INTRODUCTION: The new building which will house the headquarters of the council of Europe was inaugurated on Friday (28 January) by the President of France, Valery Giscard D'Estaing.
INTRODUCTION: The new building which will house the headquarters of the council of Europe was inaugurated on Friday (28 January) by the President of France, Valery Giscard D'Estaing. There are nineteen member nations represented on the Council of Europe, each with offices in the building. But the huge, pink granite structure will also provide a forum for the sessions of the new European Parliament, when and if it is elected.
SYNOPSIS: The building's foundation stone was laid in 1972 by the then President of the European Council and the head of the Swiss Government's Political Department. Though work has been continuing steadily during the intervening years, the building was still not complete when President Giscard arrived on Friday to inaugurate it. He had to enter it through a specially constructed tunnel.
The Council has been described as the least publicised and perhaps the least successful of the European institutions. It was established in 1949, following an appeal by Winston Churchill for European unity.
The Council gave rise to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, which in turn led to the founding in 1952 of the European Economic Community. since then the Council has become a talking shop whose appeals and recommendations have been largely ignored by member governments.
The Council's only major success to date has been the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950 which established the Commission and the Court of Human Rights. Though they are probably two of the most respected European bodies, their decisions often take a very long time.
The Council also has a Parliamentary Assembly composed of members from national parliaments, which makes recommendations to the committee of Ministers. But the Assembly only meets three times a year and its effectiveness is limited. However, the European Council Organisation is still expanding, hence the need for this expensive new home.
In his inaugural speech to the Council on Friday, President Giscard D'Estaing made a strong plea for European unity through Common Market economic and monetary union and eventual political confederation. He painted a gloomy picture of the present state of the nine-nation community, but said its achievements were "more real and constant than the pessimists imagined". He appealed for a revival of dynamism in the Common Market.