The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 as an intergovernmental organisation with headquarters in Strasbourg to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law on the European continent. The Council of Europe currently has 47 Member States. Germany has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1950. The focus of the Council of Europe's work is the further development of the protection of human rights. Examples include the European Convention on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, Commissioner for Human Rights.
The European Social Charter of 1961 ‒ which Germany ratified on 27 January 1965 ‒ supplements the European Convention on Human Rights in the area of fundamental social rights. These include the right to work, to just conditions of work and to safe and healthy working conditions, to vocational training, to the right to organise and bargain collectively and to social security. A high-level committee of experts and the Governmental Committee consisting of representatives of the Contracting States monitor compliance with these standards via annual reporting by the Member States. The Committee of Ministers ‒ the Council's decision-making body ‒ can make recommendations to the governments concerned. A constructive dialogue with the monitoring bodies of the European Social Charter is important for establishing the conditions necessary for the signing and ratification of further treaties under the Social Charter.
The Revised European Social Charter of 1996, which refined the Charter in a number of areas ‒ such as longer paid annual holiday, a higher minimum age for young workersand more and better maternity protection ‒ and contains additional social human rights was signed by Germany on 29 June 2007. Germany is currently preparing its ratification.
Other social policy questions, which are dealt with in the specialised bodies of the Council of Europe, are migration and social cohesion.