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Over 800 million Europeans can individually obtain a ruling from a European court against their State if it has violated their human rights. There is an assembly in Strasbourg where members of the Icelandic, Russian, Portuguese, German, Georgian and other European parliaments all sit together. A Congress exists whose sessions are attended by representatives of 200 000 local and regional authorities of Europe... All these statements relate to the Council of Europe, the first of the European institutions to be founded. Now 47 member states strong, the Council - which is to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year - has become one of the main institutions of intergovernmental co-operation.This book looks at the political role of the Council of Europe, which is now not only a forum for democracy and a gage of stability, the home of human rights and the forum of cultural diversity, but also the crucible of Europe and the future for politics. The author examines all that is specific to the Council of Europe within the European architecture, particularly vis-à-vis the European Union. This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to study the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, understand how it operates and find out about the contribution that it makes.