Since, Council of Europe came first, why did it not metamorph into the European Union?
The Council of Europe (CoE) only came first by a couple of years, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was created shortly afterwards. At that point, the Council of Europe already had 10 members, including Greece and Turkey. Even if they had been interested, cooperating closely on industrial policy would have been more difficult for the founding members of the ECSC (Italy, France, Germany and the Benelux countries) if they had to include the UK or Turkey. The ECSC ultimately morphed into the European Economic Community, which became one of the pillars of the European Union.
This pattern was repeated several times in the history of European institutions: A small number of countries start a new initiative without the others. That was for example the case of the Schengen area or of the common currency. Even the European Economic Community itself was developed by the EU founding members before pulling in other countries, which either didn't want to join or were blocked from joining in the 1950s and 1960s.
The current European Union aims at consolidating all this but harmonising laws is difficult and some of the early members of the CoE are still reluctant to engage in some EU initiatives (Norway is not a full member, Denmark has opt-outs from the Euro and some security and justice policies, Euratom is still a distinct organisation).
The Council of Europe went in the exact opposite direction: Instead of an ever deepening technical collaboration and binding rules, it only establishes general principles with limited enforcement mechanisms and a very broad membership. Even if we leave aside the countries that joined in the 1990s like Russia, it's important to note that Turkey was a member of the CoE almost since the beginning. It still hasn't joined the EU and doesn't appear to be anywhere close to joining despite being recognised as a candidate since 1999.
There seems to be significant overlap into what they are doing, then what is point of being separate? Why don't they merge?
Beside some general ambition to promote peace and collaboration, the overlap is actually very limited. The EU's remit is much broader and deeper. In spite of countless additional initiatives and constant debates on its future, it's also primarily economic.
The most prominent area of overlap is human rights legislation but the EU's role in this domain is quite limited even if it sees iself as promoting democracy around the world and is involved in many CoE programmes. There are also a few initiatives like Eurimages and European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines & HealthCare that interact with areas of EU policy but nothing major.
Are these two competing bodies?
For the most part, no, although the idea of the EU joining the European Convention on Human Rights and the existence of the EU Charter of Fundamentals right created an awkward relationship between the EU Court of Justice and the European Court on Human Rights.
What are the exact separation of concerns between these two bodies?
The EU aims at creating an integrated market, with far reaching legislation into many domains to make it as effective and homogeneous as possible (the former “European Communities”). It also has a fledging foreign affairs policy and some cooperation in the area of security and justice (Schengen area, Europol…)
The CoE is mostly a venue for cooperation and advice on governance. It also developped an extensive body of human rights legislation but it has a lot less teeth than the EU. If anything, the overlap is arguably just as big with the OSCE.
Why does an international organization like OSCE has partnerships with both EU and COE?
They work in the same region on related issues, they cannot ignore each other. The EU also has ambitions to develop a foreign policy and promote democracy and good governance to its neighbourhood. Both because of that and the fact that enlargement has essentially stalled, it has extensive programmes to support neighbouring countries (e.g. in the Balkan) where OSCE also has permanent missions (as part of its post-conflict rehabilitation role).
What is the difference between The Council of Europe and Council of EU and The European Council?
- Council of Europe (CoE): A separate international organisation and the only council I have been talking about until now.
- Council of the European Union: One of the major institutions of the EU, with a large permanent staff, a key role in the legislative process, regular meetings between representatives (the COREPER) and between cabinet ministers of the EU member states. EU insiders simply call it “the Council”.
- European Council: Formal meeting of EU member states' heads of state or government. It's used for big announcements and some crisis meetings. Technically, it's a separate institution but it has no permanent staff and a much smaller day-to-day role (and arguably a very confusing name). To add to the confusion, it now has a president.
Note that it does not end with the EU, CoE, and OSCE, there are other smaller organisations with a slightly different membership and relationship to the EU which play a role in international cooperation in Europe like the European Free Trade Association, the European Patent Office, or the European Space Agency (ESA).