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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Down with EU stars, run up stripes
The old (left) and the new proposal (right)
The old (left) and the new proposal (right)
The rather sombre European Union flag could do with changing, suggests a top designer whose radical new version takes colours from the banners of all the member states. If it's run up the flagpole, will anyone salute it?

If the European Union accepts as many as 10 new countries to the already 15-strong club, it is feared the enlarged organisation's flag may look a bit out of date.

European Commissioner Neil Kinnock
Putting the EU stars behind us?
The current version dating from 1986 boasts 12 stars - 12 being chosen as a pleasingly "perfect" symmetrical arrangement, rather than to represent member nations.

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas thinks that this perfection can be improved upon - his new flag uses 45 vertical stripes, taking colours from every existing member's national flag.

The logo - designed in response to a request by European Commission president Romano Prodi to find ways of rebranding the EU - represents Europe's "diversity and unity", according to Mr Koolhaas.

Star about-turn

EU officials are currently examining the design, which if approved could soon be flying from flagpoles across the continent - as well as featuring on EU signs, stationery and even car number plates.

Those who dismiss the radical, bar-code-like design out of hand may be unaware of Mr Koolhaas's pedigree.

The 2000 winner of the Pritzker Prize - the Nobel of architecture - Mr Koolhaas is regularly consulted by the EU when it is seeking some blue-sky thinking.

A couple sleeping on deckchairs
"This new flag's comfy, love"
Last year, Romano Prodi and Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt set Mr Koolhaas the task of reinventing the oft-maligned city of Brussels as Europe's vibrant capital city.

Already unfavourably compared to wallpaper, the TV test card and deckchair fabric, the stripe design is only one of the proposals submitted by the Dutch "brainstormer".

Stinging criticism was, of course, to be expected. The creation of a new flag is seldom a simple process.

Flagging enthusiasm

With the end of apartheid and white-rule in 1994, South Africa considered a reported 7,000 proposals for a new flag to represent all the races of the fledgling "rainbow nation".

Some of submissions to the multi-party group set up to find the new flag would have made Mr Koolhaas's effort look positively conservative.

South African space tourist Mark Shuttleworth
Much more dignified than Bart Simpson
Alongside designs incorporating clasped black and white hands, doves and hearts and a large black cat sitting with a small white mouse, were a hammer and sickle logo substituting a banana and a rifle, and a cartoon of Bart Simpson sunning himself on a beach.

When Nelson Mandela took the nation's helm on 26 April 1994, a rather more diplomatic six-hued flag was run up (black, green, gold, blue, white and red), which tipped a nod to the ruling ANC, the Union Jack, the Transvaal and the nation's sporting colours.

Drawing conclusions

The compromise design was - like the EU stripes - intended to reflect both diversity and unity, but was also supposed to be simple enough "that a child could draw it recognisably".

That many children already have difficulty remembering the order of the colours of the rainbow, raises the worry that the complex Koolhaas design may prove a little too taxing for young artists.

A child drawing
"And the French tricolour goes there"
Some have suggested adding stars to the existing design as new members join the EU. The United States flag has changed 27 times since the Stars and Stripes was adopted in 1777 - with 25 of those alterations made to add new stars as new states entered the Union.

The US flag now has 50 stars clustered in the top left corner - up from the original 13 - in an arrangement that would make an EU flag with 25 stars look positively sparse in comparison.

Some of your comments so far:

What a mess! It's only fit for a pub quiz question - "What are the colours of the EU flag - in the correct order?"
David Clayton, UK

I don't see why the flag would need to be changed. Have you not noticed that the current EU flag only has 12 stars, despite there being 15 member states? They stopped adding news stars a while ago, saying that 12 is "the symbol of perfect unity".
Richard Thomas, UK

Keep the same flag. Just put more and smaller stars on it. The current flag and colours are pretty nice.
Braulio Mercader, Germany

It seems like a waste of money to me. What's wrong with the current flag? I'm all in favour of a united Europe, but this is the type of story which Euro-sceptics relish. Is it important that there's a star for each nation?
Mark, UK

A flag should be easily recognisable and reproducible by patriots and children alike. The proposed "bar code" style, whilst recognisable, is very hard on the eyes and very hard on artists. Something more along the lines of the Olympic movement flag might be better.
Sonya Moran, England

According to the Council of Europe the stars have a different meaning: "Against the blue sky the stars symbolize the peoples of Europe in the form of a circle, the sign of union. The number of stars is invariably 12, which is the symbol of perfection and entirety."
Wessel Geursen, France

More stars? Yes, please! If 12 is the number of perfection and entirety more stars will only bring us closer to the circle - as everybody knows, the most perfect and balanced symbol. Forget about these stupid stripes. Let's not ape the US in each and every regard!
Jens Rodmann, Germany

The idea of portraying in the same flag all the colours of the European nations is simply wonderful and very optimistic.
Dimitris Katsaros, Greece

Are you for stars or stripes? Send your comments and suggestions about a new EU flag using the form below.

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