19th Oct 2019

European flag turns 50

The European flag turns 50 this week, with its twelve golden stars representing "perfection and entirety" like the twelve months of the year, the twelve apostles or the signs of the zodiac.

The image was first taken up by the human rights organisation, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in 1955 after five years of quarreling.

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The then 14-strong council now has 46 European member countries and still uses the flag along with the EU, which adopted the official symbol in 1985.

Its original design comes from Salvador de Madariaga, the founder of the Bruges-based College of Europe, with de Madariaga's stars representing the peoples of Europe and the circle, unity.

Arsene Heitz modified the idea in the 1950s proposing 15 stars, with one of the stars referring to the French-occupied German region of Saarland.

The Germans rejected 15 and the French rejected 14 in a bid to curb German assertiveness before settling on 12.

But the EU flag might have looked entirely different than it does today, with the 12 star design beating off several other ideas such as quasi-Olympic circles, a variation of the US' stars and stripes and a design using national flags with a tiger motif.

EU flag row in Prague

Meanwhile, the Czech president on Thursday resisted fresh pressure at home to put up the EU flag at his official residence.

Two artists were barred by the president's guard from flying the gold-and-blue at the Prague castle - Mr Klaus' seat - on Thursday (17 November), Czech media report.

The artists said most other EU heads of state do so as a recognition of their countries' membership of the European Union.

Ex-president Vaclav Havel joined supporters of the move, commenting that it was "scandalous" the flag was missing from the official building.

But Mr Klaus, known as a staunch eurosceptic, said he had not received a "mandate, order or request" concerning the flag when he took up his presidential post and does not intend to entertain one now.

The incident happened on the eve of Friday's visit to Prague by a European Commission goodwill delegation led by president Jose Manuel Barroso.

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