Choosing a flag is not so easy. It's the type of task that can drive you mad. Here's the story of the European flag. Along with the Ode to Joy, May 9th and a motto, it's one of the four symbols for European Union.
Welcome to Eureka. Making a flag's easy, isn't it? Take a rectangle, choose up to three colours, combine it with signs representing the country - coat of arms, stripes or a cross - and there you are. But if the flag represents several countries at once, that's harder. The European flag was created when the EU didn't exist. Weird. Where did it come from? Here's the story of the European flag. The idea came from the Council of Europe. In 1950 this first pan-European assembly needed a flag. The 10 Member States had to choose the design. The challenge was to find something to represent all Europeans. It was hard to show the tastes and traditions of all countries. Paul-Henri Spaak, a founding father, said that choosing a flag was apparently simple, but in reality it was extremely delicate, the sort of problem that can trip you up. It took five years to agree on a simple circle of 12 stars on a blue background. The European flag was born at a time when the EU didn't yet exist. The countries chose the colour azure to represent the sky of the Western world. The stars are the symbol of the hope of nations shining in the sky. They form an invisible circle - a sign of unity, solidarity and harmony. The stars are not touching to show that Europe is open to the world. The Council of Europe advised European institutions to adopt the flag, but it took 30 years for it to become a symbol of the EU. December 1985: The leaders of EU countries finally adopted the European flag and in May 1986 it was raised for the first time. The flag has 12 stars, like the 12 months in a year, the 12 hours on a clock, the 12 signs of the zodiac or the 12 apostles. 12 is the number of perfection in many traditions. In 1986 there were 12 countries in the EU, but the stars didn't represent them, or else we'd have had to change the flag with each entry to the EU and flag-sellers would have made a fortune. In 2005 the European flag celebrated its 50th birthday - a real star. The blue flag is a strong symbol and some countries feared it overshadowed their national flag. The 50-year-old European flag was at all official ceremonies. Across Europe it was seen on official buildings next to national flags. But some Member States questioned the European symbols as they gave the impression that the EU was becoming a superstate. The flag and other symbols were removed from the Lisbon Treaty. But 16 States wanted to keep them and in December 2007 they proclaimed their attachment to the EU symbols - symbols that are shared by all Europeans today. That's the flag - one of the four symbols of the European Union along with the "Ode to Joy", 9 May, and the motto "United in diversity". We'll talk about them in another Eureka. Bye!