... more than a decade of joint action to promote democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe ...

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Joint Programmes between the Council of Europe and The European Union

Since 1993, in pursuit of common aims with regard to the protection of democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Europe, the Council of Europe and the European Union have developed a vibrant co-operation instrument known as joint programmes.  This is one of the most visible parts of the very tight network of relations and co-operation links existing between the two partners (regular high-level consultations, participation of the European Commission in Council of Europe activities, accession of the European Union to Council of Europe Conventions, etc.). There have been approximately 180 EC/CoE joint programmes of co-operation and joint actions over the past fifteen years, involving co-operation with Albania (since 1993), Armenia (since 1999), Azerbaijan (since 1999), Bosnia and Herzegovina (since 2003), Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Georgia (since 1999), Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova (since 1997), Montenegro (since 2001), the Russian Federation (since 1996), Serbia (since 2001), Turkey (since 2001), Ukraine (since 1995), as well as certain CoE non-member states. Kosovo* has received assistance since 2006. Most joint programmes run for 24 months, and many have been extended to 36 months.

The joint programme format was initially intended as a tool to facilitate co-operation with countries which had joined the Council of Europe since 1989. More than a decade of effective co-operation between the European Commission and the Council of Europe under the numerous joint programmes has proven that solid results in support of the rule of law, better protection of human rights, and stronger democratic institutions can be achieved when the two Organisations combine their resources and respective strengths. Through joint programmes, many countries developed increasingly close links with the European Union, and some have applied for membership.

The majority of joint programmes (list) are country-specific but there are also a number of regional and multilateral thematic joint programmes regarding, for instance, national minorities,  awareness-raising on the abolition of the death penalty, national minorities, the fight against organised crime and corruption, the development of independent and multidisciplinary ethics committees for review of biomedical research, action to promote the European Social Charter and a programme to strengthen democracy and constitutional development in central and eastern Europe with the Council of Europe's Venice Commission.

 In April 2001 an important step was taken through the signature by the European Commission and the Council of Europe of a Joint Declaration on Cooperation and Partnership , which, among other things, offers a more systematic means of joint programming and priority-setting. The signature in May 2007 of a Memorandum of Understanding has reaffirmed the resolve of the two partners to reinforce ongoing co-operation in the framework of joint programmes.

A key priority for the EU and CoE co-operation is the promotion of democratic stability and peace, both in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Kosovo*) and in the South Caucasus region (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia). The Joint Programmes aim to support the participation of these countries in the EU’s Stabilisation and Association Process, or the European Neighbourhood Policy, thus facilitating closer association and integration with the European Union.

Since 2005, the elaboration of CoE proposals for country-specific programmes with co-financing from the European Commission has been based, where applicable, on the relevant country co-operation paper and the CoE programming document with the country in question. The European Commission selects the projects and decides on the extent of its financial participation in each Joint Programme in accordance with its political priorities and in line with the modalities stipulated by the precise source of funding.


The Joint Programmes consist of a series of activities agreed between the European Commission and the Council of Europe, in consultation with the governments of the concerned countries, designed to facilitate and support legal and institutional reform. Training courses, expert reports and advice to governments, conferences, workshops, seminars and publication dissemination are all usual working methods. The emphasis has been on training and advice but in some cases Joint Programmes have even offered limited material support (for instance with the establishment of the Albanian School of Magistrates and the State Publications Centre).

Programming and funding

The Directorate General for External Relations of the European Commission and the Council of Europe's Directorate of Strategic Planning (as well as other services as applicable) set and match priorities for the purpose of Joint Programmes. Sometimes the Council of Europe makes proposals to the European Commission for urgent joint undertakings. EuropeAid is the structure within the European Commission involved in the final selection and administrative follow-up of programmes. The Council of Europe counterpart throughout the project cycle is the Directorate of Strategic Planning, in close consultation with the different Council of Europe Directorates General responsible for the implementation of the activities. In recent years the European Commission delegations in the beneficiary countries have increasingly been implied in the Joint Programmes. Equally, Council of Europe Secretariat Offices in the field support planning and implementation.

The European Commission and the Council of Europe provide joint funding for the programme, and the Council of Europe is responsible for its implementation. In some cases funding is shared on a 50-50 basis but on others the European Commission has contributed with proportionally more resources. A large number of Joint Programmes have been concluded with the EC's European Instument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). For geographical assistance programmes, the Council of Europe ha benefited from funding under the Instrument for Pre-Assession Assistance (IPA) and the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI).

Programme Partners

The Council of Europe often works with partner institutions in the country concerned. Partners may include:

  • Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs and the Interior
  • Ministries (or departments) for European Integration
  • National and regional Bar Associations
  • The Office of the Public Prosecutor
  • Courts and judicial training centres
  • National or regional commissioners on human rights
  • Journalists' unions
  • Other professional bodies
  • Human rights protection movements and other non-governmental organisations.

General Information about Programmes


For more information, please contact the Office of the Director General of Programmes of the Council of Europe.
Tel + 33 3 90 21 56 54
Fax + 33 3 90 21 46 31

  * All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.  
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