Content is free to use but usage restrictions apply. Please visit our FAQ for conditions of use.
If you click download/embed, you acknowledge that you have read and will respect the terms of use.

Key symbols of the European Union

Paris - The 28-nation European Union has equipped itself with several symbols, which have been adopted over the years, from a flag to an anthem, and from a Europe Day to a motto:

- The European flag -


The flag features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. They stand for the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe.

The number of stars has nothing to do with the number of member countries, though the circle is a symbol of unity.

In 1985, it was adopted by all the bloc's leaders as the official emblem of the European Communities, later to become the European Union.


- The European anthem -


The melody used to symbolize the EU comes from the Ninth Symphony composed in 1823 by Ludwig Van Beethoven, when he set music to the "Ode to Joy", Friedrich von Schiller's lyrical verse from 1785.

The anthem, adopted by the bloc's leaders in 1985, symbolises not only the European Union but also Europe in a wider sense.

There are no words to the anthem; it consists of music only. The anthem is played at official ceremonies involving the European Union, such as its enlargements, and generally at all sorts of events with a European character.


- Europe day -


Europe Day is held on 9 May every year, marking the anniversary of the historical Schuman Declaration.

At a speech in Paris in 1950, Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe's nations unthinkable.

His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed just under a year later. Schuman's proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.


- The EU motto -


"United in diversity", the motto of the European Union, first came into use in 2000.

It signifies how Europeans have come together, in the form of the EU, to work for peace and prosperity, while at the same time being enriched by the continent's many different cultures, traditions and languages.

It has been translated into the 24 official languages in use in the bloc. In Estonian, for example, it reads "Uhinenud mitmekesisuses" while in Portuguese it is "Unida na diversidade" and in Irish "Aontaithe san eagsulacht".

By Janet McEvoy