Question 33:

What do the 12 stars on the European flag symbolize?


Answer: Although the European Union increased by 10 new member states on May 1st 2004, the European flag remained the same. In future, too, there will only be 12 golden stars on the dark-blue sky of the Western world. Contrary to the US flag the stars do not merely symbolize the member states. The mythical number 12 also stands for perfection, completion and unity. The European flag, which is mentioned in Chapter IV – 1 of the Constitution for Europe Treaty, thereby links up with the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 Disciples, the 12 months and the 12 hours on a clock. The vision that the Europeans are an exceptional, even chosen group, thus finds subtle, but powerful confirmation in the European flag. The wreath of twelve gold stars, which symbolize the peoples of Europe, allude to the tradition of selected groups in Jewish-Christian history. Israel had twelve tribes, Jesus had 12 disciples, the heavenly Jerusalem has 12 gates. The twelve stars positioned in the shape of a wreath furthermore form the shape of the crown of the apocalyptic woman. In the Book of Revelation 12:1-2 it says: "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth." Depending on your interpretation, this verse uses the wreath with twelve stars to tell about either the birth of the Messiah, the people of God, or the comprehensive new beginning of history. The flag includes the promise of salvation and of being chosen.


The flag was introduced by the European Council in 1955, adopted by the European Parliament in 1983, and has been used by all European institutions since 1986. The EU would not be the EU if it had not clearly regulated the flags design. According to an EU illustration manual: Each star has five points whose tips form an invisible surrounding circle with a radius of about 1/18th that touch the height of the rectangle. The European emblem has long since gained general acceptance. It not only flies in front of many government buildings, it also decorates Italian pasta packs and German license plates. The European flag thus contributes to a sense of a European identity.

Contact us

J. Prof. Dr. T. Specker,
Prof. Dr. Christian W. Troll,

Kolleg Sankt Georgen
Offenbacher Landstr. 224
D-60599 Frankfurt
Mail: fragen[ät]

More about the authors?