name EBRD is a misnomer as the bank is global in operations. Unlike the EIB, shareholders of EBRD are not limited to EU. The U.S.A. is the largest shareholder of EBRD. In July 2018, India became the 69th shareholder of the EBRD, paving the way for more investment with Indian companies.
EBRD also funds a Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF) that supports green investment through local financial institutions across many countries.
Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB)
Headquarters: Paris, France.
Council of Europe Development Bank is a development bank of the Council of Europe, but autonomous in its operations. It was first founded in 1956 to help refugees and displaced persons after the second world war. Its scope of work today is primarily focused on social sectors such as migrants and refugees, disaster victims, trafficked persons. EBRD has 41 members; Turkey is a founding member.
European Union (EU)
Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium
The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an internal single market with standardised system of laws, and allows free movement of people, goods, services and capital within this internal market.
The EU is based on the idea of pooling of sovereignty – partial delegation of sovereignty to the EU in return for representation in EU institutions and accompanying privileges and obligations of EU membership.
The European Union began its journey with the six founding states (The Inner Six): Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, West Germany (now Germany), Italy. It now has 28 members; UK is negotiating its withdrawal.
The four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, are not EU members.
Institutions of the European Union:
- European Council: Provides impetus and direction by gathering together its member states’ heads of state/government. Concludes international agreements.
- European Commission – Executive arm of the EU.
- Council of the European Union – upper house of EU’s bicameral legislature.
- European Parliament – lower house of EU’s bicameral legislature – composed of directly elected representatives.
- Court of Justice of the European Union – Judiciary of the EU.
- European Central Bank – for controlling monetary policy of the Eurozone.
- European Court of Auditors – Financial Auditor of the EU.
Eurozone is a monetary union of 19 EU member states with a common currency – Euro – and a common monetary policy executed by a common central Bank – the European Central Bank.
Schengen Area is the group of countries that have abolished all types of passport and border control at their mutual borders and have a common visa policy. A person, having once entered into the Schengen Area, will not be checked for visa or passport while crossing borders within the Schengen Area.
Schengen Area has 26 members , out of which 4 are not members of the European Union:
- 4 non-EU members of the EFTA (European Free Trade Association)
- Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein.
- 22 EU members.
- EU members which are not part of Schengen area include: UK and Ireland (both opted out); Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania (all in process of joining after preparedness).
Note that Switzerland is not a member of European Union or Eurozone, but it is a member of the Schengen Area. You can freely travel to Switzerland from Italy, Germany or France, but you will need a new currency – Swiss Francs – as Euros won’t be accepted at most shops there.
History of EU:
Treaty of Rome 1957 established the European Economic Community, and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Maastricht Treaty 1993 reestablished the organisation as European Union and introduced a European Citizenship.
Treaty of Lisbon 2007 amended and revised the previous treaties:
Maastricht Treaty 1993 was reframed as Treaty on European Union 2007.
Treaty of Rome 1957 was reframed as Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 2007.
Note that the Treaty of Rome 1957 is distinct from the Rome Statute 2002 that established the International Criminal Court.
Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of EU
CFSP is an agreed policy of EU for mainly security and defence diplomacy and such actions. As a part of this policy, in 2018, the EU founded the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) for structural integration of the armed forces of the 25 participating countries. Countries participating in PESCO include all EU members except Malta, Denmark and UK.