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France complains over EU birthday logo

  • The EU's birthday logo will be presented in all EU official languages (Photo: European Community)

(Updated 10.11.2006 - 17:21 CET) - France has sent an official complaint to the European Commission over the EU's 50th birthday logo to be used next year, suggesting that it fails to symbolize European unity as it looks different in every language.

The move comes after a jury representing EU institutions and member states last month chose an image created by a Polish art student stating colourful letters "Together since 1957", from around 1700 submissions to the contest.

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The logo is meant to be translated to all EU languages, so it can be used across the union next year for various activities marking the anniversary of the 1957 Rome Treaty which set the ground for the current 25-member union.

But French Europe minister Catherine Colonna has criticised the plan in a letter to the commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

"The logo creates a problem. The message of European unity is not there because each logo is different," she wrote, according to a weblog of French daily Liberation.

Doubts on the logo emerged in France after well-known philosopher Barbara Cassin wrote in a comment in Le Monde that the logo is just the opposite to how Europe should want to define itself, arguing the design mainly resembles search engine Google's logo also containing a letter R in a circle - as if Europe was a commercial product.

Some commentators also complained that the EU institutions only use the English version of the logo on their websites, with an association for defending the French language criticising the commission for generally using English in most of its posters in Brussels buildings.

EU communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom responded this week by saying that in her view, the winning design looks "fresh, light, modern and unbureaucratic."

"I have seen some pedantic criticism in the usual quarters saying that the EU has not been together since 1957. For me, that misses the point," she said, according to UK daily The Times.

'Flop'

But Paris is not the only capital where the commission-picked logo has sparked irritation, EU diplomats told EUobserver.

The Finnish EU presidency is annoyed with the fact that it was not at any time consulted by Brussels over the emblem - despite several requests to be involved.

Germany, which will hold the EU presidency next year, is not unhappy with the logo itself but will not use it for most of its grand anniversary festivities - such as cakebaking and a street event in Berlin.

Berlin prefers its own presidency logo - to be unveiled early next month - and says it does not want to use two emblems at the same time.

One EU diplomat said about the anniversary logo chaos "It is a flop, a catastrophe. It shows what happens when countries are not consulted and the commission goes its own way" - despite member states having been represented in the jury by a high official of the EU council [member states' secretariat.]

Last month, member states ditched commission plans to hold big joint birthday festivities and instead agreed with only two, more modest, plans - the appointment of citizens' ambassadors explaining the relevance of the EU as well as a series of activities for school children and youngsters.

These two limited activities will be mostly organised by the commission and parliament representations in the member states, with individual countries set to go ahead with their own parties such as cake-baking (Germany) and tree planting (Estonia).

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