Interest of the United States in the Council of Europe
The Council of Europe was formally established on May 5, 1949, at the initiative of the five Brussels Treaty powers acting on an initial proposal submitted to them by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman. As first organized, the Council of Europe included the following member nations: The United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Denmark, the Irish Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The Council was composed of a Consultative Assembly, a Committee of Ministers, and a number of subsidiary bureaus and committees created by Assembly action. The Consultative Assembly was a deliberative body of representatives from the member countries, usually selected by their respective governments but not officially representing those governments. In practice, party representation within the Consultative Assembly delegations followed closely the proportionate strength of the parties in their respective national parliaments with the exception of Communist parties which were not represented. The Consultative Assembly made recommendations to the Committee of Ministers, which if approved unanimously by the Ministers were then submitted to the member governments as recommendations. These recommendations under the Council’s Statute were [Page 768] not binding on the member governments in any legal sense. It was assumed, however, that since most of the representatives in the Committee of Ministers were cabinet ministers of their respective governments, their recommendations would represent the views of their governments.
The Council of Europe was forbidden by its Statute from making decisions on defense matters. To avoid duplication with the activities of other European organizations, Article 23(b) provided, “In making decisions … the Committee shall have regard to the work of other European intergovernmental organizations to which some or all of the Members of the Council are parties.” (The Council Statute is printed in full in Margaret Carlyle, editor, Documents on International Affairs, 1949–1950, issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (London: Oxford University Press, 1953), pages 348–358.) This was interpreted primarily to exclude the Council from the field of operations claimed by the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) and to avoid duplication of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) activities.
The Consultative Assembly of the Council met for its First Session in August 1949 in Strasbourg. The Committee of Ministers held its first meeting in Strasbourg and its second meeting at Paris in November 1949. At the time of the First Session of the Consultative Assembly, Secretary of State Acheson described the Council of Europe as one of the many “forces” working for Western unity (Department of State Bulletin, August 15, 1949, page 231). As interest in Western European regional political, military, and economic integration grew throughout 1950, so did the interest of the Department in the progress and potential of the Council of Europe.