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Symbols of the European Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Symbol EU CoE
Flag Yes Yes
Anthem Yes Yes
Motto Yes No
9 May Yes No
5 May No Yes
Signatories of the declaration in dark blue.
Signatories of the declaration in dark blue.

The European Union (EU) uses a number of symbols, including the European Flag, Anthem of Europe, Motto of the European Union and Europe Day.

These symbols have no official status based in international treaty, but they are in de facto use by the EU institutions and are in widespread use as expressions of the political ideologies of Pan-Europeanism and European integration. Use of the European Flag in particular is widespread also among pro-EU factions outside of the European Union, especially in the "colour revolutions" of Eastern Europe.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The European Union Explained*
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  • ✪ Explainer: What Does the European Flag Mean?
  • ✪ Symbolism in the Dark Knight Trilogy | Part 1 - Batman Begins


Where, is the European Union? Obviously here somewhere, but much like the the European continent itself, which has an unclear boundary, the European Union also has some fuzzy edges to it. To start, the official members of the European Union are, in decreasing order of population: * Germany * France * The United Kingdom * Italy * Spain * Poland * Romania * The Kingdom of the Netherlands * Greece * Belgium * Portugal * The Czech Republic * Hungary * Sweden * Austria * Bulgaria * Denmark * Slovakia * Finland * Ireland * Croatia * Lithuania * Latvia * Slovenia * Estonia * Cyprus * Luxembourg * Malta The edges of the EU will probably continue to expand further out as there are other countries in various stages of trying to become a member. How exactly the European Union works is hideously complicated and a story for another time, but for this video you need know only three things: 1. Countries pay membership dues and 2. Vote on laws they all must follow and 3. Citizens of member countries are automatically European Union citizens as well This last means that if you're a citizen of any of these countries you are free to live and work or retire in any of the others. Which is nice especially if you think your country is too big or too small or too hot or too cold. The European Union gives you options. By the way, did you notice how all three of these statements have asterisks attached to this unhelpful footnote? Well, get used to it: Europe loves asterisks that add exceptions to complicated agreements. These three, for example, point us toward the first bit of border fuzziness with Norway, Iceland and little Liechtenstein. None of which are in the European Union but if you're a EU citizen you can live in these countries and Norwegians, Icelanders, or Liechtensteiner(in)s can can live in yours. Why? In exchange for the freedom of movement of people they have to pay membership fees to the European Union -- even though they aren't a part of it and thus don't get a say its laws that they still have to follow. This arrangement is the European Economic Area and it sounds like a terrible deal, were it not for that asterisk which grants EEA but not EU members a pass on some areas of law notably farming and fishing -- something a country like Iceland might care quite a lot about running their own way. Between the European Union and the European Economic Area the continent looks mostly covered, with the notable exception of Switzerland who remains neutral and fiercely independent, except for her participation in the Schengen Area. If you're from a country that keeps her borders extremely clean and / or well-patrolled, the Schengen Area is a bit mind-blowing because it's an agreement between countries to take a 'meh' approach to borders. In the Schengen Area international boundaries look like this: no border officers or passport checks of any kind. You can walk from Lisbon to Tallinn without identification or need to answer the question: "business or pleasure?". For Switzerland being part of Schengen but not part of the European Union means that non-swiss can check in any time they like, but they can never stay. This koombaya approach to borders isn't appreciated by everyone in the EU: most loudly, the United Kingdom and Ireland who argue that islands are different. Thus to get onto these fair isles, you'll need a passport and a good reason. Britannia's reluctance to get fully involved with the EU brings us to the next topic: money. The European Union has its own fancy currency, the Euro used by the majority, but not all of the European Union members. This economic union is called the Eurozone and to join a country must first reach certain financial goals -- and lying about reaching those goals is certainly not something anyone would do. Most of the non-Eurozone members when they meet the goals, will ditch their local currency in favor of the Euro but three of them Denmark, Sweden and, of course, the United Kingdom, have asterisks attracted to the Euro sections of the treaty giving them a permanent out-out. And weirdly, four tiny European countries Andorra, San Marino, Monaco & Vatican City have an asterisk giving them the reverse: the right print and use Euros as their money, despite not being in the European Union at all. So that's the big picture: there's the EU, which makes all the rules, the Eurozone inside it with a common currency, the European Economic Area outside of it where people can move freely and the selective Schengen, for countries who think borders just aren't worth the hassle. As you can see, there's some strange overlaps with these borders, but we're not done talking about complications by a long shot one again, because empire. So Portugal and Spain have islands from their colonial days that they've never parted with: these are the Madeira and Canary Islands are off the coast of Africa and the Azores well into the Atlantic. Because these islands are Spanish and Portuguese they're part of the European Union as well. Adding a few islands to the EU's borders isn't a big deal until you consider France: the queen of not-letting go. She still holds onto a bunch of islands in the Caribbean, Reunion off the coast of Madagascar and French Guiana in South America. As far as France is concerned, these are France too, which single handedly extends the edge-to-edge distance of the European Union across a third of Earth's circumference. Collectively, these bits of France, Spain and Portugal are called the Outermost Regions -- and they're the result of the simple answer to empire: just keep it. On the other hand, there's the United Kingdom, the master of maintaining complicated relationships with her quasi-former lands -- and she's by no means alone in this on such an empire-happy continent. The Netherlands and Denmark and France (again) all have what the European Union calls Overseas Territories: they're not part of the European Union, instead they're a bottomless well of asterisks due to their complicated relationships with both with the European Union and their associated countries which makes it hard to say anything meaningful about them as a group but... in general European Union law doesn't apply to these places, though in general the people who live there are European Union citizens because in general they have the citizenship of their associated country, so in general they can live anywhere in the EU they want but in general other European Union citizens can't freely move to these territories. Which makes these places a weird, semipermeable membrane of the European Union proper and the final part we're going to talk about in detail even though there are still many, more one-off asterisks you might stumble upon, such as: the Isle of Man or those Spanish Cities in North Africa or Gibraltar, who pretends to be part of Southwest England sometimes, or that region in Greece where it's totally legal to ban women, or Saba & friends who are part of the Netherlands and so should be part of the EU, but aren't, or the Faeroe Islands upon which while citizens of Denmark live they lose their EU citizenship, and on and on it goes. These asterisks almost never end, but this video must.



