50th anniversary of the European flag 

How the twelve stars were born

The idea for a European flag dates from the early 1920s. Neither of the two main forerunners, Count Coudenhove-Kalergi’s Pan-European Union flag, a yellow circle with a red cross on a blue background, and the European Movement’s green E on a white background, gained much support and no serious attempt was made to promote the idea of a flag until the Council of Europe became Europe’s first official political organisation in 1949.

At the beginning of the 1950s, various groups of experts, boards and committees looked long and hard at over a hundred suggestions from artists, heraldry experts and enthusiastic amateurs all over the world. But no decision was reached.

In April 1955, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers shortlisted two designs. The first was by Arsène Heitz, a member of staff, and depicted a crown “of 12 five-pointed golden stars, their points not touching” and the second, a constellation of stars proposed by Salvador de Madariaga.

In December 1955, following approval by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers finally adopted the first design. All European institutions were urged to adopt it. It was inaugurated by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers at the Château de la Muette in Paris on 13 December 1955. The flag was now official.

The circle of twelve golden stars against a blue background symbolises the peoples of Europe, with the circle representing their union. The number of stars never changes - it is always twelve, symbolising the ideals of unity and harmony and bringing to mind the the months of the year and the twelve signs of the zodiac.