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Story of the European Anthem

Written by Etienne Deschamps,

© L’hymne européen. Disque produit par la Commission européenne et par le Conseil de l’Europe, 1995. Dessin de Jean-Michel Folon © Union européenne

In the inter-war years, advocates of European unity began pondering the choice of an anthem that would convey the feeling of sharing a common destiny and common values. The creation of the Council of Europe in 1949 spurred further calls to this end. Proposals for scores and lyrics for an anthem for Europe began appearing spontaneously. It was not until 1972, however, that the Council of Europe formally adopted the prelude of Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as the European anthem.

For their part, the institutions representing what would become the European Union chose the debates on a citizens’ Europe held in the mid-1980s to adopt Ode to Joy as their anthem too. On 29 May 1986, the European flag and the European anthem were officially adopted at a ceremony held in Brussels. Although the version of the anthem chosen had no lyrics, it has come to symbolise the European Union. It is played at official ceremonies attended by the representatives and/or leaders of the European Union, and more generally at many events with a European theme.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Story of the European Anthem‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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