These symbols go back to 1985, when they were introduced by the European Communities summit in Milan. A "raft of cultural icons" was launched by the European Commission in 1985, in reaction to the report by the ad-hoc commission "for a People's Europe" chaired by Pietro Adonnino. The aim was to facilitate European integration by fostering a Pan-European identity among the populations of the EC member states. The European Council adopted "Europe Day" along with the flag of Europe (technically not called a "flag" but an "emblem") and other items on 29 September 1985 in Milan.[1] Even at the time, there was strong objection against the European Communities adopting symbols of statehood, in particular on the part of the United Kingdom. Thus, the adoption of the "European flag" was only possible by avoiding the official use of the term "flag", so that the "European flag" is still officially "a logo or emblem eligible to be reproduced on rectangular pieces of fabric".[2]

There were plans to officially recognize these symbols as part of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe signed in 2004. As the proposed constitutional treaty failed ratification in two member states, the mention of all state-like emblems, including the flag, were removed from the replacement Treaty of Lisbon of 2007. Instead, a declaration was made by 16 Member States and included in the Intergovernmental Conference's final act adopting the Treaty of Lisbon stating that the flag, the anthem, the motto, the currency and Europe Day "will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it":

Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic declare that the flag with a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, the anthem based on the "Ode to Joy" from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the motto "United in diversity", the euro as the currency of the European Union and Europe Day on 9 May will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it.[3]

The European Parliament, objecting to the absence of the symbols from the Treaty of Lisbon, backed a proposal to use the symbols such as the flag more often in the Parliament with Jo Leinen MEP suggesting that the Parliament should again take the avant-garde in their use.[4]

In September 2008, the Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs proposed a formal change in the institution's rules of procedure to make better use of the symbols: the flag would be present in all meeting rooms (not just the hemicycle) and at all official events; the anthem would be played at the start of a new Parliament following elections and at formal sittings; the motto would be printed on all Parliamentary documents; and "Europe Day" would be formally recognised by Parliament.[5] The proposal was passed on 8 October 2008 by 503 votes to 96 (15 abstentions).[6]

In 2017, the president of France Emmanuel Macron sent a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk which contained a declaration endorsing the symbols declaration of the Treaty of Lisbon.[7][8]


The flag of Europe, emblem of both the Council of Europe and the European Union.
The flag of Europe, emblem of both the Council of Europe and the European Union.

The flag of Europe is used to represent both the European Union and the Council of Europe. It consists of a circle of 12 golden (yellow) stars on a blue background. The blue represents the west, the number of stars represents completeness while their position in a circle represents unity. The stars do not vary according to the members of either organisation as they are intended to represent all the peoples of Europe, even those outside European integration.

The flag was designed by Arsène Heitz and Paul M. G. Lévy in 1955 for the CoE as its symbol, and the CoE urged it to be adopted by other organisations. In 1985 the EU, which was then the European Economic Community (EEC), adopted it as its own flag (having had no flag of its own before) at the initiative of the European Parliament. The flag is not mentioned in the EU's treaties, its incorporation being dropped along with the European Constitution, but it is formally adopted in law.[which?]

Despite it being the flag of two separate organisations, it is often more associated with the EU, due to the EU's higher profile and heavy usage of the emblem. The flag has also been used to represent Europe in sporting events and as a pro-democracy banner outside the Union.[9] It has partly inspired other flags, such as those of other European organisations and those of states where the EU has been heavily involved (such as Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Flag of Kosovo).


A piece from the original manuscript.
A piece from the original manuscript.

The European anthem is based on the prelude to "The Ode to Joy", 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Due to the large number of languages in Europe, it is an instrumental version only, with the original German lyrics having no official status. The anthem was announced on 19 January 1972 by the Council of Europe, after being arranged by conductor Herbert von Karajan. The anthem was launched via a major information campaign on Europe Day, 5 May 1972.

