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European Union

Last modified: 2005-09-10 by ivan sache
Keywords: europe | european union | stars: 12 (yellow) | constitution | international organization | euro |
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[European Union flag]by Željko Heimer

On this page:

See also on this website:

Other pages on the European Union flag
Flags derived from the European Union flag
Other European pages

External site of interest:

Members of the European Union

Since 1 May 2004, the 25 members of European Union are:

| Austria | Belgium | The Czech Republic | Cyprus | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Lituania | Luxembourg | Malta | The Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | United Kingdom |

The historical evolution of membership is:

  • 1958: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands
  • 1973: Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom
  • 1981: Greece
  • 1986: Portugal, Spain
  • 1995: Austria, Finland, Sweden
  • 2004: The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lituania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia

The flags of the 25 member states were officially hoisted by the heads of state in Dublin (Ireland) on 1 May 2004.

The European currency (euro) is used in 12 countries of the European Union (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) since 1 January 1999 (1 January 2001 in Greece), although coins and notes were released only on 1 January 2002.

In spite of not being members of European Union, Andorra, the Holy See, Monaco and San Marino also use the euro as their currency.

Ivan Sache, 1 May 2004

Flag of the European Union

Since its foundation in 1949, the Council of Europe has been aware of the need to give Europe a symbol with which its inhabitants can identify.
On 25 October 1955 the Parliamentary Assembly made the unanimous decision to adopt a circle of gold stars on a blue background as an emblem.
On 8 December 1955 the Committee of Ministers adopted this as the European flag. The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly repeatedly expressed the desire that other European institutions should adopt the same symbol in order to strengthen the idea of solidarity between the different organizations in a united and democratic Europe

It was the European Parliament which took the initiative for a flag to be adopted for the European Community. In 1979 a draft resolution was presented, shortly after the first European elections held by universal suffrage. In a resolution adopted in April 1983 the Parliament decreed that the Community's flag should be that adopted by the Council of Europe in 1955.

The European Council, meeting at Fontainebleau (France) in June 1984, stressed the importance of promoting the European image and identity in the eyes of its citizens and the world. Then, in Milan (Italy) in June 1985, it gave its approval to the proposal of the Committee on a People's Europe (Adonnino Committee) that a flag should be adopted by the Community. The Council of Europe agreed to the use by the Community of the European flag that it had adopted in 1955 and Community institutions have been using it since the beginning of 1986.

Thus the European flag and emblem represent both the Council of Europe and the European Community (and the European Union, since the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty). It has now become the symbol par excellence of united Europe and European identity. The Council of Europe and the institutions of the European Union have expressed satisfaction with the growing awareness of the European flag and emblem among European citizens. The European Commission and the Council of Europe are responsible for ensuring that all uses of this symbol respect the dignity of the European flag and emblem, and for taking whatever measures are necessary to prevent misuse.

David Crowe, 6 November 1998

The adoption process of the European Union flag is described in a paper published on 18 May 1999 in the French newspaper L'Alsace.

The paper reports research done in the elementary school Aristide Briand, under the guidance of the school teacher René Hurstel. The school is located in Benfeld, in Lower-Alsace between Strasbourg and Sélestat.

The twelve yellow stars on a blue field were officially adopted as the symbol of the European Community on 26 May 1986. Adoption of a flag and an anthem was suggested during the European council held in Milan on 28 and 29 June 1985. In the beginning of 1986, the European Commission believed that adoption date of the flag and the anthem should be 9 May, the anniversary of Robert Schuman's declaration of 9 May 1950, which is considered as the founding act of the European Union.

There were two proposals for the flag:

  • a blue flag with a circle of twelve yellow stars and the letter E in the middle of the circle.
  • the current flag (without the E), already adopted by the Council of Europe in 1955.

During parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg, the Presidents of the Parliament, Commission, and Council of Ministers of the European Community often met for lunch meetings. In March 1986, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Van den Brook met Jacques Delors (President of the Commission) and Pierre Pflimlin (President of the Parliament). Pfimlin is said to have initiated the discussion on the flag. He proposed the current flag and was supported by Delors.

Ivan Sache, 6 April 2002

Number of stars on the flag of the European Union

The number of stars on the flag of the European Union is definitively 12.

In 1953, the Council of Europe had 15 members and its flag should have had one star for each member.
The number of stars was not to alter if the number of members changed.

However Germany objected to the number 15 because one of the members of the Council was Saarland, and 15 stars would imply "star" sovereignty for that region.
France would not agree to 14 stars as that number would acknowledge the absorption of Saarland into Germany.
13 was ruled out for superstitious reasons.
12 was reckoned to be a "good" number because it had no political innuendo, and there are

  • 12 signs of the zodiac;
  • 12 hours on a clock;
  • 12 months in a year;
  • 12 apostles;
  • 12 tables of Roman Law;
  • and 12 starry crowns of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

David Prothero, 12 December 1996

The question of how many stars appear on the European Flag has arisen before. When Sweden, Finland and Austria were admitted in 1995, the number of member states increased from 12 to 15. Several cases exist where people assumed that the number of stars would also increase. A graphic with 15 stars appeared on BBC News for some days. I wrote and told them it was wrong and they reverted to the correct pattern. Despite this, the 15-star version still appeared occasionally. I eventually suggested that the incorrect graphic be destroyed so that it could not appear even by accident. They may have done so as it has not appeared since then.
The other, more lasting case, has been with car stickers. There are car stickers available, oval with the blue of the European flag and the stars and the white letters "GB" in the centre. Most of them have 12 stars, but there are some with 15. I have not yet discovered which company manufactures them.

Michael Faul, 5 October 2001

On 16 April 2003, the editorial placed on the front page of La Nouvelle République was entitled Le drapeau aux 25 étoiles (The 25 star flag).
This very unfortunate title is confirmed by the very unfortunate body of the article (paragraph 2):

A compter du 1er mai 2004, tous ces états seront intégrés à l'Union,[...]. Le drapeau européen comptera alors 25 étoiles. (On 1 May 2004, all those States shall be incorporated to the [European] Union, [...]. The European Union flag will have 25 stars.)

The last paragraph of the editorial mentions L'Europe à 25 étoiles (The 25 star Europe).

Ivan Sache, 17 July 2004

European symbols in the European Constitution

The Convention published a proposal for the European Constitution, which includes an article about the symbols of the European Union.

Part IV

General and final provisions

New Article IV-0

The symbols of the Union

The flag of the Union shall be a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background.
The anthem of the Union shall be based on the Ode to Joy from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven.
The motto of the Union shall be: United in diversity.
The currency of the Union shall be the euro.
9 May shall be celebrated throughout the Union as Europe day.

[The Convention considers that this Article would be better situated in Part I.]

Pascal Vagnat, 10 July 2003