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European Union

Last modified: 2002-12-07 by ivan sache
Keywords: europe | european union | stars: 12 (yellow) | european community | european parliament | marian seal | international organization |
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[EU 12 stars flag]by António Martins

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Members of European Union

Origin of the flag

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 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 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 flag is described in a paper originally published on 18 May 1999 in the French newspaper L'Alsace, which can be read online.

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 symbol of the European Community on 26 May 1986. Adoption of a flag and an anthem was suggested during the European council held in Milano (Italy) 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 EEC 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), who is said to have initiated the discussion on the flag. Pfimlin proposed the current flag, and was supported by Delors.

Ivan Sache, 6 April 2002

The number of stars is definitively 12

I found a booklet, published by one of the European pressure groups, that had an explanation of the European flag.
According to them the Council of Europe in 1953 had 15 members and the 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 represented 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 (good?)

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 the 1990's, 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

The fallacious 'Marian seal' hypotheses

While Count Coudenhove-Kalergi in a personal statement maintained that three leading Catholics within the Council had subconciously chosen the twelve stars on the model of Apocalypse 12:1, Paul M. G. Lévy, press officer of the Council from 1949 to 1966, explained in 1989 that there was no religious intention whatsoever associated with the choice of the circle of twelve stars.

This is important because from time to time all kinds of myths (mainly by Catholic activists, some of them outspoken anti-semitic) are being launched to "prove" that the European emblem was designed to glorify the Virgin Mary who, erroneously again, is traditionally being associated with Apocalypse 12:1.

Peter Diem, 11 June 2002

I have also seen the argument that the flag and emblem of the European Union is in fact a catholic symbol. This argument has been put forward by Lutheran north Europeans as a contribution to the line of thought that the European Union is a Catholic (that is elitist, non-democratic etc.) project the north Europeans (that is democratic and Lutheran) ought to stay out of.

Some of the more extreme argue that the European Union is a fulfillment of the prophesies in The Book of Revelation - the resurrection of the Roman Empire etc. ("evidence": the European Union was founded with the treaty of Rome). Chapter12 verse 1 reads:
'After that there appeared a great sign in heaven: a woman robed with the sun, beneath her feet the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.'
In church art this crown is in the form of a circle of stars around the Virgin Mary's head (the cathedral in Strasbourg is said to have a stained glass window looking very much like the European emblem). See how Catholic this is?

Now, the argument is that the flag of the Council of Europe, which the European Union took over, was decided by a small group of representatives from the Catholic member states (in secretive meetings from which there is no written record) and without explaining the symbolism of the circle of stars. The gullible Pprotestants thought the design was OK and voted for it (that is, they were duped). In this way the non-Catholics have been forced into worshiping the Virgin Mary when displaying the European Union flag.

Now, I don't believe in this argument, but is such a beautiful conspiracy theory that I had to comment on it.

Jan Oskar Engene, 23 November 1995 >

Designer Inspired by Virgin's Image in Paris' Rue du Bac

ROMA, DEC 7 (ZENIT) - December 8 is a very special day for Europe: in 1955, on that day, the European Ministers' delegates officially adopted the European flag designed by Arsene Heitz, who today is an octogenarian artist in Strasbourg. The decision was taken following the 1950 European Council's (one of the predecessors of today's European Union) convocation of a competition to design the flag of the newborn European Community. Among many other artists, Heitz presented several designs, and one was chosen: 12 stars on a blue background.

Recently Heitz revealed to a French magazine the reason for his inspiration. At that time he was reading the history of the Blessed Virgin's apparitions in Paris' Rue du Bac, known today as the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal. According to the artist, he thought of the 12 stars in a circle on a blue background, exactly the way it is represented in traditional iconography of this image of the Immaculate Conception. In the beginning, Heitz saw it as a flight of fancy, among the many that run through an artist's imagination; but the idea caught his attention, to the point that it became the subject of his meditation.

According to Javier Paredes, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Alcala in Spain, in statements sent to ZENIT, "Heitz listens to God in his interior; in other words, he prays with his heart and his head. He says he is profoundly religious and devoted to the Virgin, to whom he never misses praying a daily Rosary, together with his wife. Because of this, he believes the inspiration not only from his artistic talents, but from the silent voices that Heaven always speaks to men of good will, among whom Heitz can undoubtedly be numbered. He is an artist who, virtually at the end of his life and at the zenith of his career, can proclaim with the guarantee of authenticity that he recalls that moment, that he is interested in very few but very important things, that he regards himself as a man who loves the whole world, but especially the Blessed Virgin, who is our Mother."
Professor Paredes admits that "neither the stars nor the blue of the flag are particularly religious symbols, thus respecting the conscience of all Europeans, regardless of their beliefs."
Indeed, he recalls that "when Paul M.G. Levy, first director of the Press and Information Service of the European Council had to explain to the Members of the Economic Community the meaning of the design, he interpreted the number of 12 stars as a 'figure of plenitude,' given that in the 50s there were not 12 members in that Council, nor in the European Community."
"However, in Heitz's soul the words of the Apocalypse were very present: 'A great sign appeared in the Heavens: a Woman clothed with the sun and with the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.' And, perhaps without realizing it, the delegates of the European Ministers officially adopted the design proposed by Heitz on the feast of Our Lady: December 8, 1955," explained Prof. Paredes. "That's a lot of coincidences, so henceforth it should not be difficult for us to discover in the folds of the Europeans' flag the smile and affection of Our Mother, the Queen of Europe, ready to lend a hand in that great challenge that St. Peter's successor has proposed to us: to re-Christianize the Old Continent with the example of our lives and the testimony of our words."

Article #ZE99120707 from ZENIT News Agency, kindly forwarded by Mark Polo, 7 December 1999