Symbolizing Europe: The EU′s Flag, Anthem, Holiday and Motto | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.03.2007
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Symbolizing Europe: The EU's Flag, Anthem, Holiday and Motto

Have you ever wondered why the EU flag only has 12 gold stars when there are 27 member states? Read on to learn more about the European Union's symbols.

What's in a symbol?

What's in a symbol?

The flag

EU Flagge

The number of stars is fixed at 12

The blue flag with a ring of twelve gold stars was first adopted in 1955 by the Council of Europe, an entity separate from the European Union. Various EU institutions adopted the flag in the 1980s.

The number of stars was never intended to change with fluctuation in membership: Twelve symbolizes perfection in various traditions throughout history. There are, for example, 12 symbols of the Zodiac, 12 hours on a clock and 12 months in a year -- and just as many Tribes of Israel, Olympian gods and tables of Roman law.

The stars were arranged in a circle to represent the ideal of unity among the people of Europe.

The anthem

Ludwig van Beethoven

The EU anthem was composed by Beethoven

The "Ode to Joy" prelude to the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's famous Ninth Symphony is the European anthem. It is intended to compliment, not replace the national anthems of the individual member states.

Beethoven completed the original version of his landmark orchestral work in 1823, by which time he had completely lost his hearing. Revolutionizing symphonic style, the composer chose to set the text of Friedrich Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" -- which expresses the ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity -- in the fourth movement of the work.

In 1972, the Council of Europe commissioned the world-famous Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan to write three instrumental arrangements of the excerpt from Beethoven's symphony: For solo piano, wind instruments and orchestra.

Though the text is omitted from the official version, the sense of Schiller's words is conveyed through the music. The European Union adopted it as the official anthem in 1985.

The motto

Europa Tag - Eifelturm blau angestrahlt

Europe Day is on May 9

"United in Diversity," the motto of the European Union, first came into use in 2000. It was mentioned officially for the first time in the proposed constitutional treaty in 2004. Though the European constitution is undergoing revision and has not yet been ratified, the motto can be found on official EU Web sites.

Europe Day

On May 9, 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presented his proposal on the creation of a unified, peaceful Europe. Known as the "Schuman Declaration," the document led to the creation of what is now the European Union. In 1985, the EU adopted May 9 as Europe Day.

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