The Council of Europe’s Tallinn Information Office
May 14 of this year marked ten years since Estonia was approved as the 27th member of the CE. The CE, founded in 1949 by 10 countries, is a continually changing organization with a membership that has grown from 26 to 45 over the last ten years. According to its statutes, the organization is charged with achieving greater unity between its members, foremost through acknowledging common values (pluralistic democracy, human rights and the paramount position of the rule of law) and through practical cooperation. The CE has had a notable role in standardizing legislation in European countries.
The organization pursues its goals through multilateral international treaties (conventions, charters), the total of which is around 200 (as of May 1, Estonia was ratified about 64 and signed 14). The best known are the conventions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, the convention on bioethics, the framework convention on protection of ethnic minorities, and the convention on culture.
After ratification, these conventions become binding for states. Aside from them, a number of standards and directives are also established (eg standards on houses of detention) and ethical codes are adopted for specialty fields (police and civil service) and recommendations are issued for finding solutions to common problems (performance-enhancing drugs, battling drug addiction, AIDS).
In order for these treaties and conventions to reach ordinary people, the CE started creating documentation and information centers in Central and Eastern European states in 1991 through aid programs. There are now such centers in 19 states (regional centers as well as in Russia and Bulgaria). Among others an information service was set up in Estonia in spring 1995, originally as a structural unit of the National Library. Today the centers are subunits of the CE.
In the course of eight years, the Tallinn information service has offered systematized information about the organization: responded to queries related to the work and documents of the CE, provided Estonian translations of CE documents, furthered cooperation with other international organizations, institutions, schools and civic bodies, held seminars and lectures on areas the CE is active in, and served as a liaison between the CE and the local press corps.