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European Union: Legal use of the flag

Last modified: 2002-12-07 by ivan sache
Keywords: european union | law |
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Mandatory use of the flag

The legal use of the European Union flag has become mandatory in the following cases:

  • for every official speaches by the President or Head of government whose country currently holds the presidency of the Union.
  • though not strictly official, it is also always used for every international meeting between Heads of governments of any European Union country and non European Union country (look for example the constant use of the European Union flag associated with the national French and American flags when G.W.Bush recently came in France to honor the Second World War Memorial Day in Normandy).
  • in most European countries, there are regulations that mandate using the European Union flag in addition to the country flag on the front door of police stations, administrations, national and regional assemblies.
  • on motorized vehicles registration numbering plates, where the European Union flag is presented in a 2:3 vertical box on the left side with the uppercase letters code of the vehicle registration country (A, D, F, I, B, LUX, NL , GB, IRL, DK, E, P, GR, FI, S). The European Union flag has its official colors on the top half of the box, and the white letters are on the bottom half of the box with the same blue background and a text size whose largest dimension matches the diameter of the circle of stars. For manufacturing costs reasons of these plates, it is admitted that the stars have a white color instead of gold, or that the letters use the same gold color as stars, but the blue background is mandatory. Most car plates use gold stars and white letters. The other parts of the plate are not modified and correspond to the existing national legislation for their colors (though it seems that the new scheme for the numbers is black on reflecting gold). With the European Union flag with the country letters on the plate, it is no longer necessary to use the large oval sticker with the country initials when crossing borders within the European Union. Only the rear plate must use this flag. The front plate may use a simpler design. There is no need to change the existing numbering plates, only newly registered vehicles are affected.

Philippe Verdy, 4 June 2002

Protection of the flag


The European emblem may be used only if :

  • there is no likelihood of the user of the emblem being confused with the European Community or the Council of Europe;
  • the emblem is not used in connection with objectives or activities which are incompatible with the aims and principles of the European Community or of the Council of Europe.

Permission to use the European emblem does not confer on those to whom it is granted any right of exclusive use, nor does it allow them to appropriate the emblem or any similar trademark or logo, either by registration or any other means.

Each case will be examined individually to ascertain whether it satisfies the criteria set out above. This will be unlikely in a commercial context if the European emblem is used in conjunction with a company's own logo, name or trade mark.


  • European Commission, Secretariat-General, Directorate 'Coordination I", rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200, B-1049 Brussels. Tel. (+32-2) 296 26 26; fax (+32-2) 296 59 60; e-mail:
  • Council of Europe, Directorate General I Legal Affairs, F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex. Tel. (+33-3) 88 41 20 00; fax (+33 3) 88 41 37 39; e-mail:

Source: European Union website.

Gerard van der Vaart, 10 October 2001

Graphical chart

The graphical chart for the flag to be used in the aforementioned permitted instances is available in French. There are probably similar pages in the different official languages of the European Union.
Note that the chart covers printed flags only, and that there should be no black and white European flag flying anywhere.

Ivan Sache, 9 October 2001