The Full Wiki

Symbols of Europe: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


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
Currency Yes No

A number of symbols of Europe has emerged throughout history. Depending on the symbol, they can apply to Europe as a whole, European unity or merely to the European Union (EU). Most well known symbols were created by the Council of Europe (CoE) in the 1950s and 1960s, and while these symbols were intended to represent Europe as a whole, many people mistakenly see them as referring to the EU exclusively after their adoption by that organisation. In addition to those of Pan-European identity, the EU has created additional symbols for itself through its integration.


Europa and the bull

Enlèvement d'Europe by Nöel-Nicolas Coypel, c. 1726

In Greek mythology, Europa (Greek: Ευρώπη) was a Phoenician noble-woman. According to legend, Zeus was enamored of Europa and decided to seduce her. He transformed himself into a tame white bull and mixed with her father's herds. While Europa and her female attendants were gathering flowers, she saw the bull, and got onto his back. Zeus took that opportunity and ran to the sea and swam, with her on his back, to the island of Crete. There he revealed his true identity, and Europa became the first queen of Crete. Zeus gave her a necklace made by Hephaestus and three additional gifts: Talos, Laelaps and a javelin that never missed. Zeus later re-created the shape of the white bull in the stars, which is now known as the constellation Taurus.

The story of her abduction is the founding myth of the name "Europe", since the continent Europe has ultimately been named after her. In the eighth century, her name was ecclesiastically used for the Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire. This provides the source for the modern geographical term. The name of Europe as a geographical term came into use by Ancient Greek geographers such as Strabo.[1] It is derived from the Greek word Europa (Ευρώπη) in Latin and all Romance languages derived from it, and in Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, and Finno-Ugric languages.

"Europa seated on a bull" has been a frequent motif in European art since Greco-Roman times. Today, statues of Europa and the bull are outside several of the European Union's institutions, as well as on the €2 Greek euro coin. Europa's name appeared on postage stamps commemorating the Council of Europe, which were first issued in 1956.[citation needed] Furthermore, the dome of the European Parliament's Paul-Henri Spaak building contains a large mosaic by Aligi Sassu portraying the abduction of Europa with other elements of Greek mythology.[2] Europa also serves as the national personification for Europe.


The Flag of Europe, official flag of both the Council of Europe and the European Union

The Flag of Europe consists of a circle of twelve golden (yellow) stars on a blue background. It is most commonly associated with the European Union (EU), formerly the European Communities, which adopted the flag in the 1980s. However, it was first adopted by the Council of Europe (CoE), which created it in 1955.

The EU and CoE are separate organisations; while the EU has 27 members, the CoE has 47 members and 5 observers comprising not only all 27 EU members but also all European countries except Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Vatican City. When adopted by the CoE, it was to represent not just itself, but the whole of Europe. Since both the EU and the CoE represent European unity, the two organisations are using the same flag.


Beethoven wrote in 1793 Ode to Joy, a movement of his 9th Symphony.

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.[3] It is played on official occasions by both the Council of Europe and the European Union.

In addition to The Ode to Joy, there are other classical scores that identify pan-europeanism. The European Broadcasting Union uses the prelude of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum as its hymn. It is played before and after every Eurovision Song Contest. The UEFA Champions League Anthem has since 1992 been played before each UEFA Champions League game. It is an arrangement of Georg Frideric Handel's "Zadok the Priest" from the Coronation Anthems.

Problems listening to this file? See media help.

Europe Day

The 2006 Europe Day celebrations at Cinquantenaire in Brussels

"Europe Day" is a celebration of Europe held annually on 9 May due to differences between the CoE and EU. 9 May 1950 was the date of the "Schuman Declaration", the proposal to pool the French and West German coal and steel industries. This is considered a founding moment for what is now the EU and was adopted as its flag day at the Milan European Council summit in 1985. The CoE was founded on 5 May 1949 and hence chooses that date for its celebrations. It established this date in 1964 and, despite a preference for 9 May, it is still observed by some European because of the CoE's role in defending human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, whereas the Schuman declaration was merely proposing the pooling of French and German coal and steel. Furthermore, 9 May coincides with Victory Day, the end of World War II (celebrated on 8 May in western Europe), in the former Soviet Union states.

European Union

The symbols of the Council are also the symbols of the European Union (except for a slight difference in the date of Europe Day, see above). The following are further symbols created by the EU but, unlike the above, are not related to the Council of Europe.



Unity in Diversity (a.k.a. In varietate concordia in Latin")[4] was adopted as the European Union's motto in May 4 2000 following a contest called A motto for Europe. 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 as United in Diversity of the failed European Constitution (article I-8 about the EU's symbols), 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.[5][6]

The euro and its symbol

The euro has become one of the most tangible symbols of European integration.

The euro was not one of the original symbols created by the CoE and is specific to the EU, but it has become a symbol since it replaced 12 national currencies in 2002.[7] 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).

Recent events

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.

—Final Act, Official Journal of the European Union, 2007 C 306-2[8]

States (in dark blue) signing the Treaty of Lisbon declaration.

The ill-fated European Constitution would have legally enshrined the flag, motto, anthem and euro as being official to the EU. The upcoming Treaty of Lisbon does however not mention the symbols, apart from the euro being made the official currency of the union. Despite being dropped from the new treaty, the EU symbols will continue to be used as before. In comparison, some countries such as the United Kingdom have not formally adopted their national flag in any form, but are used nonetheless in a de facto manner.

Although the symbols are not mentioned in the body of the Treaty of Lisbon itself, a declaration by sixteen Member States on the symbols, including the flag, was included in the final act of the Treaty of Lisbon stating that the flag, the anthem, the motto and 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."[8]

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.[9] Later, in September 2008, 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.[10] The proposal was passed on 8 October 2008 by 503 votes to 96 (15 abstentions).[11]

Other organisations

The European Coal and Steel Community's flag

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) is 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


External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address