It was adopted by European Community leaders in 1985. It does not replace national anthems, but is intended to celebrate their shared values.[10] It is played on official occasions by both the Council of Europe and the European Union.

Other scores associated with pan-Europeanism include the hymn of the European Broadcasting Union (the prelude of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum; played e.g. before every Eurovision Song Contest) and the UEFA Champions League Anthem (an arrangement of George Frideric Handel's Zadok the Priest (one of his Coronation Anthems); played before UEFA Champions League television broadcast since 1992).

Europe Day

The Schuman Parade  in Warsaw has been organised by the Schuman Foundation since 1999 (2008 photograph).
The Schuman Parade in Warsaw has been organised by the Schuman Foundation since 1999 (2008 photograph).

"Europe Day" is an observance on 9 May, adopted along with flag, anthem and motto in the European Communities summit of 1985. It was chosen to commemorate the date of the 1950 Schuman Declaration, the proposal to pool the French and West German coal and steel industries.

Observance of "Europe Day" by national and regional authorities of member states greatly increased following the establishment of the EU in 1993. Germany in particular has gone beyond celebrating just the day, since 1995 extending the observance to an entire "Europe Week" (Europawoche) centered on 9 May. Choice of the date of foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community rather than that of the EU itself established a narrative in which Schuman's speech, is presented as anticipating the "ever closer union" pursued in later decades as historical inevitability or "vocation" of the EU.[11]


Unity in Diversity[12] was adopted as the European Union's motto on 4 May 2000 following a contest called A motto for Europe. It's inspired by a Latin-language motto by Nobel prize winner Ernesto Teodoro Moneta: In varietate unitas! or In varietate concordia! and it was selected from entries proposed by school pupils and then accepted by the President of the European Parliament, Nicole Fontaine as Diversité dans l'unité. In 2004, the motto was written into the English-language version of the failed European Constitution (article I-8 about the EU's symbols) as United in Diversity, and now appears on English language official EU websites as United in diversity.

The European Union motto was translated into all 23 official languages in 2004.[13][14]

European Coal and Steel Community flag

The ECSC made use of the stars in the ECSC flag.

The euro and its symbol

The Euro symbol shown as a sculpture outside the European Central Bank
The Euro symbol shown as a sculpture outside the European Central Bank

The euro, €, was not one of the original symbols created by the Council of Europe and is specific to the EU, but it has become a symbol since it replaced 12 national currencies in 2002.[15] It is now used by most EU Member States and hence it (along with its currency symbol) has become one of the most tangible symbols of European unity for citizens of the European Union (though this of course is not intended to apply to wider Europe as the others do).

Adoption by other organisations

There have been other pan-European organisations which have not adopted the same symbols as the Council of Europe or the European Union, or have symbols derived from these. The Flag of the European Coal and Steel Community (the first of the three European Communities) was developed around the same time as the Flag of Europe and shares the use of stars and the colour blue, but uses completely different arrangement and symbolism.

The Flag of the Western European Union (the European defence organisation) was derived from the Flag of Europe, altered for its own usage. The Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine predates them all, but its flag also uses the colour blue and a circle of stars, though with different symbolism.

See also


  1. ^ Nicole Scicluna, European Union Constitutionalism in Crisis, Routledge (2014), p. 55.
  2. ^ Nicole Scicluna, European Union Constitutionalism in Crisis, Routledge (2014), p. 56
  3. ^ Final Act, Official Journal of the European Union, 2007 C 306–2 , p. 267 Declaration 52, consolidated EU treaties
  4. ^ Beunderman, Mark (11 July 2007). "MEPs defy member states on EU symbols". EU Observer. Retrieved 2007-07-12.
  5. ^ "EU Parliament set to use European flag, anthem". EU Business. 11 September 2008. Archived from the original on 12 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  6. ^ Kubosova, Lucia (9 October 2008). "No prolonged mandate for Barroso, MEPs warn". EU Observer. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  7. ^ "Meeting of the EUROPEAN COUNCIL held on 19 October 2017". European Council. 2018-01-17. Retrieved 2018-02-03.EDER, FLORIAN (2017-10-19). "Manu joins EU flag club". Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  8. ^ Cross, Tony (2017-10-20). "Macron squares up to Eurosceptics on EU flag, Brexit". Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  9. ^ Mite, Valentinas (20 October 2004). "Belarus: Scores Arrested, Opposition Leader Hospitalized After Minsk Protests". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 5 August 2007.
  10. ^ Emblemes Archived 6 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ F. Larat, "Present-ing the Past: Political Narratives on European History and the Justification of EU Integration", German Law Journal 6.2 (2005), 274–290, cited after Scicluna (2014:56).
  12. ^ In varietate concordia is the Latin motto chosen by European citizens in 2000. Its official English translation is "Unity in Diversity" in ''Eurodiversity: a business guide to managing difference'', page 110, by George F. Simons & Arjen Bos, 2002. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  13. ^ European motto In varietate concordia Archived 2009-03-19 at the Wayback Machine, Eurominority
  14. ^ "Devise européenne". Archived from the original on 2012-05-26. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  15. ^ Europe Day Europa
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