Forward, Europe!

‘We must create a kind of United States of Europe (...) Forward, Europe!’ said Winston Churchill on the eve of the signing of the Treaty of London on 5 May 1949. Signed by ten founding member countries, this treaty marked the beginning of the Council of Europe, an organisation created to promote European unity based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. 

Over its 75 years of existence, the Council of Europe, the birthplace of the European Convention on Human Rights, has played a central role in the construction of Europe, and now groups 46 countries. 

The Reykjavik Summit in 2023,  which took place against the background of Russia's unacceptable aggression against Ukraine, underlined the continuing need for the Council of Europe to adapt to the current geopolitical context. The resurgence of populism, authoritarianism and nationalism from the 2010s onwards means that it must constantly reposition itself. 

May 5, designated Europe Day by the Council’s Committee of Ministers and the 75th anniversary provide an opportunity to reflect on past achievements and the need to strengthen Europe's commitment to shared standards and values.

A year on from the heady days of the Reykjavik Summit, serial violators of the European Convention on Human Rights such as Turkey and Azerbaijan have not lived up to their solemn recommitment to Council of Europe values and the United Kingdom’s government keeps threatening to denounce the Convention in order to deport asylum seekers in defiance of international law.

The real questions facing Europe are whether and for how long member states of the Council of Europe and the European Union will tolerate this shameful situation; and whether and for how long European citizens will continue to trust their governments and the institutions they have created to protect them from arbitrary acts by authoritarian régimes which flout their fundamental rights and freedoms.