The number of states participating in the Council of Europe's system for the protection of human rights has grown rapidly over recent years. Established in 1949 with an initial membership of 10 states, the Council has now grown to a membership of 46,2 dwarfing the EU in its geographical reach. The most significant period of enlargement has been since the end of the Cold War as the formerly Communist states from central and eastern Europe flocked to the Council of Europe seeking assistance with the process of democratisation. The Council's most prominent human rights treaty, the European Convention on Human Rights, has entered into force for all but one of the 46 member states.3 This paper questions whether the European Court of Human Rights' recognition of a national ‘margin of appreciation’ has allowed these new Contracting Parties too much leeway in the way they choose to protect, or more specifically, to limit, the exercise of human rights.
* Lecturer, Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle upon Tyne (J.A.Sweeney@newcastle.ac.uk).