After the thought-provoking lecture by Mr. Troy Davis, we headed to the Council of Europe for a tour and lectures. The Council makes it clear that they are a separate entity from the European Union, United Nations and from any other multi-national organization like it. They held their first session in Strasbourg in 1979, but they were founded on May 5, 1949, after the second World War. Let me tell you, the furniture in that place looks like 1979, too!! I mean, lime green lounge chairs, phone booths that look like Darth Vader masks, orange and green carpet…that was a treat in itself! But beyond that, the Council is a serious organization that deals with issues such as human rights (with the European Court of human Rights), legal affairs and education. They do not deal with military issues of nations.
In order to join the Council, a country must be regional (European), have a parliamentary democracy, and sign the convention of Human Rights (i.e. no death penalty, fair labor, equal treatment). An interesting fact is that only one of the countries in Europe still has death penalty on the books (Russia). We asked why they (Russia) weren’t kicked out of the Council, and were given a VERY political answer by our lecturer. They haven’t technically executed anyone in years and they’re one of the countries,of five, that together supply 12 percent of the Council’s budget. They therefore have a right to have 12 percent of the parliamentarians. Why was Chechnya expelled after their wrongdoings and not Russia? He flat-out told us that essentially it’s easier to pick on the smaller guys than the powerhouses. Hmmm… All but 1 European nation (Belarus) is a member of the Council. America has the chance to gain observer status but won’t as long as we have the death penalty, and a few other issues, on the table.
All in all, that talk was amazing. I mean, it’s the Council of Europe…like a League of Nations. They’re responsible for the European Court of Human Rights. I learned a lot and I’m very glad I was able to go.
One more interesting fact, the European Union flag is actually the flag of the Council of Europe. When the EU was formed, they asked the COE if they could use the flag, and the Council agreed under 2 conditions: they pay them royalties of some kind, and they acknowledge/introduce the flag as “The Flag of the Council of Europe and The European Union”. And the 12 stars to not represent the 12 original EU nations. It’s because, we were told, that 12 represents perfection (12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs) and a circle is unity. Who knew????
Everyone’s sleep now and Camille has my small camera with the pics of it. Will upload them tomorrow. These are pics I “borrowed” from the Council’s website, just so you can have an idea of what we saw. Hope you like! :o)